Rochdale Rotary Book Group
Book Group Extravaganza
The idea to start our very own book group in July 2009 was to give members a chance to get together socially ,do some regular reading ,improve our critical faculties and enjoy a range of books.
We decided not to be too prescriptive on Book type but generally agreed to try and pick readable concise tomes! We have been very impressed by Rochdale library online booking service to get books in time for meetings.The advent of the Kindle with downloads from the web and online cheap second hand books from Amazon has also been a great help.
Just to give you a flavour of what has gone on the list so far A small island (Bill Bryson) - nice to see a Yank likes our homeland tho’ a bit more keen on Scotland than Wales. To continue travel, 7 Years in Tibet (Heinrich Harrer) gave a very uncomfortable history of a declining culture and Dali Lama chronicle (memorable as David Smithard read an extended version including South America - how keen can you get!)
David got his own back by picking the blockbuster Empire Channel 4 series book (Niall Ferguson) with lots of photos and a puzzling idea that the Brits really did the world some good after all - nice reference work really
Slightly surreal Time Travellers wife (Audrey Niffeneger) gave an image of Time travel with a new angle (lurv or something like it). Only 3 diehards managed this one but good buffet for those who made it!
Playing with fire by Nigel Havers gave a sight of the slog of his acting career (stage, film and TV) for someone who didn’t quite make the pinnacle but did and saw a lot and had an interesting family to boot - his barrister father got the Rolling Stones off on a drugs charge (couldn’t have happened to our boys of course) which would have stopped their lucrative career in the US.
Local interest was TransPennine Heritage by Keith Parry – really a local history of Railways, industry, canals and notable people. Rotary wasn’t mentioned. One friend from Todmorden was interested enough to show it to the local history group there.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hussaini was another travelogue of the breaking up of Afghanistan and class systems.
King of Torts by John Grisham was a good legal thriller. Slightly Americanised but basically ambulance chasing on a grand scale encouraging litigation as only the US does.
Quentin Letts's 50 People who B’D up Britain was a humorous take off of people with sometimes more egoism than common sense or ethics.
The Time Travellers Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer was really a new version of an Historical era I only knew about via the National Trust houses and TV programmes - definitely a dipping in type of book for interesting facts.
MI5s Stella Rimington fiction Illegal Action – hot on action and intrigue; fast paced; not much technology - as an ex spy that would be telling!
Stalker by ex Deputy Chief Constable John Stalker (guess who chose that one) brought back the Stalker Affair in great life like detail. You felt so sorry for all caught up in the morass of the Irish Terrorist campaign and the dilemma of how to deal with it.
The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson was a well written story of old friendships affected by widowerhood,amusing slants on Jewishness and new forms of obsessive compulsion .It won the Man Booker prize last year -it is a great read.
An old favourite To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee gives an uncomfortable account of racism in the US South and how institutional attitudes are very hard to change.The story comes from a child's innocent perspective giving an added poignancy.
C by Tom McCarthy was a very imaginative surreal book over a man's lifetime with a rather obscure beginning; interesting for it's WW1 background ;early aviation; limited medical knowledge.Some ghastly descriptions of drug addiction along the way.An exceptionally well researched book with a disappointing ending
Other recent books have been Cobra by that old thriller writer Frederick Forsyth, Nobbut a lad- a tribute to Alan Titchmarsh's childhood memory of Yorkshire(how did he recall such detail?) and Solar by Ian McEwen about a flawed genius with energy in all directions!Solar enrgy panels are perhaps not as secure as you might think.
Damon Galgut's In A Strange Room (was a Booker Prize short listed 2010) gave one a slanted view of what one might encounter on country and hill walking with South Africa as the backdrop.After that slightly unnerving, if short ,book about a mysterious person's travelling experiences; we did Martin Bell's Through Gates of Fire with a not unfamiliar look at the trials and tribulations of a war correspondent. Mike Pannett's "Not On My Patch Lad" was a humorous tale of a Yorkshire Bobby with rural tales pehaps more humour than fact. A fascinating book was Affinity by Sarah Waters -a fantastic period piece of Victorian London with grim Millbank prison(who would have been a prison visitor in those days?).Spiritualism and criminality overlap with a most surprising ending!Superb writing from the author of Tipping the Velvet.
James Patterson's Don't Blink is not for the squeamish;short chapters keep one on the edge of your seat-slightly confusing plot didn't encourage one to read more of his books but he has written a vast amount so perhaps earlier one's are better
Timpson's Timepaths by John Timpson was more a 'dipping in' sort of travel book retracing ancient pathways through developed modern GB in the 1990s
the Fear Index by Robert Harris gave a new slant on Computors in the service and disservice of man -what happened to Asimov's 3 laws of Robotics? This was followed by Peter Carey's True History of the Kelly Gang not for he faint hearted -postColonial Australia researched in great detail with Ned Kelly as misunderstood Outlaw and People's favourite (like Robin Hood) hero .Marvelous writing with great use of language with no- holds- barred 'adjectival 'speech
Suzanne Brockmann's The Defiant Hero was the next detective offering.A bit of a holiday read with an element of 'Chicklit'
The Man Who Forgot His Wife(John O'Farrell) had a good cover and was a humorous tale at times but also rather a sad reflection of married life's downs rather than ups.Slightly London in -crowdish with confusing ending but stays in the memory after!
The Secret History of Bletchley Park by Sinclair McKay opened up the politics,Enigma code-breaking and intrigue of WW2; slightly repetitive writing needed harder editing; but made up for by descriptions of Churchill and his contacts,strange goings on amongst the 'brainy ones' doing maths/cryptology with some 'ordinary' peoples views of this community hidden from public gaze for so long.
AA Gill's The Angry Island was bound to be controversial and this Times Journalist ranted and raved over what is good but more often bad about the English.The old favourites of Class ,privilege ,born losers and poor lovers was joined by amusing views of Public schools, discussion of regional accents and war memorials.A thought- provoking book perhaps better read by anyone but the English-too irritating for them
The Troubled Man (Henning Mankell) is the last of the Inspector Wallender Swedish detective series.A rather depressing view of an aging unfit Wallender miraculously solving the death and disappearance of his would-be son-in law's parents;good undercover spy plot rescues it a bit but should be 150 pages shorter. There are interesting views of Swedish political brinkmanship,Communist bloc countries post WW2 and after fall of Berlin Wall.
Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch was full of excellent descriptions of Victorian Wapping with its menagerie , travel on a whaler with full blooded description of whaling and shipwrecking- plenty to discuss
Island of Bones by Imogen Robertson is partly a portrait of an amateur pathologist and his assistant trying unravel an ancient murder,partly a view of the horrors of hanging in late 18th century England,partly a who dunnit following mysterious deaths.
A lot of characters slightly overpower the reader ; plenty to talk about ;ideal for a book group
Journey without end by David Bolton a hand illustrated canal barge travelogue good on history and workings of English canal system with interesting stories of canal people both famous and humorous. Author and wife(one doesn't get to know them ) had a sabbatical year on a canal boat in the '80s.A bit dry and text-bookish at times
The SENSE OF AN ENDING by Julian Barnes describes a 60 year old divorced man's reminiscences of his life;meeting his old friends gave him a different view of the events he remembered.Memories can be flawed! Nice short book with lots to think about Life of Pi (Yann Martel) is a well written fairytale with maritime disaster,zoo animals,survival against the odds, humour in one enjoyable package Humour continued in Billy Hopkins book 'Our Kid' describing childhood and young adult life in Salford in the 30s through war years in Salford Middleton and Cheetham hill probably an elaborated story-no lad could have had so many experiences but interesting view of a forgotten era
The Woman who went to bed for a year by Sue Townsend -Black humour here of a midlife crisis woman.She reacts to her empty nest and goes to bed ; amazes family including strange academic unfaithful husband with girlfriend in garden shed.Gets helpers and disciples who think she is a guru; acquires friends and hangers-on from the internet community making for an hilarious scene. The surreal humour with bizarre characters may not be to everyone's taste.
BOOK GROUP MEETINGS NEXT 3 MONTHS
May 13th 2013 at John Whitley's HARD LANDING by Stephen Leather.
June 10th 2013 at John Cannell's -'Captain Scott' by Ranulph Fiennes
July 1st 2013 at Mike Tomkinson's-The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
The group has knowledgeable people from different backgrounds giving interesting slants on each book's contents.Come along if you wish but you need to join the Rotary first!
Past President Elvet Smith