Archive for February, 2011

Curtain Rises on All-New Book Group

Madness: I know the feeling....

I know I always say how brilliant book group is but Thursdays was really special- a super new venue, new and old faces and free cups of tea! It couldn’t of really got any better. The Royalty bar proved a perfect place for our own version of high-brow discussion (it’s amazing how much difference actually hearing each other really helps…) and much fun was had by all.

And that’s without even mentioning the book, Liz Jensen’s The Rapture, which proved a suitably theatrical read for our new venue! The book provoked strong (and wildly varying) opinions and wide ranging discussion, covering climate change, psychology, the difference between American and English fiction, disaster movies, disability and God TV. Indeed, I’m quite wary of attempting to summarize our musings because for everything I write you can guarantee there was someone with the opposite opinion! But I’m going to give it a go…

We (mostly) liked:

  • The beginning of the book and the claustrophobic relationship which developed between Bethany and Gabrielle.
  • The characters, particularly Gabrielle who we thought was complex and convincing. Interesting to have a wheel-chair user as a main character too (why doesn’t that happen more???).
  • The multitude of interesting themes and ideas touched on throughout the novel.
  • The “page-turning” quality of the writing.

We (mostly) didn’t like:

  • The second half of the novel, particularly the end, which we felt lacked the focus and believability of the more intimate first half.
  • The annoying unbelievable small details (e.g. would you really be able to just walk in and kidnap a patient from a secure unit? why was there no disabled access in the swanky hotel when Gabrielle and Fraser met?).
  • The sometimes overblown writing style and that, in places, it felt shallow and unconvincing (does Liz Jensen have her eyes on the blockbuster film?)
  • The fact that it felt like “an American book” but was set in England (Indeed it was strange how many people brought this up!)

So, it’s pretty hard to draw any conclusions at all, suffice to say that it kept us chatting for a long time!  I was also pleased that so many people said that they wouldn’t usually have picked it up but were glad they’d had the chance to read it, even if it hadn’t quite been their cup of tea. Which is, I suppose, the essence of book club.

And now onto “What a Carve Up!”, a suggestion that I have to take full responsibility for; as a big fan of Jonathan Coe’s other novels, this is a book I’ve always meant to read but haven’t quite got round to. Very different in tone and scope for The Rapture, it’s a book I’m looking forward to getting on with.

I should also mention a few administrative issues; from the March meeting we’ll be starting the group at 6.45pm and it will run until 8pm. I’ll be at The Royalty from 6.30pm to set up, so if anyone needs to come a little earlier feel free. I’m also hoping to get the bar opened a bit earlier too, so hopefully we’ll all be able to get some drinks at the start.

Also, a few people asked if we could change the meetings to the third/fourth Thursday of the month but unfortunately, due to The Royalty’s other bookings, this won’t be possible. So the date for our next meeting remains the 10th March. Sorry to anyone this disappoints!

Lastly, to remind you that we’ve been invited along to the Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens for a guided tour around their Writers exhibition, described as “a new exhibition of over 60 works from the National Portrait Gallery, celebrating Britain’s finest literary talents and taking visitors on a journey from Jane Austen to Jarvis Cocker.” You can read more about it here.The date we’ve been offered is Saturday 26th February at 1pm and we could meet outside just beforehand.

If anyone fancies it please could you get back to me before Friday 18th, so I can let them know whether or not we’re going ahead!

Okay, I think that’s all. Phew- I think I need to go and lie down….


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

February 2011