Book Club 2

GROUP CONVENOR – Christine Wright

We meet on the third Wednesday of the month at 1.00 pm in Par Community Library (PL24 2PB). If you enjoy reading and discussing the book you have read, come along and join us.

We usually get together after our book discussion for a tea or coffee (and maybe a cake!) at the cafe on site.

Below are details of our recently read books.

November 2022 – The Waves – Virginia Wolf

This book was written in a “stream of consciousness” style which required a continuous level of concentration!  It is the story of six people, Susan, Jinny, Rhoda, Bernard, Neville and Louis growing up and growing older, meeting intermittently as students and later in adulthood and showing the effect in their lives of the relationships between them. There is also a seventh character whom we never meet – Percival, who was clearly a hero in different ways to the other six but who is killed in a riding accident abroad whilst still young. His death clearly impacts on all of them, particularly Neville who was in love with him and he is referred to on each occasion the other six meet.

The theme of the waves is a symbol of the fluidity and passing of time and Woolf intersperses the book at regular intervals with italicised prose sections which describe the scenes of waves rolling in at different times of the day from early morning to night.  These passages are beautifully written and symbolise life’s progress from birth to old age and death.  Woolf’s sister, Vanessa Bell, was an artist in the Bloomsbury group which Woolf belonged to and some of her descriptions of the way light and shadow affects the absolute look of things are quite stunning. “Watching the rain glisten on the tiles till they shine like a policeman’s waterproof”, “the thin skinned milk of early morning turns opal, blue, rose” .

Susan becomes a mother with a more or less contented life in the country; Jinny, an honest exhibitionist, narcissist and upper class prostitute; Rhoda, harder to describe, a free spirit who becomes Bernard’s lover at one time but leaves him and eventually commits suicide; Bernard the storyteller, self-confessed romantic, moody Byronesque figure full of phrases he can never satisfactorily develop into poetry “I must open this little trapdoor and let out these linked phrases”; Neville, a gay man who yearns for love  and Louis the Australian, the cleverest of them all, who goes into commerce and has an inferiority complex cleverly outlined in the repeated phrase when asked about his background “my father is a banker in Brisbane”. The others are clearly of the British upper class and there is no reference to ordinary people. This is reflected in the somewhat arrogant, condescending style of someone of that class and era.

            The rhythm of the writing reminded one member of the group of T. S. Eliot’s poetry and the group spent some time discussing this with a few examples read out. We concluded that “The Waves” required more time and effort but that there are too many other books to read!

            And finally, one of our members said “I rarely feel defeated. The diversion to discussing TS Eliot brought some sanity to our understanding. Yes I enjoyed the Waves prose and beautiful descriptions but for me there was just too much to take in and looking back 50 years ago when I first had a go , things have changed but I now just feel a bit too old to totally take on board the youthful and intense optimism of such a youthful perspective!”

October 2022 – ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE – GAIL HONEYMAN

YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK!

This is a story of evil, deprivation, instability, abuse, rejection, dislike and loneliness so how did Gail Honeyman produce such a compelling, engaging and hopeful novel? It was universally agreed that this book is something special and deserves the many accolades accorded to the author including a film of the story.

Eleanor, we discover, has experienced the most terrible trauma as a child of 10. She was left an orphan and her four year old sister was killed in a tragic incident.  We assume her mother who bears responsibility for the tragedy and with whom she has telling weekly phone calls, is either in prison or a mental institution. Eleanor was put into care, and was in various foster homes and institutions never finding any proper counselling and was very damaged, unable to communicate with other people and, although she worked in a busy office, she was unable to form any attachment with her colleagues. 

She is described as “alone” rather than lonely and has made a perfectly tolerable life for herself albeit bolstered by bottles of vodka and there are many lighthearted passages which make the character of Eleanor endearing to the reader. However, it is clear that her “perfectly fine” life is only on the surface because she is stockpiling strong medication.  Her tragic backstory, leading to her current situation is revealed slowly in small glimpses and is not fully revealed  – with a devastating twist – until the last few  pages.

And then Raymond, an IT engineer, joins the company and starts taking an interest in her. By chance, they help an old man who had a fall in the street, and both become a little involved with his family, which means that Eleanor meets normal, friendly people and a closely knit family who do not judge her. Then Raymond introduces her to his mother who was homely and friendly.  Gradually, Eleanor begins to feel how good it is to have a friend who would show affection to her and to enjoy the warmth of his hand on her arm. Then Eleanor has a crisis and tries to kill herself, but Raymond, being anxious that she has stopped going to work without contacting her boss, goes to see her at home, and saves her life.  He brings her a cat, which was old and a stray, which is good for her as it gives her something she can relate to and love and take care of. During this time, Eleanor starts seeing a therapist and slowly gains confidence and belief in herself. The descriptions of the sessions and the success of the treatment is a recommendation for mental health counselling and its importance in the modern world.  Raymond  helps her research what had really happened in her childhood.  The revelation is a total shock to the reader and I will not spoil this review by revealing it. You MUST read this book!

MEMBER’S COMMENTS:

Gail Honeyman shows us the opposing side of human nature that Eleanor has never known – kindness, compassion, friendship love, tenderness and the possibilities brought about by human connection.

I read the novel in 2018 and also saw the film. As I read it again, the vision of Miranda Hart as Eleanor would not disappear!  The author’s amazing ability to include mystery, compassion, human frailty, cruelty and kindness with overtones of deprecating, dark humour as self-defence in Eleanor’s character is captivating.

A serious and sad subject tackled believably by the author, the story grows on you as you continue reading. The twist at the end makes you realise that Eleanor’s mental health state was worse than you first thought.

Great to come across such an original book and a young author I had never heard about.
A very engaging story written with extraordinary candid  honesty .
Gave insights into contemporary office culture; life with twitter ; joy of caring for a cat.
Affirmation men’s platonic relationships are possible .
A good insight into the workings of therapy.

The traumatic effects of extreme dysfunctional mother daughter relationship
The humour of observations on cultural behaviour ,shopping, fashion etc
The serious obsession and fantasy love of a pop culture hero
Thoughts on being a loner and being lonely .
Another very worthwhile read and book club discussion

Impossible to put down.

 

Previous Reviews can be seen HERE

We are happy for you to come to a Coffee Morning or one main Monthly Meeting and to attend one individual group (with the exception of groups that require pre-booking and ticket purchases) before deciding whether to join St Austell u3a.

Please always contact the Group Convenor to ensure the session is going ahead.