Majority view was a great story a bit ploddingly told. But for the member who had spent a long day waiting at the courts, it was a welcome distraction. And another chap countered the dullness charge with a claim that books read in prison are often more intensely experienced. ‘It’s a book about lost family and that hooks you in from the start. As you read, you start to think about what’s not on the page, you start to fill in the gaps’.
Another member admired Saroo’s persistence in the face of the slow technology. Our man had also spent a very long time tracking down his father ‘and that was only between Oxford and Bristol!’
There was a general feeling that we never really get very close to Saroo ‘he won’t – or can’t really open up’, and some wanted other perspectives, especially how his birth and adoptive mothers felt – ‘what must it have been like for them?’
Also a good discussion of structure. One reader said the opening chapter spoiled the suspense but another thought it opened up uncertainty about whether his mother was alive or dead. This intrigued the chap who is trying to write the story of his life ‘I guess it doesn’t have to be and then and then’.
Altogether a very good session. Many thanks to Penguin Random House for providing the books
We talked about the believability of the narrative, and the rumours that the story was not true to life, as the author claimed. But for most of the group it didn’t matter: ‘It’s a really good story, and he’s a great storyteller, it doesn’t matter if it’s not all real’. ‘We know that he was definitely there, and that he definitely escaped, and what we will never know is what happened while he was on the run’.
One member suggested that it might be more accurately seen as a series of different people’s stories and anecdotes that the author had heard in prison, and that he put together into one narrative.
The discussion led us to next month’s book and the fact that both Papillion and Heart of Darkness come from a particular (European, male, white) perspective which tends to exoticise other groups of people.
Someone mentioned Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. One member with a Nigerian connection was particularly intrigued and we decided to read it alongside Heart of Darkness for the other side of the colonial encounter.
JA liked the way that things were going off at tangents all the time and led to surprising outcomes. He said that Milo Minderbender was one of his all-time favourite characters.
TG suggested it was like a topsy-turvey Lewis Carroll book. He had read it in the 1970s and said it was a relevant to the Vietnam war as to WW2.
TO is a new member and usually reads lots of sci-fi but he recently read Jane Eyre and found it ‘very satisfying’. AD suggested he now read Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, a modern prequel to Jane Eyre which tells the story of the ‘mad woman in the attic’.