Sunday, September 27, 2009


The over 900 pages of 'Shantaram' proved too daunting for most last month although those that read it found it fascinating. 'Amsterdam' provoked plenty of discussion, especially from those who had a "Molly' of their own in the past!

This month the books should prove more manageable. "Gould's Book of Fish' by Richard Flanagan and 'Disgrace' by J. M. Coetzee.

'Gould's Book of Fish' is a highly original novel. According to the blurb on the cover -
'Once upon a time that was called 1828, before all fishes in the sea and all living things were destroyed, there was a man called William Buelow Gould, a white convict who fell in love with a black woman and discovered too late that love is not safe. Silly Billy Gould, invader of Australia, liar, murderer & forger, condemned to the most feared penal colony in the British Empire and there ordered to paint a book of fish.'
According to the Observer the book is 'Ferocious in its anger, grotesque, sexy, funny, violent, startlingly beautiful and above all, heartbreakingly sad'.

'Disgrace'  is the story of a South African professor of English descent who loses everything: his reputation, his job, his peace of mind, his good looks, his dreams of artistic success, and finally even his ability to protect his cherished daughter.

According to the London Review of Books "Disgrace is the best novel Coetzee has written. It is a chilling, spare book, the work of a mature writer who has refined his textual obsessions to produce an exact, effective prose and condensed his thematic concern with authority into a deceptively simple story of family life. Half campus novel, half anti-pastoral, it begins quietly enough in Cape Town. (....) As so often in Coetzee's fiction, the characters in Disgrace have a metonymic or symbolic function." 

Happy reading!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Thanks to all those attending last month's meeting. 'The Slap' provoked some lively discussion; I'm sure we've not heard the last of it!

This month strap on your seatbelt as we're traveling around a bit! To Amsterdam for the ultimate standoff between friends and India for an amazing journey into the criminal underworld.

Ian McEwan's Amsterdam starts on a chilly February day, two old friends meet in the throng outside a crematorium to pay their last respects to Molly Lane. Both Clive Linley and Vernon Halliday had been Molly's lovers in the days before they reached their current eminence. Clive is Britain's most successful modern composer; Vernon is editor of the quality broadsheet The Judge. Gorgeous, feisty Molly had had other lovers, too, notably Julian Garmony, foreign secretary, a notorious right-winger tipped to be the next prime minister.

In the days that follow Molly's funeral, Clive and Vernon will make a pact with consequences neither has foreseen. Each will make a disastrous moral decision, their friendship will be tested to its limits, and Julian Garmony will be fighting for his political life.

Amsterdam, a contemporary morality tale that is as profound as it is witty, we have Ian McEwan at his wisest and most wickedly disarming. And why Amsterdam? What happens there to Clive and Vernon is the most delicious climax of a novel brimming with surprises.

In the fictional story, Roberts' main character arrives in Bombay carrying a fake passport in the name of Lindsay Ford. Bombay was only a stopover on a journey that was to take Lin from New Zealand to Germany, but he decides to stay in the city. Lin soon meets a local man named Prabaker, who he hires as a guide but soon becomes his best friend and renames him Linbaba. Both men visit Prabaker's native village, Sunder, where Prabaker's mother christens Lin with the nameShantaram, meaning Man of God's Peace. On their way back to Bombay and after a night out, Lin and Prabaker are robbed. With all his possessions gone, Lin is forced to live in the slums, giving him shelter from the authorities and free rent in Bombay. After a massive fire on the day of his arrival in the slum, he sets up a free health clinic as a way to contribute to the community. He learns about the local culture and customs in this crammed environment, gets to know and love the people he encounters, and even becomes fluent in Marathi, the local language. He also witnesses and battles outbreaks of cholera and firestorms, becomes involved in trading with the lepers, and experiences how ethnic and marital conflicts are resolved in this densely crowded and diverse community.

This is a lengthy book so start reading NOW!