Sunday, February 26, 2017

February meeting - Dark Emu and April book - Emily Maguire - An Isolated Incident

Home again from a wonderful afternoon spent with friends, talking about the book Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe, drinking champagne and eating cakes. Thanks Sue E for hosting us. There was plenty of discussion about the book - some varied viewpoints, which always makes for a lively afternoon. No one faulted the passion with which Pascoe approached his argument and all believed that what he was saying was important. But some found the book boring to read, and felt he was cherrypicking his evidence to support his thesis, with too much reliance on secondary sources. Others disagreed, finding it opened a new vision of Australian history, a cathartic truth telling that they would want to share, a starting point for other researchers. Some of us will be passing the book on to family and friends - but some were pleased to finish it. Gave us fuel for hours of robust discussion.

Agreed quickly on the April book - An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire, a writer we have ignored for a long time! In April we will meet at Ros's place. The March meeting will be at Margaret's home at McMahons Point, when we will be discussing Steven Amsterdam's The Easy Way Out and (Optional) Cary Taylor's Dying: a Memoir.

Monday, January 30, 2017

January 2017 Hot Milk and new book(s) for March

Thanks to Pat Rayner for hosting us at her new home in Potts Point. The view from the roof was amazing so please share pictures. Our very first book group meeting was at Pat's place at Dundas, and the book was Elizabeth Jolly's Milk and Honey. Pat placed a carton of milk and a jar of honey on the letterbox that time, but I didn't think to look out for a cup of hot milk on the doorstep of number 17 yesterday. We were too busy with the mechanics of our journey and the newness of an inner-city post-car location. All worked well. We met our newest member too, Cathy Forster (I'm not sure if I've spelt her name right!) who established herself as a confident and positive contributor right from the start.

The book, Hot Milk by Deborah Levy, had its fans and its detractors. But the detractors read it to the end and also had plenty to say about the characters, the themes and the language. A voice from a younger generation, a 25 year old daughter, negotiating her identity, her 'archaeological study' of her own relationships. All up it was a successful book group book, which stimulated lots of discussion, probably because some people didn't like it, but they cared.

We settled down to tea and coffee with lamingtons and biscuits, to decide on the March book, which was decided very quickly. We will consider end of life issues, with the main book a fiction: The easy way out, by Steven Amsterdam, and if people have time for another, to round out the view, they can also read: Dying: a memoir by Corey Taylor.

We also voted for the best book of 2016 by show of hands. Clear winner was The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood.

We have had a change of venue in the following months. The February meeting (Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe) will now be held at Sue Ellyard's place with the March meeting at Margaret's newly renovated Kirribilli home. Thanks to everyone for their contribution to another year of book group. Welcome to our new member!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

October meeting (Black Rock, White City) January Book (Hot milk, by Deborah Levy)

Thanks to all those who were able to make it to my place today to talk about the Miles Franklin prize winner, Black Rock, White City. Lots of us hadn't finished it, and those who did had reservations, but it proved to generate a lively discussion. Interesting characters living through the aftermath of war in Bosnia, rebuilding their new world in Australia. Graffiti a gripping device which wasn't fully realised.
Would repay rereading, but still, we thought we wouldn't be recommending it to all our friends and family. Johan a godlike heroic figure, his relationship with Susannah at the centre of the book.

Looked to the Booker Prize shortlist for our January book and decided on Deborah Levy's book, Hot Milk'. Look for it in libraries or buy the book! We will be discussing it at Pat Rs new home at Potts Point.

November meeting is at Stella's when we look at the Helen Garner short stories.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Thanks Sue W. for hosting us - the famous Papa's ricotta cake starred again. We missed Pat R who is in Tassie, and Jane and Liz. Even Maggie H was able to come this time, as she's in Sydney with family. Great to see her again at book group, looking tanned and bright after her sea change.

And yes, after 45 minutes we did talk about the book, The Turner House by Angela Flournoy. Overall, it was well-liked and stimulated lots of discussion.  We learnt about the politics of housing and poverty in Detroit - and good to hear it from a black family. The family dynamics were interesting, in the current generation and previous ones - the 'haint' intrigued us. This book was compared, favourably,  with Anne Tyler's A Spool of Blue Thread, which we read last year.

Next book is AS Patric's Black Rock, White City at my place (Pat S) in October. The November book will be Helen Garner's short stories, Everywhere I look, at Stella's. Then we break until January when we are invited to Pat Rayner's new place at Pott's Point.

Happy reading until we next meet on 30th October.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

August meeting - October book - AS Patric Black Rock White City

Thanks Ros for hosting the spirited discussion about Portnoy's Complaint, by Philip Roth. No trouble getting started on the book, in spite of 2 new grandchildren in the group. Book was thoroughly enjoyed by several of us, who found it funny and satirical, while others got annoyed by the sustained rant  - the complaint. We all found lots to talk about, plenty of quotable quotes. An interesting riff on the times, and a reflection on Masculinity and Jewish families. That doesn't do it justice - some of us were rereading after 50 years and finding that we had changed, finding it funnier, but not as sexy as before! Thanks to Liz for selecting it.

We decided pretty quickly on the Miles Franklin Award winner, AS Patric's Black Rock White City.
I'll be hosting the reading group in October, and Pat R will open her new Potts Point residence to us in January. November party venue to be confirmed.

We discussed our other reading - Liane Moriarty's Big Little Lies, Chris Cleave's Everyone Brave is Forgiven, Our Souls At Night (not sure of author) and Fredrik Backman's A Man Called Ove, were recommended - for private reading!

July Meeting - September book - The Turner House, by Angela Flournoy

I didn't attend the July meeting at Sue E's place as Liz and I were at a quilting workshop.

I hear it went well, with mixed reviews for Jeanette Winterson's The Gap of Time, a reworking of the story of The Winter's Tale to celebrate the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare's death (I think).

Tales of the cake spread throughout the land.

The meeting agreed on the September book, The Turner House, by Angela Flournoy. Sue W will host this meeting.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

June meeting - (30th Anniversary) and August book details

Well, it was a great day for the 30th anniversary celebration.  Perfect weather for a trip to Avoca Beach. Thanks to Margaret for hosting us beautifully and providing a super lunch. Thanks to Moy for the picture book cake, decorated as only Moy can do it. Thanks to all those who could come and those who couldn't but have enlivened our group through the last 30 years. Pat R in particular, foundation member, sorry you had family business to attend to on the day - you were missed. Maggie sent a message which we read and enjoyed. Clare sent a message too as we revisited notes we had written 5 years ago, saying what book group means to us. We read these out, with a particular pang when we came to Clare's contribution. We each wrote a note about a special moment we remember from book group. These are also stored in the time capsule. Additions from absent friends are welcome.

Yes, we did talk about the book My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. Again Ferrante provided plenty of discussion, with everyone getting something out of the book, but some wondering what all the fuss is about. There are the true believers who have gone on to read more and more of her work and we thought that this is what is intended. The book doesn't entirely stand alone. Talk about autobiography, about the identity of the writer, about the translation, about the nature of brilliant friends. I left you all talking after hours, so I have to end the report there.

And the next book. Well, the Jeanette Winterson book, The Gap in Time is our July book and our August book will be a classic - Portnoy's Complaint by Phillip Roth.

Photos of the day from Sue E.

 And a collage from Liz.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

June meeting reminder - and 30th anniversary celebration!

30 years of book group!


We will be celebrating on Sunday with a lunch time meeting at Margaret L's home at Avoca Beach.

Festivities will begin at 11.30am. Margaret will provide lunch. Moy is baking a cake. We will need cameras and any old photos you can find.

I have the first blue book and will bring that along.

Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend should be a good conversation starter for this event.

See you there.

May meeting (Mothering Sunday) - July book (The Gap in Time - Jeanette Winterson)

Graham Swift's Mothering Sunday was the May book, for a very well attended meeting. Everyone was there except Liz and me - and of course Maggie! So I am relying on Ros's verbatim report here. Ros reported that most people liked the book - Margaret L, Sue Wood and Jane in particular. Ros herself was less impressed, as she 'didn't learn anything' from the book. Moy had thought it was repetitive on the role of the working classes, but Sue E advanced a theory that the orphan Miss Fairchild at the centre of the book may in fact have come from one of the rich families, hence their crossing of class boundaries for her.  It seemed that people found more to talk about in life than this book. There was not a long discussion of Mothering Sunday, but lots of lively talk.

Sorry I missed it  - please feel free to tell me if you disagree with my second hand report.

July book is The Gap in Time by Jeanette Winterson, which is a reworking of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale. That will be at Sue E's home with the August meeting at Ros's place.

June meeting is rather special so I will give it a post of its own.