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.