We had a brief chat about the three books that had been read over the past few weeks. Two of the group are doing exams at present so had been short of time to spend on reading for pleasure.
J and S both normally dislike historical fiction – one in particular expressed a strong aversion to fictionalised biography or autobiography – hence his lack of interest in The Revenant, which he felt was neither fact nor fiction. We briefly talked about whether this is really possible given the unreliability of human memory.
However, S was in practice very taken the first few chapters of City of Thieves and eager to follow what happened next. G, who loved the book, talked fascinatingly about its structure and how the absurd quest for a dozen eggs had been used as a device to link together in a coherent narrative the old man’s disparate memories of his war time experiences. He had been riveted by the authenticity of the tale, which echoed many other historical memoirs he had read of the sieges in Russia, and enthused about the subtle connections in the text that showed its basis in truth. We all agreed that it was very well written.
G had not enjoyed either The Revenant – to him little more than a grim and pointless tale of a relentless and implausible battle against the inevitable – or R J Palacio’s Wonder, which interestingly he had taken as a metaphor for the deep insecurity all of us feel in our lives. Instead we talked about the work he is currently reading – A L Kennedy’s The Blue Book for which his enthusiasm was unbounded. He read us several extracts and has definitely tempted me to look at her work and in particular for her newly published book, Serious Sweet. G recalled that years ago he had persisted in reading the whole of her first book, despite disliking the storyline, just for the beauty of the language. S, who is doing a literature degree, agreed that it was so often the quality of the writing that captured his imagination rather than the story.
It was an extremely good meeting today, with lots of really good interaction and sharing of ideas from a very articulate group.