Café Conversation ~ September 1st

Somehow, I seem to have lost my blogging mojo for the moment.  I suspect that as much as anything this is to do with the time of year.  I apologise to all my on-line friends who are having to face going back to work tomorrow with the beginning of the new academic term, but I am really glad to see the back of August, which is never a good month for me.  Writing September at the top of this post is truly a relief.  My own limited teaching starts again on Friday, I have two book groups this week and the steady routine that my Aspie self needs is about to be re-established. Hallelujah!

This year I will be running five book groups.  This isn’t as restrictive as it might sound. Only two of them are the type of group where we discuss a book we have all read. The other three are what I call Readers Groups, where we meet to talk about what we are currently reading and to swap ideas for the next month.  Four of these groups have been established for various lengths of time, but the fifth is having its first meeting in just under three weeks.  I wasn’t looking to add another to the ‘portfolio’ but the library came to me and asked if I would do an afternoon group as they were becoming aware of just how little they offered for adults during the day.  There’s plenty for the under fives, but nothing really beyond that.

So, what do I have to talk about tomorrow, at the first of these meetings?  Well, several of the group were at the Summer School, so I shall leave it to them to discuss the novels we read there.  During the past week as well as recapping Cressida Connolly’s After The Party for one of the discussion groups, I’ve also read the new Louise Penny Gamache novel, A Better Man and Naomi Wood’s latest book, The Hiding Game.  I’m not sure about the Penny.  I certainly don’t think it’s one of the better novels in the Gamache sequence.  It reads to me like a bridge between what many readers assumed would be the final book in the series and a way forward without Gamache’s righthand man and son-in-law Jean-Guy Beauvoir, in the picture.  Perhaps I was too tired last week to appreciate it, but it definitely came as a disappointment.  The Hiding Game, on the other hand, is a much better book, although again I think I might need to come back to it and re-read it to truly appreciate what the author is exploring. In recognition of the fact that it is the centenary of the establishment of the Bauhaus, Wood begins her novel in the early years of that art school and focuses on the relationships between six of the students during the next decade.  In particular, she is concerned with the triangle of Paul (the narrator), Charlotte, a Czechoslovak national, and Walter, destabilised by his love for a man who cannot return it.  Ultimately, I think what the writer is concerned with is the difficulty we have in seeing objects, people, situations, actions in a new or unusual way and how easy it is, as a result, to misread events and respond in a totally unwarranted manner.  However, I found that I didn’t know as much about this period in Germany’s history as I thought I did and so kept going back and forth to fill in the gaps and especially to explore the paintings that Wood kept referencing. I can see me putting this onto one or other of the discussion group lists just to give myself an excuse to read it for a second time.

Where September’s reading is concerning I am trying not to think too far ahead.  My next discussion group novel is Aminatta Forna’s most recent book, Happiness.  I haven’t read anything by her, so I have no idea what to expect. I’ve also got the latest James Oswald, Nothing to Hide, sitting in the bookshelf and I shall almost certainly read that next, once I’ve finished re-reading Tightrope, Simon Mawer’s sequel to the Summer School selection, The Girl Who Fell From The Sky.  I had wanted to read this before we discussed the earlier book but it took four weeks to get transferred to our branch from a library only ten miles away.  After it had been in transit for two weeks I went in and asked if it was actually walking, after three I suggested it might have lost its map and that we should send out a search party, after four I don’t know who was more surprised, me or the library staff, when it actually turned up. Goodness only knows where it has been.  I can only say that the book itself is not talking.

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13 thoughts on “Café Conversation ~ September 1st

  1. BookerTalk September 1, 2019 / 2:22 pm

    I was wondering how much longer Penny can keep the series going. As much as I love 3 Pines, there are surely only so many crimes that can be located there or involving its inhabitants.

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    • Café Society September 1, 2019 / 2:33 pm

      Yes, part of me would love to live in Three Pines but another part wonders just how long I’d last – a bit like living in MidSummer or Oxford in the U.K. Too much of this book feels contrived to me, in order to make it possible for Penny to get out of the impasse she created at the end of Kingdom of the Blind. And, he and Beauvoir make a mistake very early on in the inquiry which I simply don’t believe in. Not her best, I’m afraid.

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      • BookerTalk September 1, 2019 / 9:08 pm

        Having had to go to Northern Michigan (not far from Canada) multiple times in winter I dont think I could really live there in all that snow….. Kingdom of the Blind had a weakish plot too

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  2. A Life in Books September 1, 2019 / 4:38 pm

    I’m delighted to hear that you enjoyed The Hiding Game. I’d loved to have seen it on the Booker longlist.

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    • Café Society September 1, 2019 / 4:56 pm

      Yes, so would I. Surely it will come up on the Women’s list next year? Possibly the Costa? They value a good story which is something the Booker judges seem to neglect.

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      • A Life in Books September 1, 2019 / 5:07 pm

        I do hope so. I may have a tantrum if it’s not on the Women’s list.

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  3. Calmgrove September 1, 2019 / 7:37 pm

    Like you my partner and I find the unstructured nature of August somewhat disconcerting — we like the regular events of term time such as choir rehearsals, creative writing classes, craft groups and so on and am pleased that we can relax back into a loose routine come September. When however I was a teacher (and with no idea I was on the spectrum) the timetable and routine was way over prescriptive to be comfortable and would look forward to six weeks of unadulterated ‘freedom’ — not easy with a growing family, and especially since each of them we now see were also somewhere different on the spectrum! Ho hum. Hence books, I suppose: no sensory overload, a sense of control, mental stimulation of a type one has chosen.

    Sorry, now a bit off topic! 🙂

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    • Café Society September 1, 2019 / 8:27 pm

      No need to apologise at all; its good to know there are others out there who feel the same way. My diagnosis came late too but I found the teaching timetable very supportive. In fact my mother (with no awareness of my being on the spectrum) used to heave a sigh of relief when term started with the knowledge that I would now get back to ‘normal’.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. smithereens September 3, 2019 / 1:13 pm

    I’m so glad to read that you will read Aminatta Forna’s Happiness. It is a lovely, hopeful book, I hope you’ll like it as much as I do.

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  5. Laura September 5, 2019 / 10:24 am

    I loved Happiness, it needs time and space as it’s a deliberately slow read, but I got a lot out of it. One of my book groups has just chosen Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other, which I’m very pleased about as it was high on my TBR anyway. The other is meeting on Sunday to discuss Convenience Store Woman (which I thought was great).

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    • Café Society September 5, 2019 / 11:51 am

      I bought the Evaristo for a friend when it first came out and she has absolutely loved it; I hope you get as much pleasure from it as she did.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Jenny @ Reading the End September 6, 2019 / 12:36 am

    FIVE GROUPS, holy crow! Good luck with all of those! I read Happiness a while back, as well as at least one and maybe two of Forna’s other books, and all of them were just okay reads for me. I felt like I was constantly missing something, and also with Happiness I wanted 75% more fox content. :p

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    • Café Society September 7, 2019 / 4:34 pm

      My copy of Happiness has just arrived, Jenny, and I can see, just from the format, that I am going to have to give it time and space. I hadn’t realised there was ‘fox content’, but that explains why the group member whose selection it is has chosen it.

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