Archive for March, 2012

Book Group gets Fierce

What’s the cardinal rule about getting groups of people together? “Never talk about religion or politics”. That’s what they say, isn’t it? However, being the anarchic rule-breakers that we are at Sunderland Book Group, at our March meeting we contemptuously swept this aside and waded right into the deep end. Inspired by our reading of Lucy Caldwell’s second novel The Meeting Point, we did faith, relationships, the Middle East, foreign policy, the rights of women, parental ambivalence and teenage self-harm, so much so that things got quite heated at times. People think that book groups are all about genteel tea-drinking and polite Richard-and-Judy-type chats- well, this one nearly came to blows….

Opinion on the book itself was divided pretty much from the start. Half of us loved it’s insightful exploration of one woman’s “crisis of faith”, her shock at realising that all she believed isn’t what it seemed. We loved the evocative and sensitive writing about Bahrain, the lack of a neat ending and the characterization, particularly of troubled teenager Noor.

The other half though it was a novel which missed a lot of tricks, setting up a number of interesting plot points which went unexplored. These readers felt frustrated at the novel which “could have been” (why not tell more about Euan’s bible smuggling activities? why not make the baby Farid’s?) and felt annoyed by pace of the plot. Many of the group also found both Euan and Ruth very unsympathetic characters- the word “selfish” was used again and again at the neglect some felt that both had shown their family, Anna in particular.

And that was where an interesting issue emerged between the way different members of the group had “read” the book. I (reading the book from the position of an atheist) had been appalled by Euan’s treatment of Anna and Ruth (sacrificing his family’s safety for the sake of his ill-advised mission into Saudi)- while those who do have a religious faith were more sympathetic, seeing his mission as a sign of his commitment to a “higher cause”. I and some others just didn’t understand this. Then the issue was raised about the “right” that we have to proselytize in the Middle East, to a group of people who already have a religion; isn’t that the religious equivalent of invading Iraq? And that was when it all went a bit wild….

I can’t even begin to tell you what happened to the conversation from there, suffice to say it went on for quite a while and was heated in places. And, though everyone went home friends, I had to drink a BIG glass of wine when I got home! What an evening…

See you all next time (I hope!). xx


Unfortunately we’re having to postpone the March meeting by a week. It will now take place on the 15th March in the usual place at the usual time.

Sorry for any inconvenience this causes and hope to see you there!

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

March 2012