This month saw the YCAA Book Group read two very different novels. Book Club Co-ordinator Elaine tells us what our readers thought.
How wonderful to sit in a room with like-minded people and talk once more about books. It was hard to conjure up all the things that one missed during lockdown, but I feel that lively debate and conversation in person ranks very highly on that list.
Book One: ‘You Don’t Know Me’ by Imran Mahmood
Giving a novel written in a London street gang ‘voice’ to Book Club was always going to be a risk. I suspect when Imran Mahmood created his character, pleading his innocence from a jury of people not drawn from his background, he felt the same trepidation. That is the genius of the story. The reader is asked to stick with a narrative without prejudging the narrator and not all of the group found that comfortable. However as a barrister, Mahmood knows full well the trap of making a judgement without all of the facts. He has used his experience to create a fascinating book and one that will appear in film on both BBC and Netflix this Autumn.
Most of the group enjoyed the book and its originality with only one or two finding it tough to get through. Being part of a reading group is a great way to extend the range of genres that one reads and certainly makes for interesting discussion.
I have passed on via Twitter how much we got out of ‘You Don’t Know Me’, and Imran Mahmood is claiming Somerset as his favourite county as a result! Seriously he is delighted that we have read his story and recommends his second novel; ‘I Know What I Saw’ for any of you who prefer a more classically structured book.
Book Two: ‘A Single Thread’ by Tracey Chevalier
Having read two of Tracey Chevalier’s books in Book Group before, we are used to her technique of spinning a yarn around a central reality. In this book we are introduced to the ladies of the late 1920s and early 30s who created the kneelers and cushions for Winchester Cathedral. Alongside this, there is also the thread of the ’surplus women’ of the post war generation who were brought up to marry and raise children, only to find themselves without potential life partners due to the carnage of WW1.
The book was a light read but generated a great deal of discussion around the themes incorporated. Several of us have read many of the novels published by Persephone Books, mainly titles that were written by women in the early 20th century, these are authentic voices against whom the modern writer sometimes jars by inferring attitudes that reflect modern thinking in their characters.
One of the interesting things that emerges from our discussions is that often the members who know most about the subject matter in a book are those who like them the least! This was certainly the case with ‘A Single Thread’ with our most creative person with a needle thoroughly disliking the novel.
Coming Next Month
Next month (12th October) the group will be discussing:
If you would like to join the YCAA Book Group, please contact Somersetlovestoread via Facebook or Twitter. If you are a member of the YCAA, you automatically become a member of our popular book club. For more information, see our Membership page.