Monday, 18 April 2011

Annual Review

Ok so book club is one years old (wow). First of all thank you so much for attending whether you came once or whether you have made it to almost every meeting. I appreciate you taking tie out of your lives to join little old me. There have been times when there were only 3 of us and times when we took over 2 tables. I've loved it all. A special thank you to Jonnie (I'm sorry I'm not sure how you spell it) for your help with the signs. They have been instrumental in keeping the book club going.

Anyway here is a quick review from me of the last year

worst book - I think almost unanimously The Road

Highest mark awarded - A Christmas Carol - but note it was only a festive 10

Book we keep coming back to/referring to - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, surprising given that it was the first book we reviewed.

Book that I liked the best (well it is my blog)- A Quiet Belief in Angels

Best book club book - The Hours, not necessarily the best book but the one that got us talking the most

Comedy moment - two ladies turning up to talk about Angels for the review of A Quiet Belief then staying to try to convince us it was worth talking about.

Most amount of people in attendance - 9 including one man!

Least in attendance - 3 but we ended up making it a good meeting regardless

Well that's it short but sweet, told you it was a quick review. Heres to another year!

The Hours Michael Cunningham

On the face of it The Hours is a very boring book.

It follows 3 seemingly unconnected women over the course of a day. It is set over 3 different periods of time in America and England. One woman is trying to write a book (Virginia Woolf), one is trying to bake a cake (Laura Brown) and one is trying to organise a party (Clarissa Dalloway). Clarissa is loosely based on Mrs Dalloway the Woolf character from the book by the same name. I am told the book is written in the 'stream of conscious' style where the reader follows the womens thoughts as they enter their head however random. Nothing much else happens.

Bit of a failure then really and that seemed to be the thoughts of about half the members at this months meeting.

However have book must discuss! So we delved in and discovered that when you look closely and pool ideas it suddenly becomes more interesting. Like a many layered onion that first appears only dull and brown. I liked that sentence it made me feel posh!

We discovered that all women who at first glance had nothing in common do in fact have a lot in common. For example all three are playing a role. Virginia as the sane wife who can write and run a successful household, Laura who is playing the perfect mother and Clarissa who is playing the perfect hostess. They all feel that they have to perform, to put on a brave face and they all feel like they are failing.

They are all trying to exert control over their lives by creating the perfect something - a book, a cake and a party. Do they see this as replicas of themselves and their lives? Clarissa seems more certain than others that the party will be ok is it because she is happiest with her life? Laura seems the least happy with her creation. Are they measuring up how perfect they are by what they produce? Is it their way of issuing some control? Was it always going to be not perfect in their eyes because they feel they are not perfect?

We were really warming up now questions and theories were being posed all over the place. Not so boring now hey? But wait there is more

All three have issues with Mental illness. Whereas Virginia looks on the face of it as thought she is the most obviously mentally disturbed one member of the group commented how it could be that she suffered from migraines. Indeed a lot of the descriptions we are offered would fit that diagnosis. Clarissa although not suffering herself is having to deal with her best friend Richard who is losing his mind to aids. Laura also seems to be suffering from some sort of depression, perhaps post natal depression? We then talked about whether the women were all suffering from illnesses that in todays environment would be treatable and recoverable from rather than dominating their lives. Looking to modern day just like Laura and Virginia are unable to escape their illnesses Richard despite modern medicine is unable to escape his.

The last link we found was lesbianism. All 3 either were openly or had some sort of lesbian encounter. Why? Is it because they feel they have to be perfect in front of the men and with women they don't?

We also discussed to what extent Clarissa was more free than the others. She to some extent shows you can have it all, a lesbian relationship, a child, an upper class life style with a glamorous circle of friends. But she lives in New York one of the most eclectic, accepting cities in the world. Would she have this freedom if she lived in say Richmond?

At last then a book club book that really was made for a book club. We ended up talking for ages and everyone said they actually got something out of the meeting, appreciating the book more. Some of us even increased the score they would have given it had it not been for the book club! Overall we gave it a 6. Some gave it as low as a 2 some as high as an 8. I seem to think that this book has split us the most score wise than any other previously. I think this is a good thing in a book club book.

Perhaps we got more out of this book because it is more wordy/high brow than others previously. Although it scored relatively low and I would say I didn't enjoy it anywhere near as much as most books I've read it's quite readable and I got way more out of it than most of our other books. Try it.

Next book is The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas

PS Check out my annual review!