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.

November – The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories – Angela Carter

This book sparked an interesting discussion to say the least!  As one member of the group put it “A jolt out of my usual comfort zone of reading that I am perhaps drawn to at my stage of life .”

The stories could be described as adult versions of some fairy tales and are mainly concerned with female characters dominated or owned by men. Although some have a “happy” ending all are very disturbing and one member of the group had nightmares as a result of reading it and managed only a couple of stories. The cruelty and horror is vividly described, with powerful imagery and crafted prose that required an energy and stamina that some of us foun

Another member of the group was terrified by fairy stories as a child and has consequently never been attracted to the fantasy genre – but she did acknowledge admiration for the author’s language.

Examples were:

“my tear beslobbered father…”

“my spite was sharp as broken glass”

(describing tigers in captivity) “the golden fruit of their eyes dimming, withering in the far North of captivity”

Other comments  against  “I managed to read 3 of the short stories in Angela Carter’s book before indigestion set in from an overdose of her florid , repetitive, too self-conscious storytelling. Her deliberate twisting of familiar fairy tales was not for me.”

And from the only member of the group who enjoyed the book “the writing in this book is really beautiful. It makes compelling reading and her descriptions of countryside and woods are vividly real”

We concluded with an interesting discussion on the craft of short story telling.


This book was a breath of fresh air for most of us after the previous book’s grim stories. A book of short stories about humanity in all its forms tenderly handled without sentimentality.

The characters were well-drawn, the stories immediately engaging (a must for a short story) and came to life as real people with relatable issues.

Some featured fatal illnesses, sad, lonely, only children, single women and unfulfilled love. Others evoked memories of walking along the South bank in London “Outside the house” and one which was great fun, “Mother Duck”.

The first story “In Bratislava” is of a man on a business trip, still in love with his wife who had left him a letter saying she was leaving him for another. In his aimless wanderings in the city, he goes to a restaurant and meets a waitress who offers to go back to the hotel with him where they make love. There is tenderness and despair in this random meeting and the girl is portrayed as an empathetic ear offering temporary solace from his pain. She refuses his endeavours to continue the relationship as she has plans for her future study and career path and he is left stranded in his sea of grief.

Other stories are also handled with dexterity and the author always creates an atmosphere of life crises without cloying sentiment. “For life” was another story of Persephone who, after her friend Jenny’s death, was outraged to discover that Jenny had had a “secret life” with friends that she had known nothing about. The final story, “Last Fling” is a poignant tale of someone facing death with acceptance and a peaceful end. Memorable are the themes of loneliness, response to fresh discovery, and the values of different people striving to lead decent lives often with sad overtones. The characters reveal themselves through their thoughts or conversations presenting a clear picture very quickly.

Most of us read the stories in one go because they were so easy to read and immediately engaging – a mistake, we agreed, as they blurred into one another, so taking them one at a time was recommended for maximum effect!

Two of our group were not as keen as the rest of us, categorising them as “magazine short stories” which were not their favourite genre, (only to find out that, in fact, this was the origin of some of them!) but for the rest of us this was a truly very readable collection of stories.

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.