Category Archives: LBC Medusa

February and March Choices

Hi all,

As I’ve been a bit out of things, I’m only just getting around to finding out what books are when. Please do let me know if I get the books in the wrong order, the dates muddled and so on!

Shall be aiming to catch up with emails and admin over the next fortnight – apologies if you’ve been waiting ages!!

February

  • 8th – Horsforth – The Tale of the Duelling Neurosurgeons – Sam Kean
  • 12th – White Swan – The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet – Becky Chambers

March

  • 8th – Horsforth – God help the child – Toni Morrison
  • 12th – White Swan – TBA

April

  • 12th – Horsforth – TBA
  • 9th – White Swan – TBA
  • 22nd – LBC3 Reads – Whit by Iain Banks

happy-reading

Advertisements

LBC Medusa – Books ‘un’ picked

As always we have a list of books that were not selected, so if you’re looking for some suggestions, have a look here!

Book fall

AMERICAN GODS – Neil Gaiman

THE CROW ROAD – Iain Banks

A SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS – Elizabeth Gilbert

LBC Medusa – Books ‘un’ picked

As always we have a list of books that were not selected, so if you’re looking for some suggestions, have a look here!

Book fall

IF ON A WINTERS NIGHT A TRAVELLER – Italo Calvino

THE BEES – Laline Paull

THE NARROW ROAD TO THE DEEP NORTH – Richard Flanagan

WE ARE NOT OURSELVES – Matthew Thomas

Again – thanks to Simon (@srjf) for keeping track of these!

LBC Medusa – Black Diamonds – Write Up

LBC Medusa 

 
Date:  Wednesday 12th of August 2015
Time:  7:30pm
Address: 8-10 Town Street, Horsforth, Leeds 

Discussing: 

BLACK DIAMONDS

CATHERINE BAILEY

Huge thanks to Simon (@srjf) for the write up! You can read more of his blog HERE!

BLURB

Wentworth is in Yorkshire and was surrounded by 70 collieries employing tens of thousands of men. It is the finest and largest Georgian house in Britain andbelonged to the Fitzwilliam family.

It is England’s forgotten palace which belonged to Britain’s richest aristocrats. Black Diamonds tells the story of its demise: family feuds, forbidden love, class war, and a tragic and violent death played their part. But coal, one of the most emotive issues in twentieth century British politics, lies at its heart.

This is the extraordinary story of how the fabric of English society shifted beyond recognition in fifty turbulent years in the twentieth century.

black diamonds5 members were present with 4 having read the book.

Discussion topics included:-

· general

    • non-fiction vs fiction as book club choices
      • general happiness at this selection
    • how poetry was not to be selected for the book club

· from the book

    • great houses
    • jet set
    • wealthy
    • wars
    • mines and miners
    • unions
    • poor
    • poverty
    • Americans and the Kennedys
    • Politics
    • Monarchy
    • Paternalistic employers
    • Brutal employers
    • Religion
    • Inheritance, heirs and ancestry
    • Nationalisation
    • Secrecy amongst the upper classes

· writing style of the book

  • Lots of to-ing and fro-ing
  • A good read
  • A good way of learning history
  • Cliff-hangers

Scores

Scores out of 5 for writing style and storyline

4, 3.5, 7.5

3, 4, 7

3, 4, 7

4, 4, 8

Additional Resources

  1. Wentworth Woodhouse official web site
  2. Wentworth Woodhouse Wikipedia entry
  3. BBC documentary about Wentworth Woodhouse:
  4. Author interview
  5. Desert Island Discs of the-then Minister of Fuel and Power, Mannie Shinwell, who ordered the grounds of Wentworth Woodhouse to be dug up for opencast mining (video).
  6. BBC set for new costume drama based on the real-life family history of a clan whose house is so grand it makes Downton Abbey look like a bedsit (Daily Mail, 23 August 2015)
Score  

7/10

For further details, please email me at leedsbookclub@gmail.com or tweet me @LeedsBookClub!

Contact the bar on @MedusaBar

And feel free to let us know your thoughts using #LBCMedusa!

LBC Medusa – The Girl on the Train – Write Up

LBC Medusa 

 
Date:  Wednesday 8th of July 2015
Time:  7:30pm
Address: 8-10 Town Street, Horsforth, Leeds 

Discussing: 

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

PAULA HAWKINS
* * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * *
* * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * *
  * * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * *  
BLURB (from AMAZON)

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough.

Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar.

Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…

REVIEW

the-girl-on-the-trainWe all of us agreed that this was one of those books that once you start, you feel compelled to read on. A few of us dedicated hours that could have usefully been employed doing many MANY other things just to keep up with the ever increasing, beautifully managed pace of the story.

Some amongst our group – those who tended to only read one or two thriller style books a year – also admitted to being determined to read this quickly, while still held under its spell, before the plot hours and devices became too obvious to ignore. We’ve been burned in the past by books that were great in the moment but couldn’t withstand deeper scrutiny. This was summed up about 3 minutes into our discussion when one of our number noted that ‘it was a good afternoons read, however the more I think about it, the more I HATE it’.

Structurally, we all responded favourably to the three person narrative, set in two time lines. This meant that we were constantly world building and had to pay attention to who was doing the narration and when. Though of course, we did have a quibble about the blurb…as we do… At no point was Rachel ever merely *a* girl on a train – she was in fact intimately connected with the street and at least one family on it. This is turn led to a rant about the overuse of the word girl when selling novels (though to be fair we did qualify that we didn’t know whether this was always the title/central concept of the book or one chosen by a marketing department somewhere). Especially when Rachel – actually a relatively young woman at 34 years – was initially described as sounding much older physically.

We sidelined for a bit on how frightening it is at how quickly information can be gathered about a person online. Facebook, social networking, instagram… apparently from just a name, people can find out a whole heap about a person.

The characters on the other hand were far less satisfactory to us. Anna seemed to actively devolve as the book progressed. Indeed, she was a substantively more rounded character when being spitefully and wistfully described by Rachel than she is as a narrator. For one or two of us, it was inconceivable that she would have bought into Tom’s story about being unable to see the house. She was in real estate FFS! She knew the market. Holes like this lead many of us to figure out the conclusion faster than might normally be expected.

inconceivable

Megan was delightful but in a very manic pixie trope sort of way. Her backstory on the other hand felt very well realised and genuinely tragic, though I personally chaffed at the idea that she needed to seduce her counselor in order to distort the power balance to get the story out. Hmmmm

Rachel was a great character for most of us. Her narration is unreliable but only because she is lying to herself. Watching her descent into the bottle and her battle to re orientate her memories were particularly powerful scenes. Her relationship with Claire felt realistic and a little bit heartbreaking. I personally could have done without the scooby doo happy ending cure at the end of the novel but hey, redemption comes in mnay forms and good on her.

The male characters on the other hand were the slightest of slight. The most successful con job was between Megan and the man of her affair. Tom never quite seemed visible to many of us. Scott as opposed to Jason was a more foul and creepy creature. His relationship with Rachel felt odd to me but seemed to be perfectly in character to others. Certainly it further maintained the difference between the fantasy of Jason and the real lives before Rachel. However the pacing and the cheap thrill dilemma at the end of every single chapter (usually described away in a matter of lines once that story thread was picked up again) did genuinely keep us hooked.

The two cops were literally prototypes of Good Cop Bad Cop which was a bit frustrating. It seemed to many of us that even within that parameter, the Bad Cop (female) wouldn’t have ignored the information from Rachel.

FILM CASTING
Then we (by we, read I) became obsessed with the idea of the book being turned into a film and set to picking our ideal cast. And by ideal I mean actors whose names we could remember and with a certain hotness factor.
traingirl 01
Rachel – Emily Blunt* or Anne Hathaway maybe though we were aware that neither lady could be described as Rachel had been of having recently considerably loosened the reigns appearance wise… However, both have portrayed characters with frayed nerves and/or unreliable memories with aplomb.
traingirl 02
Megan – Carey Mulligan – in full wide eyed manic pixie glory. Her turn as Daisy has convinced me that she can make the least likable character sympathetic and gracious.
I would also have put Tuppence Middleton as a contender though the character is possibly a little close to Riley from (the FANTASTIC AMAZING AND AWESOME) Sense8.
traingirl gif
Anna – Naomi Watts was ruled out for being too warm for this vicious character. However, we reckon that Michelle Williams has the capacity to go full biatch with style.
traingirl 03
Tom – Dominic West – especially as he comes across as such a nice guy in interviews.
traingirl 05
Scott – Tom Hardy – he does wander round topless quite a bit…the character that is…
 traingirl 04
Counselor – Javier Bardem (yes please) or Kayvan Novak – soulful eyes… One or two of us were quite happy with Julian Bashir from Deep Space 9 (Alexander Siddig)
 traingirl 06
Oh and any of the Gleesons to portray the random red headed dude.
Yes, at one point it did become necessary for one of our (male) book clubbers to ask if we were guilty of objectifying men. However, I did point out that with a cast that included Emily Blunt/Carey Mulligan and Michelle Williams…I was confident that there were sweeteners for the fellas too!
 traingirl 07
* Sweet Merciful Zeus – Simon you were spot on – we are clearly all of the geniuses!
The film rights for the novel were acquired by Dreamworks on March 24, 2014 with Marc Platt set to produce. On May 21, 2015 it was announced that the director of The Help David Platt would be directing the film based on a script wrtitten by Erin Cressida Wilson. On June 5, 2015 it was announced that British actress, Emily Blunt, was in talks to play the role of Rachel.
Score  

6/10

 

For further details, please email me at leedsbookclub@gmail.com or tweet me @LeedsBookClub!

Contact the bar on @MedusaBar

And feel free to let us know your thoughts using #LBCMedusa!

LBC Medusa – Books ‘un’ picked

As always we have a list of books that were not selected, so if you’re looking for some suggestions, have a look here!

Book fall

DON’T CRY TAI LAKE – Qiu Xiadong

GO SEE THE WATCHMAN – Harper Lee x2

THE LONG EARTH – Terry Pratchett

THING OF BEAUTY – Lisa Samson

IF ON A WINTER’S NIGHT A TRAVELER – Italo Calvino

ELIZABETH IS MISSING – Emma Healey

THE THREE – Sarah Lotz

 

May Book Club meetings

LBC OUTLAWS 

6th May 2015 – I Am Pilgrim (Pilgrim #1)  – Terry Hayes

LBC WHITE SWAN 

10th May 2015 – The Owl Killers – Karen Maitland

LBC MEDUSA

13th May 2015 – Carte Blanche – Jeffrey Deaver

LBC 3 READS

16th May 2015 – Giovanni’s Room – James Baldwin

LBC PUFFINS

20th May  – Over Sea, Under Stone (The Dark is Rising #1) by Susan Cooper

LBC DYSTOPIA

27th May – The Girl With All The Gifts -M.R. Carey

LBC Medusa – NOTICE

Due to unforeseen circumstances, we didn’t end up discussing Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver at our most recent Medusa book club meet up.

So we have decided to push the books back by one month meaning that our schedule will be as follows:

  • 13th May 2015 – Carte Blanche – Jeffrey Deaver
  • 10th June 2015 – Looks who’s back – Timur Vermes

lbc medusa 01lbc medusa 02

LBC Medusa – The Wars Write Up

Medusa LBC

 
Date:  Wednesday 11th of March 2015
Time:  7:30pm
Address: 8-10 Town Street, Horsforth, Leeds 
Discussing: 

THE WARS

TIMOTHY FINDLEY
* * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * *
* * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * *
  * * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * *  
BLURB (from AMAZON)

Robert Ross, a sensitive nineteen-year-old Canadian officer, went to war – the War to End All Wars. He found himself in the nightmare world of trench warfare; of mud and smoke, of chlorine gas and rotting corpses. In this world gone mad, Robert Ross performed a last desperate act to declare his commitment to life in the midst of death.

About the Author
Timothy Findley was born in Toronto in 1930. His first career was in the theatre; he was a charter company member of Ontario’s Stratford Shakespearean Festival in 1953, and toured several European capitals.$$$In 1963, Findley turned to writing full-time and in 1977 his third novel, The Wars, won a Governor General’s Award. It is now considered a Canadian classic. Following his bestsellers such as Famous Last Words, he won an Edgar Award for The Telling of Lies, while his collection of short stories, Stones, won Ontario’s Trillium Award.$$$Findley’s first work of non-fiction, Inside Memory: Pages from a Writer’s Workbook, made him the first two-time winner of a Canadian Authors Association Award; he had earlier won its fiction counterpart for his novel, Not Wanted on the Voyage. He has also written plays, and his third, The Stillborn Lover(1993), won the CAA Drama Award, as well as winning an Arthur Ellis Award and Chalmers Award. His later novels include Headhunter (1993) and The Piano Man’s Daughter (1995). His most recent play, Elizabeth Rex, was produced at the 2000 Stratford Festival in Canada.$$$Along with the likes of Michael Ondaatje and Margaret Atwood, Timothy Findley has become one of Canada’s most acclaimed and best-selling authors. In 2000, Faber published Pilgrim and reissued The Warsand Famous Last Words. His last novel, Spadework, was published in 2002, the year in which Timothy Findley died.

the wars - timothy findleyA few of our book clubbers didn’t get a chance to read The Wars. We have, as a group, become so reliant on digital copies of books that we are occasionally left stunned into bemused inactivity followed by last minute attempts at purchasing when a book is only available in paper copy!

Those of us who did get ahold of the novel were divided into two camps – those of us that had enjoyed Pilgrim (not yet written up) by the same author were looking forward to it; those that hadn’t enjoyed the former approached it as one would a long slow march through nettles. It’s not that Pilgrim wasn’t well written; it was just so very long and so very Jung. However, this book was very different. For one thing, it was written many years earlier and while the writing style hadn’t changed drastically; Findley appears to have been much more economical in terms of descriptions and words. Every sentence in this book carried weight and had impact. Every word mattered. So subtle the writing and so sparse the descriptions that it took this reader as while to realise that it was set in Canada…what a PLONKER! Given that this is one of the centenary years of the war, it was fascinating to read about a lesser known side of the war.

However, with regards to the characters, while Pilgrim was a detailed analyses of a characters journey and interactions with other; this much more sparse story held far less developed characters. Robert – the primary protagonist – was naive to the core and didn’t seem to change much despite all that he had seen and done. He was hugely emphatic and obviously using animals as a substitute for his deceased sister. One of us suggested that his impulsive actions towards the end of the book was in fitting with his development as an animal activist…which I personally can reluctantly concede to. The characters that surrounded him were more archetypes than people necessarily. Or so some of us thought; others disagrees feeling that they – and particularly Robert’s family – were beautifully drawn and that it was down to the reader to interact with the words and allow their imaginations to complete the gaps.

It was difficult to decide exactly what story was being told in The Wars. On one hand, it was a personal journey of a man during a war, on the other it was the tale of the impact of war on one family…or a picture of Canada’s war…or the use of animals in the Great War. For a tiny novel; this book contained so much, it was impossible to pin down one primary theme. It’s fair to say that this was by no means a typical depiction of the Great War or of a soldier during it – whether from Canada or not. The actions with the barn ensured that Robert would never have been able to reintegrate with society after the conflict had ended. Personally, I found that to be a huge shame – as I have enjoyed Findley’s writing and I would have very much liked to have read his view of the ‘typical’ soldiers experience.

Structurally, this book felt a little like an academic exercise. There are 4 trials by elements – water, air, fire, earth. Animals are ever constant and representative of all that is good in the world. His pistol represents authority. There are wars that are both internal and external; personal and profession; resolved and left hanging. There are three time lines told in three different persons – 1st, 2nd and 3rd which works surprisingly well. Each experience has a polar opposite. There are moments of grace and beauty and moments of horror and misery.

It fit for some of us that this was studied at GCSE/O Level age groups in school for a time – it must have been a huge eye opener. I – and this was just me I think – felt a bit more jaded. By the time that Robert and 3 others were sat in a crater, near shell shocked and protecting nonsensical items, I was started to chaff. For a book so well constructed; so contained; so crafted…it all began to fall in onto itself. Again, I think that this was just me. Or perhaps that was the point. All war, all the death, all the misery that come with them, in the end life goes on and renders the past somewhat…less. Not pointless, just…less.

 

We also ended up discussing Sebastian Barry – A Long Long Way; Sebastian Faulks Birdsong and the absolutely fantastic season 4 of Blackadder.

Score  

7/10

For further details, please email me at leedsbookclub@gmail.com or tweet me @LeedsBookClub!
Contact the bar on @MedusaBar
And feel free to let us know your thoughts using #LBCMedusa!

LBC Medusa – Books ‘un’ picked

As always we have a list of books that were not selected, so if you’re looking for some suggestions, have a look here!

Book fall

 

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN – Paula Hawkins

A FOOLS ALPHABET – Sebastian Faulks

H IS FOR HAWK – Helen MacDonald

IF ON A WINTER’S NIGHT A TRAVELER – Italo Calvino

SHADOW OF THE WIND – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

THE THREE – Sarah Lotz

THE GOLDFINCH – Donna Tartt

%d bloggers like this: