Posts Tagged Reading Group

Notes From A Big Country by Bill Bryson

If you want to learn the art of writing humour based on everyday life, this is the book to read.Notes from a Big Country by Bill Bryson

It’s also the first book by Bill Bryson that I’ve ever read. It came into my hands not through choice but because members of the library reading group that I coordinate requested something by Bill Bryson.

Notes from a Big Country is a collection of Bill’s columns about life in America that appeared in the Mail on Sunday‘s Night & Day Magazine in the late 90s. Despite being twenty years old the topics addressed are still interesting today, things such as the death penalty, Americans driving everywhere instead of walking, the devastating effect of a skunk spraying in your home, the history of diners (they came in prefabricated kits on the back of lorries) and how low key Christmas is in the US compared to here.

Bill Bryson has a wonderful turn of phrase and this quote made me smile in particular: My father, who like all dads sometimes seemed to be practising for a world’s most boring man competition.

I read the book straight through from start to finish because of our looming reading group meeting but I would advise others to dip in and out so that each column can be savoured like a favourite chocolate.

I had another American connection this week when I was congratulated on Twitter for my article in the Washington Post.  Unfortunately I had to be honest and admit to never having written for the Washington Post and explain that the article was probably written by my doppelganger, the US sports writer Sally Jenkins.  This is the second time I’ve been mistaken for my more famous counterpart. A couple of years ago I was contacted by someone who wanted help with their autobiography following ‘my’ success ghosting Lance Armstong’s It’s Not About the Bike. Perhaps one day the US Sally Jenkins will be mistaken for me!

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The Death of Lucy Kyte by Nicola Upson

I’ve just read The Death of Lucy Kyte by Nicola Upson and attended my first ever Reading Group meeting. The Death of Lucy Kyte by Nicola Upson

The book is a cleverly structured and utterly absorbing work of fiction based on the real Suffolk  Red Barn Murder of working class Maria Marten by her upper class lover, William Corder in 1827.

The book is set in the 1930s and the main character is Josephine Tey, who inherits a cottage from her godmother, close to the site of where the murder took place. Josephine Tey is based on a real person of that name, a playwright and novelist from the inter-war years.

The story revolves around the cottage and its previous occupants. One of whom is Josephine’s godmother and the other a young woman, who was Maria’s fictional best friend.

I loved the twists and turns, the evocative descriptions of 1930s England and the concept of a story within a story. It’s spooky, atmospheric and highly readable!

The Reading Group has just been formed at a local library and I have volunteered to help with it, along with another lady. Neither of us has experience of any other reading group and everyone around the table just put forward their general feelings about the book (and it was interesting to hear the views of those who weren’t as impressed as me).

But I’d like to hear from all you experienced book group members out there. Do you have a structure to your meetings? Do you go through a list of points for discussion? Does someone lead the meeting or is it a free for all?

It would be good to know how to get the best out of these meetings so that everyone goes away satisfied that they’ve had their say and maybe learned something from what others have said.

 

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