Wednesday 24 January 2007

The Accidental

Let me introduce you to my book group. Some of them don't think this whole blogging thing is such a good idea and would prefer to remain anonymous. To respect this I will use only their initials and not reveal any personal details (although apologies if what I think is personal differs from what you think is personal).

My book group is a group of mums having diverse opinions about what makes good reading and willing to stretch their boundaries to include what others find interesting. In other words, we'll have a go at just about anything. Although, we did once let one of the husbands select our book. He chose The Fight by Norman Mailer. We don't let our husbands choose any of our books anymore.

This month we read The Accidental by Ali Smith. The novel won the Man Booker Prize in 2005 and the praise on the book jacket was impressive.

Hmmmmm, then I started to get a bit worried. I went off and googled a reading group guide. This always helps us talk about the book. Well, you see we are female and we all have children and lots of challenges every single day so we could quite easily spend the 2-3 hours meant to be discussing the book talking about everything else. We have done this on a couple of occasions and then had to rush the book in the last 15 minutes just so we could justify our time out to our husbands. I even tried emailing Meg Critch at Boston College who said they were having a discussion about the book but in the tradition of learned literary academia didn't need to use reading guides. Boy, did I feel dim?

Premise of the book centre's around the Smart family's lacklustre holiday in Norwich which is turned upside down when a beguiling stranger called Amber appears, bringing with her love, joy, pain and upheaval. The Smarts try to make sense of their bewildering emotions as Amber tramples over family boundaries and forces them to think about their world and themselves in an entirely new way.

It was a divided night. KH & B really enjoyed the book. SS & I found it a bit more heavy going. KR & M were a bit more down the middle. I thought the book got a good discussion despite not having any questions. We explored all of the characters and tried to understand why they did what they did. We definitely had differing opinions about the literary merits of the work.

What I say (since it is my blog): The first 70 pages or so were excruciatingly painful. The remaining 230 (or so) were only slightly less so. I don't recommend reading it and doubt I would have forced myself to finish it if I didn't feel the responsibility to the book group. I found the whole plot implausible and maybe that is my problem. I struggle to enjoy books which I just can't believe in. That's why sci-fi or fantasy literature rarely hits by reading list (one exception being anything by Margaret Atwood). The good news is through the discussion with the group I gained an insight and an appreciation I didn't have prior to the discussion. And that's what it is all about!

Next month's selection is My Name is Red by Ohran Pamuk. Have had a quick look round for a reading group guide. Oh, noooooo.....there isn't one!


Janell said...

I can't let this entry go by without recommending the two best books ever written, in my opinion and one highly tolerable sci fi: if you've never read it before you must read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The other is A Lantern in her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich.
the Scifi is called A Brief History of the Dead, the author's name escapes me at the moment. I'll add it when it comes to me.
your book club sounds like great fun.

Janell said...

PS i do hope you've found time to breathe and pee since Tuesday.

LaDawn said...

I haven't read any of those although To Kill A Mockingbird has been on my bedside table for about 7 years. Will move it to the top of the pile! I will add the others to the list f must reads. Thanks, Janell!

PS Found a bit of time.....have breathed and peed! Phew!