When books prove you wrong

When books prove you wrong

Don’t you just love it when you have judged a book by its cover…and been proved wrong?

Appetite Book Club meets monthly and once a year we discuss a finalist from the Man Booker Prize.    Just before we meet the short list has already been compiled – whittled down to six books (from a longer list).  The prize is given to an original novel, in the English language, written by a citizen of the Commonwealth of Nations.  2014 was the first year they considered authors from anywhere in the world (as long as their work was in English).

As the date of our meeting grew closer so did prize winning time and we planned to discuss the winner.  I hoped it wasn’t Richard Flanagan’s ‘Narrow Road to the Deep North’.    It was big and heavy – both in appearance and content.  Written by an Australian, set in Burma, 1943, it is about ‘the cruelty of war, and tenuousness of life and the impossibility of love”.  After a year of acknowledging and respecting 100 years since the Great War I didn’t feel as though my emotions could endure any more reflections on cruelty.  Despite big, heavy AND cruel were not winning me over…it still won the prestigious prize.

Technically we should have picked Flanagan’s winning title, regardless of my personal thoughts surrounding it.  While I organise Appetite Book Club I try to make book selections open and democratic and November is usually in the lap of the Booker Prize gods.

However, we do have other criteria for our choice.   I’m keen that Appetite Book Club remains open to all so I will always pick a title that is available on paperback as well as hardback, kindle (for those that use one) and also, the most inclusive option of all, a library.

Narrow Road to the Deep North was only available in hardback.  So, it was with some relief that we opted for We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler – with its contemporary setting, eye catching cover, handbag-fitting size and even a controversial twist in the plot (several reviews warn you about the plot revelation on Page 77), it felt like the right choice.   There’s nothing like newspaper reviews and word-of-mouth gossip about ‘plot revelations’ or ‘controversial twists’ to make me want to read a book so I relished our choice…..and it was okay.

It was just okay.  An okay read which led to a great book club.  Book Club worked because opinions were mixed and the plot revelation sparked interesting conversation.  Good company, food and wine can often make for a brilliant book club – despite the book choice.

But the big, heavy, cruel book didn’t go away.  I continued to read reviews.  Review after review until I succumbed – and my, oh my, what a book.  The writing is astonishingly good.   The settings that Flanagan creates are breathtakingly real and his characters have been etched into the ‘permanent’ section of my brain.  I thoroughly enjoyed being proved wrong and look forward to it being released on paperback and maybe discussing it at a future book club meeting.

Jo Coldwell, Appetite Book Club


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