Just Another Book Club- 2019 (part I)

As you know, I’m running the book club slightly differently. I’m now reviewing and discussing the books we read for this book club on my Instagram HERE and Facebook HERE, usually on the first Monday of the month (following the month a book was allocated to).

As before, there is absolutely no pressure to read all six books and you don’t have to read them during the months I suggest. That’s just there for guidance and also because some books might not be published on paperback until a certain date. And as always, one of the six books will be a non-fiction book. I hope you’ll join me in reading these books. I love to hear what you think about them.

So, the 6 books we’ll be reading for the first half of 2019 will be:

January: Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

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February: My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

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March: The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni

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April: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

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May: Christodora by Tim Murphy

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June: The Summer Book by Tove Jansson

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This chosen list of books is final. If you don’t fancy reading a particular book one month, just give it a miss that month.

I’ll post a new list of books for the second half of 2019 in early/mid-June time.

For a list of the books we read during the second half of 2018, click HERE

For a list of the books we read during the first half of 2018, click HERE

For a list of the books we read during the second half of 2017, click HERE

Don’t forget you can leave a review of any of the past books that we have read at any point.

For my Goodreads page, click HERE

Just Another Book Club- June Book

Please leave your comments below or within the appropriate post on my Facebook page. Please feel free to peruse other people’s comments and respond to them.

***Please be aware this is a book club discussion, so there is the possibility that my review or the comments left by others will contain spoilers***

Stay With Me

by

Ayombami Adebayo

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Synopsis

Set in 1980s Nigeria during times of political unrest, Stay With Me tells the story of Yejide and her husband Akin and their hope for a child. When a new wife for Akin is introduced at the insistence of his family, it is not view favourably by Yejide.

My Quick Review

Stay With Me covers many difficult subjects including child mortality, extra-marital sex, sexism, grief, infertility and politics. As you can imagine, this makes the book quite difficult to read on a occasion. However, the book is written with a lot of humanity and at times with humour.

The book features many strong female characters, including our protagonist Yejide. What consistently shocked me about the book was the horrific sexism deployed by the mother-in-law towards Yejide. This book is an excellent portrayal of Nigerian family culture and I learned so much from it.

I felt like the title of the book was referring more to Yejide’s children than her husband. When I first started to read the book, I thought it would be referring to their marriage, but it came clearer further into the book that it was the children that she so desperately wanted to stay with her.

This book is well-written and shows a lot of potential for author Ayobami Adebayo. It is a book about the bond of mothers with their children, about female strength, family and love.

Questions to Consider

1. Discuss the early stages of Yejide and Akin’s courtship, from both of their perspectives. What is Yejide’s initial reaction to Akin’s romantic propositions? Consider Yejide’s childhood and past that is revealed over the course of the novel. What does she seek in a romantic relationship? How does Akin provide security for her? How does Akin convince Yejide that he is trustworthy?

2. Consider the family unit as a social force in Stay with Me. How do the opinions of Akin’s family members influence his decisions? Describe the relationship between Akin and his parents. How does Akin both obey and defy the wishes of his family? How does Yejide navigate her role as a daughter-in-law?

3. In the beginning of Stay with Me, the reader is introduced to the central conflict of Yejide and Akin’s life: their infertility as a couple. How is Yejide and Akin’s childlessness seen as a reflection on the family unit? What is the burden of expectation placed on Yejide? How is she treated by Akin’s family as a result of her infertility? By the community? How do attitudes toward Yejide change once she is pregnant?

4. Discuss the road leading to Yejide’s first pregnancy. How do the social pressures to become a mother weigh on Yejide? Once Yejide learns that she is no longer Akin’s only wife, how does the urgency of her mission become more pronounced? Consider the barriers to her pregnancy, and what she learns about herself from the field remedies and the medical establishment. How does the psychological trauma that accompanies her journey weigh on her throughout the novel?

5. The tension between modern attitudes and traditional thought informs much of Stay with Me. How does Yejide and Akin’s early agreement of monogamy conflict with the prevailing social attitude? How does this create tension over the course of the novel? How does Yejide defy the wishes of her husband’s family? How does the eventual shift of parental responsibilities to Akin upend the expectations of motherhood and parenting?

6. Consider the identity of “mother,” and how understanding of that role shifts for Yejide over the course of the novel. How does the story of her mother’s death influence her worldview and her perspective on family? Discuss the relationship Yejide had with her father’s other wives. Which woman in her life, if any, provides her with an understanding of what a loving mother-child relationship looks like? Once she becomes a mother, how does her self-image change?

7. Describe Yejide’s relationship with Iya Bolu. How does Iya Bolu’s attitude toward Yejide shift over the years? When does Yejide seem to earn the most respect from Iya Bolu? When does she earn her sympathy?

8. Consider the political background of Stay with Me. How does the instability of the government undermine the health and happiness of Yejide and her family? How does the political upheaval reflect the emotional turmoil of Yejide and Akin?

9. The reveal of Akin’s medical condition is an important development in the plot. Given this revelation, would you consider Funmi’s death to be purposeful? How did you interpret his reaction to her accusation? How does Akin contend with threats to his masculinity throughout the novel?

10. Discuss the significance of the hair salon in Yejide’s life. How does it encourage her independence? How does it act as a place of gathering within their community?

11. Compare the bedtime story that Yejide tells her children with the tale that Akin shares with Rotimi as she grows. What do these stories reveal about the worldviews of both parents? What lessons are they sharing? How is it a cautionary tale between parent and child? How does it reflect Yejide’s own childhood experiences?

12. Discuss the process of mourning as depicted in Stay with Me. How does the community react to Yejide’s mourning for the loss of her first child versus her second? Discuss the general attitude towards Yejide’s depression from her family and those around her.

13. What is Akin’s relationship with his brother? How do they compete with each other? How do they jockey for the coveted spot of favored son throughout the novel? After their brawl, how does their relationship change? Do you think Dotun possessed real romantic feelings for Yejide?

14. Discuss Yejide’s reunion with Rotimi. Were you surprised by this reveal? How did you interpret Timi’s insistence on calling Yejide “Moomi”?

15. Stay with Me is a novel that challenges readers’ expectations with its surprising reveals, its secrets, and its deception. What plot development did you find to be most surprising? How does Adebayo play with the idea of expectation versus reality throughout the novel?

My order (by how much I enjoyed them), of the 6 books we read in the first half of 2018. Click on the titles for the book club reviews:

6. Sweet Pea by C J Skuse

5. Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan

3. Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo (joint 3rd place)

3. This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

2. Slade House by David Mitchell

1. Animal by Sara Pascoe

As you know, I’m dong things slightly differently with Just Another Book Club. I will now only be opening the book club discussion at the end of every 6 months, but I will be leaving a space on my Facebook page and Instagram on a monthly basis for people to discuss earlier if they so wish.

For a list of the books we are reading for the second half of 2018, click HERE

You can view my Goodreads page here

Just Another Book Club- 2018 (part II)

So, for the second half of this year, I’m going to run this book club slightly differently. I’m still providing a list of six books and the months you could read them in. However, I won’t be putting up my review on a monthly basis. Instead at the end of the six months, I’ll put up one post discussing all six books. People can then leave comments as to what they thought of all the books that they read from the list. As before, there is absolutely no pressure to read all six books and you don’t have to read them during the months I suggest. That’s just there for guidance and also because some books might not be published on paperback until a certain date. And as always, one of the six books will be a non-fiction book. I hope you’ll still join me in reading these books. I love to hear what you think about them. I just needed to take a bit of pressure of myself to have books read by a certain date. Oh and also, if you want to discuss any of the books with me before six months time then I’ll be leaving a space to discuss the books on a monthly basis on both my Facebook page HERE and on my Instagram account HERE

So, on with our six books to read for this second half of the year:

  • July: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

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  • August: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

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  • September: How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

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  • October: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

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  • November: The Immortalist: if you knew the date of your death, how would you live? by Chloe Benjamin

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  • December: Only Child by Rhiannon Navin

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This chosen list of books is final. If you don’t fancy reading a particular book one month, just give it a miss that month.

So, my aim is to post my review of all these books around the beginning of January next year. It’ll be here before you know it! In the meanwhile, don’t be afraid to communicate with me as mentioned above if you ever want to discuss these books any earlier. I’ll also post a new list of books for the first half of 2019 in mid-December this year.

For a list of the books we read during the first half of this year, click HERE

For a list of the books we read during the last half of 2017, click HERE

Don’t forget you can leave a review of any of the past books that we have read at any point.

 

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Just Another Book Club- March Book

Please leave your comments below or within the appropriate post on my Facebook page. Please feel free to peruse other people’s comments and respond to them.

***Please be aware this is a book club discussion, so there is the possibility that my review or the comments left by others will contain spoilers***

Slade House

by

David Mitchell

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Synopsis

Slade House is set between 1979 and 2015. There are five sections of the book and each section is set in a different time period. The location of each section always remains the same. As you may have already guessed, it is always set at the spooky Slade House. The book details the mysterious circumstances that a variety of characters are drawn towards Slade House.

My Review

I should probably be honest with you and provide a disclaimer that, I am a huge David Mitchell fan. From reading Cloud Atlas to number9dream to the Bone Clocks. I’ve adored everything of his that I’ve read. Slade House is no exception.

Slade House some how manages to be hilarious, thrilling, haunting, historical and clever all at the same time. The first section (The Right Sort) surrounding young Nathan and his mum is particularly witty and had me laughing out loud. A fine example of Mitchell’s humour in this book would be the line: “he was handsome in a sort of gay model Hitler Youth way”. I’m going to remember that line, so that I can refer to someone as that one day (I might be mindful of my audience though).

This book mainly leaves me reeling. Reeling that someone can be so talented and so clever and have such a vivid imagination to write such a book. As I’ve mentioned before, I generally don’t like fantasy books, but for me Mitchell is the right side of fantasy for me.  It’s the backbone of this story, but it doesn’t dominate so much that it is the whole entire book.

Each section has it’s merits, but I particularly enjoyed the first section and the You Dark Horse You section with journalist Sally Timms. That section left me astonished and had me rereading it as soon as I’d finished it.

Most of the time you liked the main character in most of the sections and had a lot of sympathy for them (even before they learn their fate). Detective Gordon Edmonds from the The Shining Armour section, is probably the least likeable character, but you still somehow feel sorry for him. Inevitably, it’s the characters that continue through each section, siblings Norah and Jonah Grayer, that you despise the most and root for their demise throughout the book.

In conclusion, if you’re a fan of David Mitchell (and in particular The Bone Clocks), you will not be disappointed. It is a short read, that will keep you gripped and interested until  it’s harrowing conclusion. Think Stranger Things mixed with a little bit of Black Mirror.

Questions to Consider

1. Slade House is broken up into five parts and is narrated by five different characters, all in the first person. Which of their voices were you most drawn to and why?

2. Despite their differences, the narrators are all “engifted” and therefore targets of the Grayer twins. What do you think “engifted” means? What might qualify someone as “engifted”?

3. Did you notice any recurring patterns in the storytelling across all five parts?

4. With each new “guest” you learn more and more about Slade House and the Grayer twins. What about their abilities and story was most unsettling to you?

5. On page 146, Freya Timms thinks “Grief is an amputation, but hope is incurable hemophilia: you bleed and bleed and bleed.” Do you agree? In what way is this true for characters in the novel?

6. On page 175, Fred Pink counters Freya’s argument for why immortality wouldn’t be kept a secret. What does Fred’s explanation say about human nature? Do you agree?

7. Throughout his life, many people dismiss Fred and his beliefs and research. What might his experiences say about the way society treats those who are labeled as mentally ill?

8. Norah and Jonah’s history is extraordinary, but also marked by loss. Did you ever find them sympathetic? When and why?

9. You don’t learn much about what Norah and Jonah do in–between each nine–year cycle, but we do know that they have a great degree of freedom and many resources at their disposal. Would you be tempted by their nomadic but gifted existence?

10. Were you surprised by Norah’s actions at the end of the novel?

11. What’s the most frightening book you’ve ever read, and what is the most spine–chilling movie you’ve seen? Are there differences between literary fear and cinematic fear?

April’s book is Animal by Sara Pascoe. I’ll be starting the conversation for this on Tuesday 1st May.

A list of all the books we’ll be reading for the first half of 2018 can be found here

I’ve finally sorted out my Goodreads page, so as a few people have asked, you can view it here

Just Another Book Club- February Book

Please leave your comments below or within the appropriate post on my Facebook page. Please feel free to peruse other people’s comments and respond to them.

***Please be aware this is a book club discussion, so there is the possibility that my review or the comments left by others will contain spoilers***

Hold Back the Stars

by

Katie Khan

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Synopsis

Imagine that you only have 90 minutes of life left and you’re spending that time with the love of your life. Oh and minor detail, you’re floating in space in space suits. Hold Back the Stars is a love story set in an utopian future and sees two lovers deliberating over the ultimate sacrifice.

My Review

This book is an excellent debut from author Katie Khan. The story line is incredibly original and I enjoyed that it was set in the future. I thought it was refreshing that Khan wrote the future as utopian rather than dystopian, but like all societies through history it was not perfect.

I found the technical talk specifically in the first third of the book made me lose my interest at times. It sometimes got a bit too heavy or continued for too long for me personally. So, I would at times find my mind wandering and not realise what I’d just read. However, the book picks up after the initial section and I found myself gripped for the rest of the book.

I thought the non-linear timeline where the book alternated from Carys and Max in space to scenes in the past, but on earth worked really well. It was an excellent way to see how their relationship grew.

Reading about the loss of Carys and Max’s baby was very difficult, but I thought it was sensitively written about. Their reflection on their baby was very moving. I loved this quote about the afterlife:

“The afterlife is what we leave in others”

I also enjoyed their analysis of what utopia truly is, whilst they were floating in space:

“In Greek, Utopia means ‘no place’….a perfect place isn’t a political state or a philosophical movement. It’s this, it’s us”

Hold Back the Stars is a very visual book and it makes sense that the author herself works in the film industry. I found myself imagining the book being turned into a film as I read it and my research tells me that it is indeed going to be film (produced by the same people that produce Stranger Things and Arrival and directed by the director of Riverdale).

Whilst, at first I was slightly confused about how the author was continuing the story in the final section, it eventually made sense. The end scene was incredibly moving and possibly one of the most beautiful and stunning endings for a book that I have ever read.

Often, I don’t like to see the film version of a book that I’ve read, but because of the spectacular visions that you imagine whilst reading this book, I cannot wait to see the film.

This is a very promising debut and I would be very interested to read another novel by the same author.

Questions to Consider

1. In Hold Back the Stars, the author uses dual time lines to tell the story of Max and Carys’s journey to space. In what ways does this enhance the story? Which time line did you feel more connected to?

2. Carys and Max had radically different upbringings from each other. How do their philosophies differ on utopian ideals?

3. In Europia, the individual is prized above all else, yet there is a particular irony in a utopian society valuing individualism. In what ways does Carys see that, and how is Max blinded to it?

4. According to the Couples Rule, romantic couples are not allowed to form until an individual reaches thirty-five. How could this rule benefit our own society? How might it hurt it? How would the rule affect your own life?

5. Max says, “We show our true colors facing the end” (p. 75). Do you agree? Why or why not?

6. As part of a Founding Family, what kind of pressures was Max feeling during his relationship with Carys? Do you think he was justified in feeling the way he did in the beginning?

7. How does the author use details to highlight themes or plot points in each time line? For example, the origin of the crumpled daisy in Carys’s ear does not become evident until after the two time lines converge.

8. Max’s parents essentially excommunicate him after he reveals his relationship with Carys. Can you think of parallel examples in our own society of this kind of familial rejection?

9. Which “ending” seems the most realistic to you? What kind of choice would you have made in the same scenario?

10. How did Carys and Max each cope without the other? What did their coping mechanisms communicate about their personalities?

11. Hold Back the Stars confronts the idea of choice—or lack thereof—and the question of whether true freedom can exist in a utopian society. In what ways were Carys and Max free? How did their concept of freedom change throughout the story?

12. Neither Carys nor Max can live without the other in their respective “endings.” Do you think it’s possible that, for some people, time cannot heal certain wounds?

13. How do you interpret the last chapter of Hold Back the Stars in light of the alternating perspectives of Carys and Max?

14. What were the best examples of strong relationships in Hold Back the Stars? What made them strong? How did Europia foster—or hinder—forming relationships?

15. What do you think it means to do something for the “greater good”? Can a utopian society exist without its citizens striving for a common “greater” cause?

March’s book is Slade House by David Mitchell. I’ll be starting the conversation for this on Tuesday 3rd April.

A list of all the books we’ll be reading for the first half of 2018 can be found here

I’ve finally sorted out my Goodreads page, so as a few people have asked, you can view it here

Just Another Book Club- January Book

Please leave your comments below or within the appropriate post on my Facebook page. Please feel free to peruse other people’s comments and respond to them.

***Please be aware this is a book club discussion, so there is the possibility that my review or the comments left by others will contain spoilers***

Sweet Pea

by CJ Skuse

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Synopsis

Incredibly bored and ambitious Rhiannon likes to make daily lists. Don’t we all, except her list are “kill lists”. She writes a list every day of everyone she would personally like to kill and at times she is able to tick off that list. A childhood trauma, left Rhiannon a minor celebrity and it is through this tragedy that we learn how Rhiannon has become the person she is today; a foul-mouthed, deadly and dark young woman.

My Review 

What a lovely way to start our book reading year. I thought I’d throw us into the deep end with this shocking and graphic thriller. As the first chapter opens with the protagonist castrating a man and leaving him to drown, I knew I was on to a beautiful, enchanting start to our reading year.

So firstly, I found this book very easy to read. Yep, even with the shocking content of the book, I still carried on turning the pages and reading with ease (does this say more about me or the author?). It was the epitome of a “page-turner” though.

Red magazine described the book as Bridget Jones meets American Psycho. I think this is a perfect description of the book. While I don’t think I need to elaborate on why it’s similar to American Psycho, the diary-style chapters and the humorous references to weight and self-image certainly gave it an air of Bridget.

However, this is where the book falls down for me. With the author’s use of language, I felt she was trying too hard to be funny and shocking. Let’s be honest, I’m not one to be phased by profanity or crudeness. I wasn’t shocked by her use of these things. It just didn’t entertain me. I was a tad arms-crossed-you-think-that’s-shocking-you-should-hear-me-out-with-the-Mums-from-school-on-a-Friday-night about it. You can relax, we don’t go around castrating men or anything (not that I recall anyway). I think the point I’m trying to make is that, it reminded me of a teenager trying to act tough to impress people. I didn’t buy it.

I can’t decide if it was lack of direction or actually a clever ploy by the author, that my opinion of the protagonist was slightly conflicted. Generally, I couldn’t stand her and at times I thought the author wanted us to actually like her in a twisted way. My conflicted feeling about Rhiannon only came into play when I thought about her traumatic past that goes some way to explain why she does the things she does. It enabled me to feel a sliver of sympathy for her, but not for long as not one of the murders she committed was actually justified. In fact, I think her past actually just provided an understanding of her actions rather than feeling actual sympathy. I do feel the author partly wanted us readers to cheer Rhiannon on from the side line as she castrated a man (albeit an absolute wank stain of a man, who deserved a sharp kick in the balls and to be reported to the police), but there is absolutely no way I found myself warming to Rhiannon at any point.

What I do know is that she clearly wasn’t a well person. Now, I understand that a psychopath (and I’m not using that word flippantly), can function quite normally in the world, with many people not having a clue what they’re really like, BUT I’m still not convinced by the way the author portrayed the contradictions within her personality. The whole “just baked a lovey cake, now I’m just going to grab my knife and slice someone up that gets on me nerves” act was unconvincing. Maybe it’s truthful (I’m bold enough to assume I’m personally not a psychopath, so what do I know about how a psychopath thinks). I just wasn’t convinced with the way the author sold Rhiannon’s personality to us.

ALSO, I’m clearly not convinced by a lot of aspects of this book (man, I really am a cynical misery sometimes), but I wasn’t persuaded by the relationship between Rhiannon and Craig. They were so utterly incompatible, I just didn’t see why they got together in the first place. I understand, that the author wanted to show Rhiannon in an unhappy relationship, but I literally couldn’t fathom what they would have seen in each other at the beginning of the relationship. I think she could’ve been a bit cleverer about this relationship.

Now, you can completely judge me on the next point I’m going to make (if you haven’t already), but thank God she killed AJ off. He was such an irritating character, she did us all a favour there.

The ending was very satisfying for me. I would have been very upset if justice hadn’t prevailed. I also figured that the baby may have gone to AJ’s Aunt (as the next closest relative) to look after, which is actually quite nice after all the grimness of the book.

In conclusion, this is a cynical and bleak book. The attempts to make it witty and the protagonist likeable failed for me. However, I couldn’t stop reading it and it kept me gripped until the end. I prefer a book with more substance, but it was entertaining nonetheless.

February’s book is Hold Back the Stars by Kate Khan. I’ll be starting the conversation for this on Monday 5th March.

A list of all the books we’ll be reading for the first half of 2018 can be found here

I’ve finally sorted out my Goodreads page, so as a few people have asked, you can view it here

Just Another Book Club- 2018 (part I)

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Hooray, a new list of books for you to read! I set this online book club up last year as a way to reconnect people with a love of books and reading. I am as guilty as the next person of picking my phone up far more often than a book. So after enjoying running this online book club during the latter part of 2017, I’ve decided to continue it on into 2018 and I’d absolutely love for you to join me again. So for those of you that are new to my book club or need a reminder of how it works. Here’s a few pointers:

  1. I will provide a list of 6 books, one for each month for the first half of 2018.
  2. I’ll always provide at least one non-fiction book within a list.
  3. At the beginning of the following month, I’ll publish a quick post with my thoughts on the book.
  4. Your lovely selves can then provide your thoughts/opinions within the comments section (or within my Facebook blog page) and a discussion can evolve from there.
  5. Obviously, there’s no obligation. You can read all six, only three or just the one. Whatever suits you best or how much you want to join in.
  6. You can join in the discussion whenever you want, but the closer to the time I published my book review post the better, as you’re more likely to get a response from other readers. I’ll always respond though, so you really are welcome to leave your comment whenever you have finished a book. There are no time constraints.
  7. If this is continues to be a success, I’ll list 6 more books in June for the latter part of 2018.
  8. Drinking wine/gin/tea/coffee isn’t obligatory whilst joining in with the discussion about these books, but it might help.
  9. Any questions, let me know.

Okay, so now for the 6 books for the first half of this year.

  • January: Sweet Pea by C.J. Skuse

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  • February: Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan

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  • March: Slade House by David Mitchell

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  • April: Animal by Sara Pascoe (our non-fiction book selection)

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  • May: This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel

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  • June: Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo

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The chosen list of books is final. If you don’t fancy reading a particular book one month, just give it a miss that month. Hopefully, I’ll continue this again for the second half of the year too.

Lastly, I just want to thank the lovely Angela at You Are Awesome blog for providing me with the inspiration to set this up and also for her solid, continued support. Check out her blog post here about book clubs and her blog in general. She’s literally- the best.

So, join me! Together we can put our phones down and pick up a book. Do me a favour first though and please spread the word. It will be fantastic to get people from across the globe coming together to discuss a mutual love- books.

For a list of the books we discussed in 2017, click here.

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My dream home library (dog included).

Just Another Book Club- November Book

Please leave your comments below or within the appropriate post on my Facebook page. Please feel free to peruse other people’s comments and respond to them.

Homegoing

by Yaa Gyasi

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Synopsis

In summary, Homegoing is the sprawling tale of two families split between America and Africa. At the beginning of the book we learn how two sisters are born, but never meet. The book tells the story of each generation that follows from both sides of the family over many years. Through slavery, one family is based in America whilst the other remains in Africa. The title of the book origin’s derive from an old African-American belief that death allowed an enslaved person’s spirit to travel back to Africa.

My Quick Review

First of all, I know one is not meant to judge a book by its cover, BUT I really wanted to mention how gorgeous the cover is for Homegoing and you’ll like this seamless connection: it’s almost as gorgeous as the book itself. Thank you.

But let us move on to more profound thoughts on this book. In short, the enormity of the importance of this book cannot be overstated. It is one of those books that people should be forced to read as it gives the reader a greater understanding of the world and the fabrics of its society (I think there’s a post brewing which lists all the books that I think people should be made to read. One day, I’ll get round to it).

I thought I knew a fair bit about the history of slavery, but after reading this book I realised I knew not nearly enough. Through reading this I learnt so much about African culture too. I absolutely adore books that I can learn from and this book is no exception.

This book at times made me feel ashamed to be British (I’m referring to our disgusting slavery history) and I can imagine the same would be said for an American reading the book. The book so often made me angry and the deplorable injustices that were suffered by slaves and the generations that followed them (my heart will forever break for H and Kojo).

Whilst, this book was consistently shocking and disturbing, the writer somehow managed to write in such a beautiful way. The strength of characters made the reader fall in love with them and root for them (even the flawed characters).

I loved how each chapter represented a different character from a different generation. Referring back to my previous comment, whilst the subject matter of each chapter was often horrific, it also felt like each chapter was telling a different love story. Ultimately, what connects each story to each other is love.

The book sits uneasily with the reader as so many of the issues you read about that existed many years ago, still prevail in America today. It’s abhorrent that one reads and thinks “how has any of this really changed?”. I think the book does a very good (and eloquent) job of illustrating this.

I thought the symbolism of the stone necklace was perfect. For me, I felt like it represented African history. When an African was taken from Africa and enslaved and shipped off to America, it was as if their African history was erased. The African-American person’s history then starts with slavery in America, but this of course not the start of their history. When Marjorie hands Marcus the stone necklace, it is like she is handing back his rightful history that was so cruelly taken from him and his ancestors. It is a beautiful and extremely emotional moment.

It was interesting that Marjorie and her side of the family seemed to represent fire and that Marcus’s represented water. When Marjorie and Marcus meet and connect, they persuade each other to embrace the element that they each fear. In this sense, Marjorie and Marcus complete each other.

This book is a fantastic achievement for a debut author. It is truly wonderful and so far (though we only have one book left on the list), this is my favourite book that we have read.

I loved so many quotes in this book. I made a list for you.

The need to call this thing “good” and this thing “bad”, this thing “white” and this thing “black”, was an impulse that Effia did not understand. In her village, everything was everything. Everything bore the weight of everything else.

Slavery aint’ nothin’ but a dot in your eye, huh? If nobody tell you, I’ma tell you. War may be over but it ain’t ended. 

He was not the con they had told him he was.

This is the problem of history. We cannot know that which we were not there to see and hear and experience for ourselves. We must rely upon the words of others….(for example) Kojo says that when the warriors came to his village the coats were red, but Kwame says that they were blue. Whose story do we believe, then? We believe the one who has the power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So when you study history, you must always ask yourself , Whose story am I missing? Whose voice was suppressed, so that this voice could come forth?

The news made it sound like the fault lay with the blacks of Harlem. The violent, the crazy, the monstrous black people who had the gall to demand that their children not be gunned down in the streets. 

The Ruin of a Nation Begins in the Homes of Its People

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Cape Coast Castle, Ghana

Questions to Consider

1. Evaluate the title of the book. Why do you think that the author chose the word Homegoing? What is a homegoing and where does it appear in the novel? In addition to the term’s literal meaning, discuss what symbolic meanings or associations the title might have in terms of a connection with our place of birth, our ancestors, our heritage, and our personal and cultural histories.

2. Explore the theme of belief. What forms of belief are depicted in the book and what purpose do these beliefs seem to serve for the characters? Does the author reveal what has shaped the characters’ beliefs? Do these beliefs seem to have a mostly positive or negative impact on the believer and those around them?

3. What perspective does the book offer on the subject of beliefs and otherness? For instance, does the book delineate between superstition and belief? Why does Ma Aku reprimand Jo after he is kicked out of church? What do the Missionary and the fetish man contribute to a dialogue on beliefs and otherness? Does the book ultimately suggest the best way to confront beliefs that are foreign to us?

4. Evaluate the treatment and role of women in the novel. What role does marriage play within the cultures represented in the novel and how are the women treated as a result? Likewise, what significance does fertility and motherhood have for the women and how does it influence their treatment? In the chapter entitled “Effia,” what does Adwoa tell Effia that her coupling with James is really about? In its depiction of the collective experiences of the female characters, what does the book seem to reveal about womanhood? How different would you say the treatment and role of women is today? Discuss.

5. Analyze the structure of the book. Why do you think the author assigned a chapter to each of the major characters? What points of view are represented therein? Does any single point of view seem to stand out among the rest or do you believe that the author presented a balanced point of view? Explain. Although each chapter is distinct, what do the stories have in common when considered collectively? How might your interpretation of the book differ if the author had chosen to tell the story from a single point of view?

6. Consider the setting of the book. What time periods are represented and what places are adopted as settings? Why do you think that the author chose these particular settings? What subjects and themes are illuminated via these particular choices? How does the extensive scope of the book help to unify these themes and create a cohesive treatment of the subjects therein?

7. In the chapter entitled “Quey,” Fiifi tells Quey that “[the] village must conduct its business like [the] female bird” (53). What does he mean by this and why do you think that Fiifi chooses this approach?

8. Why was Quey sent to England? After his return home, why does Quey say that it was safer in England? Why might he feel that what he faces at home is more difficult than the challenges he faced in leaving home and living abroad?

9. James’s mother, Nana Yaa, says that the Gold Coast is like a pot of groundnut soup (89). What does she mean by this?

10. Why does Akosua Mensah insist to James, “I will be my own nation” (99)? What role do patriotism, heritage, and tradition play in contributing to the injustices, prejudices, and violence depicted in the book? Which other characters seem to share Akosua’s point of view?

11. Explore the theme of complicity. What are some examples of complicity found in the novel? Who is complicit in the slave trade? Where do most of the slaves come from and who trades them? Who does Abena’s father say is ultimately responsible (142)? Do you agree with him? Explain why or why not.

12. Examine the relationships between parents and children in the book. How would you characterize these relationships? Do the children seem to understand their parents and have good relationships with them and vice versa? Do the characters’ views of their parents change or evolve as they grow up? How do the characters’ relationships with their parents influence the way that they raise their own children?

13. What significance does naming have in the book? Why do some of the characters have to change or give up their names? Likewise, what do the characters’ nicknames reveal both about them and about those who give or repeat these names? What does this dialogue ultimately suggest about the power of language and naming?

14. Explore the motif of storytelling. Who are the storytellers in the book and what kinds of stories do they tell? Who is their audience? What might these examples suggest about the purpose and significance of a storytelling tradition?

15. According to Akua, where does evil begin? Where else in the book do readers find examples that support her view? What impact does Akua’s opinion have on Yaw’s lifework? Does he agree with Akua’s view or refute it? Do you agree with her? Discuss.

16. What is history according to Yaw? What does he tell his students is “the problem of history” (226)? Who does Yaw say we believe when reading historical texts and what does he say is the question we must ask when studying history? How might these ideas influence your own reading of Gyasi’s book and reshape your ideas about the historical subjects and themes treated therein?

17. Sonny says that the problem in America “wasn’t segregation but the fact that you could not, in fact, segregate” (244)? What does he mean by this? What does Sonny say that he is forced to feel because of segregation? Which of the other characters experience these same feelings and hardships? Does there seem to be any progress as the story goes on? If so, how is progress achieved? Alternatively, what stymies and slows progress in this area?

18. What is Marcus studying and why isn’t his research going well? What feeling does he indicate that he hopes to capture with his project? Why does Marcus go to Ghana and what does he learn from his experiences there? Marcus believes that “most people lived their lives on upper levels, not stopping to peer underneath (298). What does he mean by this? Where do we find examples of this elsewhere in the book? Are there any characters in the novel who defy this characterization?

19. Consider the book’s treatment of colonialism and imperialism. In the chapter entitled “Esi” at the start of the book, what does Esi’s mother tell her daughter that weakness and strength really are? How does her definition of weakness and strength correspond to the dialogue about colonialism and imperialism that runs throughout the book? Discuss how this dialogue expands into a deeper conversation about freedom and human rights. Have the issues surrounding colonialism, imperialism, freedom, and human rights featured in the book been resolved today or do they linger? If they remain, does the book ultimately offer any suggestions or advice as to how this might be remedied?

(Questions issued by the publisher.)

December’s book is My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises by Fredrik Backman. I’ll be starting the conversation for this on Wednesday 3rd January.

A list of new books for the first six months of 2018 will be published NEXT MONDAY 11th DECEMBER.

 

Just Another Book Club- 2017

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***For the list of books we’re reading for the first half of 2018 click here ***

Yes, my beautiful friends, I have set up a book club on these here pages for anyone to join in with this book worming fun.

I’m finding more and more often these days, that I’m reaching for my smartphone to entertain me rather than a book. Reading used to be my favourite pastime, but now it seems to be doing ‘If you were a cheese, which would you be?’ type quizzes. FFS (I’d clearly be Wensleydale & Cranberry btw) or looking at slideshows of celebrities who remarkably look a bit older, now that they are -you know- older.

So, I’ve started this book club as a way to motivate me to get back to my regular reading habits and I’d love you to join me.

Here’s how it will work.

  1. I will provide a list of 6 books, one for each month for the rest of the year.
  2. At the end of each month (or beginning of the following one, depending on how organised I’m being), I’ll pop a quick post giving my thoughts on the book.
  3. Your lovely selves can then provide your thoughts/opinions within the comments section and a discussion can evolve from there.
  4. Obviously, there’s no obligation. You can read all six, only three or just the one. Whatever suits you best or how much you want to join in.
  5. You can join in the discussion whenever you want, but the closer to the time I published my book review post the better, as you’re more likely to get a response from other readers.
  6. If this is a success, I’ll list 6 more books at the end of the year for the first half of 2018.
  7. Drinking wine/gin/tea/coffee isn’t obligatory whilst joining in with the discussion about these books, but it might help.
  8. Any questions, let me know.

Okay, so now for the 6 books for the rest of this year.

July: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (as you’re not seeing this in advance of July, I won’t publish the review post until 7th Aug. The next book will be a shorter one)

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August: Hotel Alpha by Mark Watson

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September: Irresistible: why you are addicted to technology and how to set yourself free by Adam Alter (I thought this would be appropriate as we’re trying to smartphone less/read more).

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October: A Million Little Pieces by James Frey

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November: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

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December: My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises by Fredrik Backman

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The chosen list of books is final. If you don’t fancy reading a particular book one month, just give it a miss that month. If I carry on with this into 2018, I’ll select the odd old classic book too. I’ll always provide at least one non-fiction book within a list.

Lastly, I just want to thank the lovely Angela at You Are Awesome blog for providing me with the inspiration to set this up. Check out her blog post here about book clubs.

So, join me! Together we can put our phones down and pick up a book. Do me a favour first though and holler below in the comments (or within the comments of my Facebook page) if you fancy joining my book club. Also, please spread the word. It will be fantastic to get people from across the globe coming together to discuss a mutual love- books.

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Nigella Lawson in her library. Further proof that I should actually be her.