Let’s go to Guernsey. I remember when we were in St. Malo we saw day trips advertised to the Channel Islands, but we were in France, so why go to England. Now that I have read the Literary Society novel by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, I know that was a missed opportunity.
I could say a lot of good things about this book, but others have already done that. It put me strongly in mind of Helen Hanfft’s 84, Charing Cross Road, and you can’t say better than that.
The Guernsey Islanders and their book discussions also put me in mind of my own book groups. I belong to two and, for a while, participated in a third, Internet group. That one started out strong, but after a few months I dropped it because only a few of us were doing the reading and had anything to say. My two local groups have endured.
First Tuesday meets the first Tuesday of every month, except when the first Tuesday doesn’t work and then we meet on the second Tuesday or the first Friday, but don’t change our name. We spend too much time haggling about which books to read next, but the haggling is kind of fun and you really get to know people that way. We try to stay away from gossip and chit chat, but are free to reminisce about personal events suggested by the book. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn evoked a lot of memories of growing up in the various boroughs of New York. Also, I owe the group big time for introducing me to Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore and Peter Balakin’s The Black Dog of Fate, two books I never would have tried on my own.
Ex Libris meets every two weeks, but takes July and August off, as well as the four weeks around the winter holidays. We have a nomination and election process once a year and set up the schedule for the year ahead. I like this approach because it gives me time to try to mooch the books or find them on eBay. We go for the classics and tackle some big books like Bleak House and Anna Karenina by breaking them into two or three sessions. We seem to lean toward English, French and Russian 19th century writers — Dickens, Balzac, Tolstoy — so next year we are going have affirmative action for some writers from others parts of the world and some post WWII authors. My nominations are Kafka on the Shore (Japan) andDon DeLillo’s White Noise.
I like the way I read when I know I will be discussing the book with others. Posting to this blog has a similar effect, but could never replace the face-to-face fun we have in the groups.