Archive for October, 2010

Small wars provokes small (book group) wars….

Not impressed by Sadie Jones....

Ooooh dear, I appear to have succumbed to the October lurgy which I am afraid explains the relative lack of blog activity since the meeting last week. Although its also true to say that I’m also having trouble summing up our reaction to Small Wars too- it got little more than a shrug from most people, who found the book both boring and uninspiring. Indeed, I don’t think we’ve ever done a book that so many have confessed to skim reading!

I didn’t love this book but I do think it had some merit so let me offer a teeny weeny defense . (I also feel I need to reflect the fact that this is almost the only book we’ve ever done that  Raymond has actually liked!) Many people mentioned that they found the characters “wooden”, cliched and uninteresting but I think this problem perhaps lay with the way Jones chose to approach the period. A key feature of the book was the difference between the controlled surface of Hal and Clara’s army life and the emotion/ ambiguity/ ambivalence which lay beneath and the impossibility of them breaching this gap, due to upbringing, expectation etc; Jones writing style mirrored this- terse, controlled and spare. I think it was this which made it hard to empathize with the characters and their actions and “inner journeys” very difficult to read; the point she was trying to make was that the characters themselves didn’t understand their own emotions or have any language to articulate them. Ironically, I think it was her success at doing this that made the book feel less than satisfying…

We did agree that the evocation of war (particularly the horse scene which Kelly LOVED!) was extremely well done and that the resonances with today’s conflicts in Afghanistan etc. were moving and thought provoking. Essentially though not a book that we’ll be racing to read again. Everyone was much more excited by news of the Durham Book Festival and I hope you all managed to get your tickets booked!

So, onward to The Glass Room by Simon Mawer, another war-based book but one which couldn’t be more different in its approach. Get reading and see what you think.

Oh and one more thing….. the book for December has changed and we’re going to tackle Great Expectations by Charles Dickens as a special Christmas challenge. I love a classic to keep me company on a dark night.


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 2010