Every 4th Tuesday, the book group discusses a theme. Last night we talked about books that we couldn’t put down; books that had kept us up reading late into the night; books we loved or were so impressed by we had to share with others.
Despite an unusually small turnout of just three of us, we found that once we got talking all kinds of books came to mind and we had a great time remembering not just recent books, but books from long ago that had stayed in our minds as great reads.
Margaret, who had suggested this brilliant theme, started by telling us about My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oykinkan Braithwaite, a dark comedic novel published 2018, which she couldn’t put down once started. The New York Times described it as ‘a bombshell of a book – sharp, explosive, hilarious’.
Another ‘dark’ choice was The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. Set in Chicago in 1893 during the World’s Colombian Exposition, it’s a novelisation of a true story of horrific kidnap and murder. Margaret said it ‘hits you in the gut’ but it’s such a powerful story she’s lent it many times.
Here’s a list of other books we talked about, in no particular order:
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett – published in 2001; a terrorist hostage story with an opera link; winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction and PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction
Robert Goddard crime books – I remembered reading lots of these and sharing with friends in late ’80s/90s and once on holiday staying up to 4am to finish one.
An Equal Music by Vikram Seth
A Taste for Death and other PD James crime novels.
Regeneration – Pat Barker’s brilliant World War I trilogy.
Mary Wesley novels – a rush of good reads after publishing her first novel at the age of 71 in 1983.
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks. Perhaps still his best?
Ian McEwan – we talked quite a lot about the brilliance of McEwan’s writing; how some books were hard to read but left a long-lasting impression.
Miss Garnet’s Angel by Salley Vickers – a ‘must’ for a trip to Venice … and other Vickers’ titles.
The Aftermath by Rhidian Brook. I talked of how I was attracted to reading this novel as I ‘knew’ Brook from being a regular contributor to ‘Thought for the Day’ on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. It’s a compelling read which was made into a film and released early 2019.
Notes on an Exhibition by Patrick Gale. I said this is one of my most lent books. A portrait of a family and how the severe mental illness of one member impacts on everyone.
The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass. Doreen recommended this German novel published in 1959. The Guardian describes is as a ‘seminal work (that) remains the defining novel of the 20th century, wrenching art and hope from ugliness and horror’.
Barbara Nadel crime stories about Cetin Ikmen, a detective in Istanbul.
Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith. A crime novel published in 1981 and set in the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Fay Weldon novels – The Fat Woman’s Joke (1967), Life and Loves of a She Devil (1983), etc.
Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis (1946).
The Fear Index by Robert Harris – another recommendation from Doreen and as a book about a general election, the Flash Crash and hedgefunds, quite topical!
The Bull from the Sea by Mary Renault (1962) – a recommended read by Doreen for anyone going to Greece.
Margaret talked about two short story collections: Mary McCarthy’s The Company She Keeps (1942) and Doris Lessing’s The Habit of Loving (1957).
Doris Lessing’s 1985 political novel, The Good Terrorist, was also recommended.
Possession by AS Byatt. I said this was one of my favourite novels that I couldn’t put down once started. We discussed more Byatt novels and that of her sister, Margaret Drabble: The Ice Age, The Radiant Way and The Garrick Year.
We easily could have gone talking into the night (let alone reading!) as more and more writers and books came to mind. It was such a fun and interesting evening. What are your page-turner books? Do ‘Comment’ and let us know.