Summer School ~ 2019

It’s that time of year again when I begin to prepare for the Summer School that I run each August.  As some of you may remember, this started because I wanted to attend a Summer School but simply couldn’t afford the prices that were being asked.  Our variant, perhaps not as intensive or as academic as some, costs us each the princely sum of £1.50 plus whatever we have to pay for the three books that we study.  A bargain at half the price, I think you’ll agree.

Every year I offer five sets of three novels, each set being loosely linked by a particular theme, and the people who have signed up vote for their favourite.  We’ve only ever had one person pull out because their selection wasn’t chosen – we didn’t invite her back the following year! Books identified we then meet on the Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons of the August week that suits most people best.  Each book is introduced by a different member of the group and each meeting takes place in a different person’s home.  That way no one is put under too much pressure.  This is the ninth year we’ve done this, so we must be getting something right.  In fact last year, we came very close to having to run it twice because so many people wanted to come it was difficult to find living rooms big enough to take us all.

This year’s selection is as follows:

Family Relations
The Paris Wife ~ Paula McLain
Vanessa and her Sister ~ Priya Parmar
The American Wife ~ Curtis Sittenfeld

Vienna Nights
Waiting for Sunrise ~ William Boyd
The Third Man ~ Graham Greene
Mortal Mischief ~ Frank Tallis

Paying the Price
A Whispered Name ~ William Brodrick
The Reckoning ~ Rennie Airth
The Girl Who Fell from the Sky ~ Simon Mawer

Retelling the Tale
The Secret History ~ Donna Tartt
The Song of Achilles ~ Madeline Miller
The King Must Die ~ Mary Renault

The Thirteenth Tale ~ Diane Setterfield
Her Fearful Symmetry ~ Audrey Niffenegger
Sisterland ~ Curtis Sittenfeld

Obviously, as I’ve put together the sets of books, they are all ones that I wouldn’t mind re-reading but there are a couple that I really hope might come up this time.  What, I wonder, would you opt for?



26 thoughts on “Summer School ~ 2019

  1. A Life in Books May 8, 2019 / 1:28 pm

    I think it would be Twinned for me. I’ve read and enjoyed all three which seem to offer lots of opportunity for meaty discussions.


    • Café Society May 8, 2019 / 4:50 pm

      I would be interested in this set if only because I want to re-read The Thirteenth Tale and see if I am still as disappointed in the ending as I was the first time round. Setterfield is an author I can’t make my mind up about.


    • Café Society May 8, 2019 / 4:52 pm

      I put The Secret History in because I want to get the group talking about the links with The Bacchae, Karen. It isn’t as obvious a retelling as the others in that set and I’m interested to see what they make of it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Laila@BigReadingLife May 8, 2019 / 3:02 pm

    I think I would vote for the Vienna Nights set as I’ve never read any of those and wouldn’t mind a little armchair traveling! But they all look appealing.


    • Café Society May 8, 2019 / 4:53 pm

      There’s a fair mix of genre in that group, Laila and that is always useful because people have such different tastes.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. BookerTalk May 8, 2019 / 4:18 pm

    You’ve set me a hard question this time – really difficult to decide. I’d go for Paying the Price except I didn’t rate the Mawer much. I’ m torn between Vienna Nights (good excuse to read a Greene) and Retelling the Tell if only because it would nudge me into reading Renault at last


    • Café Society May 8, 2019 / 4:55 pm

      I haven’t read Renault since I was a teenager, Karen, which is one of the reasons that it’s there. I’m keen on Paying the Price because of the way in which the Airth links the other two by referencing both the people who were shot for cowardice during the First World War and the SOE. I don’t think enough people know Airth’s work and I am a great fan.


  4. Annabel (AnnaBookBel) May 8, 2019 / 5:36 pm

    I’d probably go for Vienna Tales, or the Retellings – having read two from each – the Tallis and Miller are the missing ones for me – and on my shelf. I too was profoundly irritated by the Setterfield and would not re-read that one!


    • Café Society May 8, 2019 / 5:49 pm

      If I had to pick one of those two as a means of settling on your choice, Annabel, then it would be the Miller; it is much the better book.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Helen May 8, 2019 / 7:23 pm

    I’ve read the three Retelling the Tale books and I’m sure your group could have some interesting discussions about all three of those. Apart from The Thirteenth Tale, I haven’t read any of the other books and there is at least one title in each set that appeals to me, so I’m not sure which I would opt for!


    • Café Society May 20, 2019 / 5:16 pm

      I put the Retelling list in because of all the interest there seems to be around this genre at the moment, Helen. I’m not sure how popular it will be with some of the more avid readers – they may have had their fill for the moment – but we’ll see.


  6. FictionFan May 9, 2019 / 1:01 am

    Oh, an easy choice for me this year – Vienna Nights! I thoroughly enjoyed Waiting for Sunrise, and have long intended to read The Third Man – love the film but I don’t think I read the book back in my big Graham Greene phase many years ago, I don’t know Mortal Mischief at all, but am now off to investigate it… Hope you all agree on one that you enjoy!


    • Café Society May 20, 2019 / 5:18 pm

      I loved Waiting For Sunrise as well, FF, but only very recently read The Third Man. I wonder how you’ll get on with the Tallis. It’s the first in a series, and probably the best. Some of the later ones were a disappointment.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. heavenali May 9, 2019 / 6:27 am

    I would choose retelling the tale, I loved Secret History, and keep hearing how good Madeleine Miller is. Good luck with this year’s group, it sounds brilliant.


    • Café Society May 20, 2019 / 5:19 pm

      The Miller is excellent, Ali. I think in many ways it is better than Barker’s The Silence of the Girls, which covers a lot of the same ground.


  8. smithereens May 9, 2019 / 12:58 pm

    They all look so good. I loved the American wife, but not the Paula McLain. I loved the Tallis. I would be tempted by Retelling the tale.


    • Café Society May 20, 2019 / 5:20 pm

      One of my book groups had a very interesting discussion on American Wife just last week. Half of us had loved it and half were indifferent. If that group does get selected then it will be interesting to see if the same sort of split occurs.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Margaret May 10, 2019 / 6:38 am

    I’ve dithered and kept changing my mind, but in the end I’m plumping for Retelling the Tale as I loved The King Must Die when I read it in my teens and wonder what I would make of it now. I also loved The Secret History (read over ten years ago now) and have a copy of The Song of Achilles waiting to be read (my son says it’s very good).

    But I wouldn’t mind reading the books in Paying the Price – should say I want to choose that too.


    • Café Society May 20, 2019 / 5:22 pm

      I wonder the same thing about The King Must Die, Margaret. I haven’t read any Renault since I was a teenager, and I suspect the same will be true for the others taking part. It will be interesting to see if a title from their youth draws people to that grouping.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Kat May 10, 2019 / 11:28 pm

    These all sound wonderful! I always love your Summer School posts. Perhaps I would go for Retelling the Tale or Twinned, but I love the way you organize them and I’m sure all except the no-longer-invited would be happy with any of the groupings.


    • Café Society May 20, 2019 / 5:23 pm

      I would love to read the Twinned selection, Kat. I love Niffenegger writing. I just wish there was more of it.


  11. Liz May 11, 2019 / 6:10 am

    I always love your summer school posts! I could happily go with any of the sets but feel drawn to the retelling section, like many other commentators. It really seems to be a Thing at the moment!


    • Café Society May 20, 2019 / 5:24 pm

      That’s why I put it in, Liz. However, there is the possibility that people will have had enough of it. I shall have to wait and see.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Jeanne May 15, 2019 / 12:27 pm

    I don’t disagree about the attractions of retelling the tale but you know that I am, personally, always attracted to the theme of paying the price!


    • Café Society May 20, 2019 / 5:26 pm

      I think in the end that is where my vote will go, Jeanne. I really want to introduce the group to all three of those writers who I think are excellent but who are not as well known as they should be. I also like the way the books interlink with a very definite strand of war-related ideas.


Leave a Reply to Café Society Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s