The tenderness of wolves

This first book, “the tenderness of wolves” by Stef Penney was a Costa Book winner when first published in the mid noughties. It was generally well liked by members. Several commented that the multiple viewpoints made for rather less flowing reading and consequently the story line could be rather difficult to follow. The frequent changes of perspective were jarring. This was a book to be read in as few sessions as possible.

Set in the Canadian north in the mid 19th century  it was evocative of that time and place. One reader disagreed feeling that while the cold, bleak landscape was well drawn the settlements could have been better researched.

Although the story is very loosely a murder mystery in truth that is simply a mechanism to set a complex set of events in motion. The principal protagonist is a woman , mother of a teenager. One member felt that that this enabled her to identify with that character more closely and added to her enjoyment of the book.

The book had been proposed by a member based on her enjoyment on first reading. Curiously she felt far less enjoyment on a second reading and was more critical of the book on this second reading.

Members were interested to discover that Stef Penney has recently had another book published  ” the invisible ones”

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April meeting

The next meeting is on April 2 at 7pm in the snug of the Tame Otter when members will discuss “Tenderness of Wolves” by Stef Penney.

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Catch 22 by Joseph Heller

For the second month in a row there was unanimity among members- everyone had given up on reading the book. One did say she intended to go back to it.

Generally members felt that although a classic with its title passing into common currency, the book was poor. Comments included unfunny, too complicated with too many characters, masculine, old fashioned feel, and too much jargon. It was felt to have little plot and one Yossarian’s dilemma hads been enunciated there was little else of interest.

Often seen as a comic book it was too relentlessly silly with few good jokes. Attempting to extract humour from juxtaposition of names and ranks such as Major Major was rather pathetic.

One member summed it up by suggesting the book was like Marmite in attracting polar opposites of attraction or repulsion. The group was repelled.

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March Meeting

The club will meet at 7pm in the snug of the Tame Otter on Monday March 5th and discuss Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

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Birdsong by Sebastian Faulkes

Rarely has a book aroused such strong feelings and such unanimous praise from the group. Moving, powerful, compelling, vivid were some of the words used to describe this “must read” book.

Accidentally the club discussion came after the month in which a TV adaption was shown. There was agreement that the book is far better- a couple were taken aback by the changes. Curiously the film and the book have different endings. While the film explicitly introduces the hero to his young daughter at the end of the film the book infers this happens as his granddaughter is an integral part of the story..

Birdsong according to Faulkes is part of his French trilogy, two of which are set in wartime; Birdsong in the First World War and Charlotte Grey in the Second. Essentially Birdsong is in three parts. First part when hero, Stephen falls for the French wife of his host and runs off with her; secondly Stephen’s experiences in the war and thirdly Stephen’s granddaughter discovering about Stephens life.

The wartime scenes are very graphic and one member felt they were so harrowing that she couldn’t read the book. Most felt that they were moving and gave some insight into trench life. Several were re-reading the book and some had decided that it was so good they wanted a copy in their own collections.

One member commented that looked at coldly the First World War was so horrific because of the accident that defence had outstripped offence. It took the invention of the tank to redress the balance.  Others felt that class led to the soldiers being seen as little more than cannon fodder.

Although the main character Stephen is described as the hero above it was commented that he was very much a flawed hero. This was probably a result of his upbringing after his parents died while he was young. This was felt to add to the feeling of truth in the book.

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February Meeting Date

The group will next meet on Monday 6th February in The Snug of the Tame Otter at 7pm. The book for discussion is Birdsong by Sebastian Faulkes, and anything else that comes to mind at the time!

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The First Meeting of 2012

The book for discussion at this meeting: Neville Shute, On the Beach.

As Phillip had rightly pointed out by email before his departure for the USofA Neville Shute was the pen name of Neville Shute Norway, also a prominent and successful aero engineer, and the author of many books during the 1950’s and 60’s. Most included an aviation theme and were set in Australia where he emigrated in 1950. Phillip added that he was a big fan, but felt his work had dated.

At the meeting, the discussion centred around his writing style, being compared to Enid Blyton a comparison the group felt as very apt, and his story very much based on middle class views of the 1950s. Comfortable writing, not great literature but an easy style, very much of its generation.

Those ‘in the know’ highlighted that nuclear Armageddon was the fear that many grew up with during that time – very different to today. It was real to people at the time, during the Cold War and therefore easy to relate to.

Most felt the timeline in the book seemed odd as they were in denial and had no sense of panic or urgency. It took some time to get there, rather than the minutes that was the real expectation at the time. The book portrayed people in a way we would all like to think was how it might happen, that they had some level of decorum. Obviously to make the book and the story this was required rather than being whole hearted aligned to human nature.

Next months book: Birdsong by Sebastian Faulkes.

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