Book – and cafe – club

Fiction, non-fiction and food kept four of us bubbling with converation until late at our book club last night.

Judy recommended Edward Rutherfurd’s books – “Ireland Awakening”, “The Forest”, “London” (also enjoyed by Ailsa for its details of social history), “Russka”, “Sarum”, “Dublin” and “New York”.

“I’ve devoured them all – usually on long plane trips,” she said.

“Ireland Awakening” runs from the 1600s to the present day and offers historical insights that were not offered to us as school students. Judy was not proud of one of her relatives, Yelverton, the Lord Chief Justice, which led us to discussing the problems of assessing his behaviour in the light of today’s values. Would we have behaved any differently if we had lived in those times?

Judy describes Rutherfurd’s books as being incredibly well researched, taking history beyond timelines into the social and religious beliefs of the places he writes about and the political consequences of those beliefs.

Ailsa went online to the local library to order Emily Perkins’ new book – which commentators are predicting to be the next Man Booker prize winner (“though the long list is not out yet, says Ailsa, let alone the short list). She has found the book easy to read so far, but finds the chronologically jumping around a little disconcerting.

Mary brought along Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking”, following up on one of Joan Didion’s previous titles which we read as a book club, “Blue Nights”. Both titles deal with grief and loss, one with the death of a husband and the other with the death of a daughter. Mary found “The Year of Magical Thinking” self-indulgent – a view we shared about “Blue Nights”.

My hairdresser recommended Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers” to me, and I am looking forward to reading it. Judy and her husband enjoyed reading my copy of “Outliers” so much they have bought their own copy – as a strong recommendation as a book is likely to receive. Judy says the book indicates that fame and success frequently come to people because of chance factors beyond their personal control – effectively, their stars were in alignment. Judy describes the book as “highly readable”.

Judy lent me Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point”. It is an easy and thought-provoking read which deconstructs the ways critical mass is achieved – useful for a professional communicator to have new insights into how to make an idea persuasive. I feel the need to own this book, too – must look out on Trade Me.

I read Mary’s copy of Anne Tyler’s “The Beginner’s Goodbye” – another with a grief and loss theme. Mary and I agreed it was insightful and not self indulgent. I love Anne Tyler’s characters – not heroes or villains, but ordinary mortals with ordinary human foibles. I better not say too much, as “The Beginner’s Goodbye” is our set book for a later meeting.

Continuing on my Jeffrey Eugenides exploration, I read his first novel, “The Virgin Suicides”. Iggy read it first and nodded in agreement when, about a third of the way through, I sighed “This is boring.” The book did pick up from there. Eugenides steps boldly into taboo territory, dealing candidly with the challenges of being young and female, of being young and male, and with living in a home with an overly restrictive mother. It’s a grotty book – and perhaps a gritty book. Not a good choice if you need cheering up!

Members of one book club I belonged to would talk frequently about what country you should visit. We strayed into less expensive territory, comparing notes on what café you should visit – great coffee at The French Tart by the Fairfield Bridge (Judy), a long, leisurely and luscious lunch at Woodside Café (Judy), stunning Sunday lunch at Zinc (Ailsa) and I highly recommend the home-cooked food at Mavis and Co, next to the Deloittes Building in Hamilton East.

We would love to know

a) a couple of hot favourite titles from your book club and

b) your favourite Hamilton cafe – and why you like it.

Ailsa and Mary.

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9 thoughts on “Book – and cafe – club

  1. Iggy says:

    You highlight sone of the many problems that we suffer with our increasing age – there are so many books to read and places to visit! The pile of books on my side of the bed is down to seven (finished one last night) – and that is not counting the aviation magazines (four per month) and the heap of newspapers (news and puzzles). The fact that we still have to work for a living really does get in the way of mounting a meaningful attack on the more important things to do in life.

    • Kiwicommunicator says:

      – and that’s without going near all the cafes and restaurants to be visited, and the glorious local walks to do!

    • Linda Kennington says:

      The secret is to have a long-distance relationship with one’s partner! One of the compensations of flying from Sydney to Perth every month is that I have the best part of a day each way when there is nothing else I need to be doing but read. As a consequence, I’ve rediscovered what a joy it is to have quality time for reading. I’m now inclined to pick up a book instead of turning the box on. Reading in bed at night is cosy but not productive – there’s the tendency to drop off after only a few pages.

      • Agreed about reading in bed. It takes a while to get through a long book when you have to keep re-reading those three pages to remember what they were about! Do you have any recommended reading for our book club?

  2. Ana says:

    I think the best thing about book clubs is getting to read genres that I normally wouldn’t pick up. A memorable, surprising favourite from my book club was “Maus” by Art Spiegelman. It’s a graphic novel and the cartoons make it appear almost child like before reading it but it’s about the novelist’s father’s experiences as a Polish Jew in the Holocaust.

    • Kiwicommunicator says:

      Thank you, Ana. Our book club appreciates recommendations and that is a book we have not yet come across. It sounds interesting.

  3. Linda says:

    Thanks everyone – lots of good book titles. My latest read is anything by Jodi Picoult. I started with “Lone Wolf” – a good choice. Each chapter is ‘spoken’ by one family member who gives their perspective on events and developments as they unfold. Thought-provoking on issues of quality of life vs preservation of life. Also a fascinating insight into social organisation and communication amongst wolves.

    • And what was the title of the one about the sisters, where the parents had a baby to harvest the genetic material needed to save the life of the existing child? An easy read, memorable characters and thought provoking. I’ll look out for “Lone Wolf”. I like the sound of its structure.

      • Linda says:

        I haven’t read that one yet, but from your description, my guess is that it might be “My Sister’s Keeper” – I look forward to it. Another of Jodi’s is “Handle with Care” – a family who have a child with a genetic bone disorder. Once again, very interesting ethical issues, and an insight into the impact of disabilities on families.

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