Sunday Salon: reasons to be cheerful

sundaysalonIt’s been a milestone week.

Milestone 1: On Wednesday I led my first book club discussion.   I’d never even been to a book club meeting until December and was completely thrown when asked to choose the February book. Of all the scores of books I want to read, it should have been a cinch to name something. But  all that came into my head was Possession by A.S. Byatt from my Booker prize list; which wasn’t even on my radar screen for this year. Afterwards I kept thinking I’d made a terrible mistake when one member said they’d tried it and hated it so wouldn’t read again and a few others wrinkled their noses when I described it. So I approached Wednesday with a considerable degree of nervousness, imagining that most people wouldn’t even turn up or if they did, would say they couldn’t finish the book and they hated it.

How wrong I was. Three people said instantly that they loved it (not just liked, but loved). When the scores were tallied at the end, the average put it at the second highest score for any book they’ve read in the last 3 years. Crumbs!

What was fascinating was how people enjoyed the book for different reasons – some were keen on the dual love story aspect, some enjoyed the mystery angle. Some enjoyed the poetry. All agreed that it was a highly technically accomplished book and wondered why we hadn’t read more by Byatt.

Milestone 2: Thursday saw the first anniversary of this blog. A time to reflect on how my original ideas have changed over the last 12 months and will likely change again. Here’s my post on the topic.

Milestone 3: Joined my first virtual group read. The people behind the Unputdownables blog have selected Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky for the Feb/April read. I’ve not done one of these because the reading schedule is usually faster than I can manage. But since this novel is on my Classics Club list and I’m a tad daunted by it and  their reading schedule seems very manageable I thought I’d give it a go.

So three reasons to celebrate. All of which have been great antidotes to the doom and gloom of the books I’m currently reading. Crime and Punishment is a surprisingly approachable book so far but it’s topic doesn’t exactly lend much cheer. Little Dorrit is a super yarn but the shades of the prison house that surround the central character of Amy Dorrit are so deep that I’m downhearted on her behalf every time I pick up the book. I know there will be a happy ending since Dickens does so like those but there is a lot to get through before that. And the last book I read The Armies by the Colombian author Evelio Rosero (a book I read as part of my world literature challenge) was rather bleak too. (my review is here)

I must make sure the next book I pick has more light than shade……

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on February 17, 2013, in Booker Prize, Classics Club, Sunday Salon, world literature and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Congrats on all of these achievements! I had a similar moment of doubt when I led a chat about The Master and Margarita and was delighted when everyone said it was one of their favourite reads and really enjoyed talking about it. I think sometimes we expect polished books to be group splitters when actually a lot of the time it just means there are lots of angles to appreciate and different threads that might appeal. 🙂

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    • thanks for the reassurance Alex. Next time I have to choose a book I think I’ll make sure to have some options for titles up my sleeve that I know will stimulate a good discussion!

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  2. Hurray for your book discussion! I’m sure it was fun, and I’m pretty sure you’d do it again (but not in the near future, I guess). 🙂

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  3. Kudos to your accomplishments. I enjoy following them.

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  4. Milestone 1: Hey, you never know who will like a book and who won’t, do you? Glad it worked out for you. Milestone 2: Congratulations on your bloggiversary (however you or others spell it 🙂 ) Milestone 3: Crime and Punishment is one of my favorite classics. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. I’ll look forward to hearing your thoughts on it in the future either way.

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  5. Knowing you, I’m sure one of the reasons that the book group meeting went so well was because you’d thoroughly prepared your discussion notes. I had great difficulty when I first tried to read this book. For me the problem was the poetry. However, when I had a second go at it for our group I did learn to appreciate it. Have you read ‘The Children’s Book’? Byatt uses traditional tales there in the same way as she uses poetry in ‘Possession’. Even though narrative is my thing, and I loved to book, I still found it intrusive.

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    • Oh you are right Alex, I did prepare. I had a list of questions ready in case the discussion dried up! The poetry was the problem for me too. I just found most if it over-elaborate so skipped it. I know Byatt fought hard to keep the poems in against opposition from publishers and they do reflect on the narrative but I found them a slog. A few people mentioned Children’s Book so I might indeed have a look at that one day

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  6. Congrats on your blogoversary! It is great to reflect on each year after it passes and contemplate what has changed since the beginning.

    I still have fond memories of what I call my Summer of the Russian Novel, back in college. I read some Dostoevsky and Tolstoy and thoroughly enjoyed the books…except for the Russian names! lol

    Here’s MY SUNDAY SALON POST

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    • This made me laugh Laurel because I also had a Summer of…. except mine wasn’t confined to the Russians. I was sixteen and had just finished the round of significant exams. It was a hot summer and I spent every day in the garden reading foreign novels. Camus, Sartre, Tolstoy, Herman Hesse. i understood very little of any of them but it felt very grown up!

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