Archive for October, 2009

Gone but not forgotten…

Me on sick-bed (slight exaggeration...)

Me on sick-bed (slight exaggeration...)

You cant get rid of me that easily- even the combined mite of the NHS can’t keep me from my lovely book group! Internet connection has been established (courtesy of my new best friend- the “dongle”) and I feel at one with the wider world again. You have made me feel very special too, with loads of lovely messages of support, so a huge THANK YOU and I promise to be back before you know it.

Just a quick one really, to draw your attention to an very timely article in Saturday’s Guardian by Lionel Shriver herself, in which she describes the family explosion which she (accidently) ignited when A Perfectly Good Family was published. It’s an interesting conundrum and something I wondered about when reading the book; Shriver certainly isn’t sparing to her characters and it crossed my mind that her portrayals can have the whiff of  character assassination about them. It crossed my mind that this woman may be trying to get something off her chest. It turns out that, though the book is mainly fiction, the book was based partly childhood experiences (she’s the middle child of 3, has two brothers etc), yet (rather naively?) Shriver was still surprised  when her family reacted with horror when they read the book. It raises fascinating questions about the artists responsibilities to others. Is it fair when a version of yourself, no matter how remote, is released to the world and you have no comeback? Surely you have a right to be upset? And is it just an easy get-out to claim that the parts which offend are “just fiction”? I like the article because here she applies her beady eye as much to herself as she does to anyone else. Anyway, read it yourselves- it’ll get the brain working for both the event and the book group meeting.

So remember, Saturday 24th 10.30am at The Sage (Hall 2) for Lionel and Thursday 12th November 6pm for the next meeting.  AND Durham Book Festival from the 24th too. You healthy people make me sick- don’t have too much fun without me…

I’ll be back…

BE080772Life. What a funny business it is and, if it really is like a box of chocolates, unfortunately I just got the coffee cream that no one likes. After feeling pretty rubbish for quite a while it turns out that I am officially not very well and am going to have to have a bit of time off for rest, re-cooperation and a general putting myself right. So I’m handing myself over to the blessed NHS and handing the book group over to the lovely Liv at New Writing North who’ll be taking the next couple of sessions.  It means (dammit) I’ll miss Lionel Shriver, the Durham Book Festival (tickets still available!) and the next two books but never fear, I’ll be with you in spirit, reading along whilst reclining and blogging as usual. And missing book group like mad.

So, just to re-iterate: next meetings are November 12th and December 3rd, 6pm at Cafe Roco when we’ll be reading Lionel Shriver’s A Perfectly Good Family and Tommy Wierenga’s Joe Speedboat. Lionel Shriver is also appearing at The Sage, Gateshead at 10am on the 24th October to talk to the New Writing North book group collective, so get yourself along if you can- it should be BRILLIANT. For those of you who haven’t begun the Lionel Shriver yet, it’s a mesmerising read- she’s a lady who really doesn’t shy away from showing the worst side of people- and while it’s not quite We Need to Talk About Kevin, it raises similar thought-provoking questions about families, nature/nurture and the things we inherit. So get reading, get your opinions ready and take them to Lionel herself. And please all be on your best behavior for Liv- her last experience of Sunderland involved getting covered in chewing gum, so I guess it can only get better from there…..

See you soon. xx

Problems and Resolutions…

Lionel Shriver at her most writerly

Lionel Shriver at her most writerly

One of the reasons I love book group is you really can never predict what’s going to happen next. And this month was certainly one of ups and downs- four new members and another fulsome welcome from the lovely folk of Cafe Roco (yey!) but quite a few regulars missing (boo!) and some serious admin issues (the book seems to have been fiendishly hard to come by), although I do suspect that these last two issues may well be linked….

BUT… not only did a few people come along DESPITE having not got hold of the book (that’s real commitment!), but Talk of the Town went down remarkably well with those who had done the reading, with much praise for Polley’s risky combination of dialect and poetry, the accurate portrayal of small town life and the perceptive depiction of serious social issues in an non-preaching way. There were a few objections- the general grimness, the sometimes unclear plot- but we also talked a lot about the lighter moments, particularly the subtle evocation of the tiny, unspoken details of family life and the interior life of a teenage boy. I don’t mind telling you that I’m pretty surprised- as I’d thought I may have a bit of a fight on my hands with this one- but it turned out that it was me that had the most caveats! (Although I have had a few apology emails to the effect that people objected to the book SO much they just didn’t come- cowards!)

So, let’s see what you make of the next one-  Lionel Shriver’s A Perfectly Good Family– for which (fingers crossed) the book should be much more widely available. I’m also start to get super-excited that we’ll have the opportunity to speak to Lionel herself when she visits the region as part of the Radio 3 Free Thinking Festival, which is on the 24th October at 10.30am at The Sage, Gateshead. It should be great for those of you who can make it- an opportunity not just to hear from an amazing writer but also to meet members from the other New Writing North book groups! So I may be asking for a bit of speed reading this month, but I assure you’ it’ll all be worth it. Have fun… x

About the group

Sunderland Book Group meets on the third Wednesday of every month at 6pm at Holmeside Coffee in Sunderland.

If you would like more information about what the group is reading, please visit

October 2009
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