Can't remember if I mentioned this - I am now a member of a book group here (well - two technically but only one that I have to actually read something for!!) that meets on the first Tuesday of every month.
(I saw this picture and had to put it on the blog - One of my favourite books when I was a child was 'Where the Wild Things Are ' which was written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak)
My friend Jenny who, after many long conversations about the merits (or not as the case may be) of such and such a book and many comments along the lines of 'Oh my god!! I can't believe you've not read that', persuaded me to join the book club she runs. The way it works is that each person selects two books (It could be a book that they have on the shelf already and have not got round to reading, a book that has had an interesting review or one that someone has recommended), the titles are put in a hat and each month one is selected which we all read then meet up to discuss the following month. I have never been involved in something like this (have only ever done the 'I've just read the most amazing book...' and then proceed to bore the pants of whoever I am talking to as I attempt to recount the story without giving too much away) - it's absolutely fascinating!!
We've just finished The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai which is this years winner of the Man Booker Prize. I have to be honest......it's the second book in a row that we have read set in India and I did wonder whether I would be able to get away with just reading a review of it so that I could just pretend that I had read it!! (I discovered that I am not that dishonest.....well.....not yet anyway.......if the next one is set in India I am making no promises!!). The Booker judges called it 'a radiant, funny and moving family saga' and it has been described by reviewers as ‘the best, sweetest, most delightful novel'. Erm, were they reading the same book as me?? It is beautifully written with amazing descriptions of India but.....funny and sweet?.....I don't think so!!! It is an exceptionally melancholy tale set in 1980's India at a time of huge political unrest and it features a grumpy retired judge who hates everyone and everything except his dog, his orphaned Granddaughter who has a brief relationship with her maths tutor and thinks the world revolves around her, the maths tutor who has a chip on his shoulder about being poor and who resents Sai and her Grandfather because he thinks that they think they are better than him, the judges painfully poor cook who's hopes and dreams are pinned on his only son and the son who is working illegally in America and having a pretty crappy time. (Without the setting, the story would struggle. I kept waiting for plot development but the tale just plodded along its own beautifully-written but not very exciting path).
What was really interesting was that we all read the same book but had completely different views about the relationships of four characters in the book. After the affair with the maths tutor Sai, the judges granddaughter, really mooches about feeling very sorry for herself. Two people took that as she was just depressed about the end of the relationship but thought that the relationship had been very innocent, two thought that they had been intimate (or 'at it' as I would say) and that she was just wallowing in self pity and two thought that she was pregnant which was why she was feeling so sorry for herself. I have to admit I was completely flabbergasted by the idea that she was pregnant - I thought she just needed a good slap!! (I'm not really the most sympathetic person when someone is being completely pathetic!!). The other debate was upon the relationship between two side characters - Father Booty (a Swiss priest who runs an unlicensed dairy) and Uncle Potty (who drinks too much and is not really an Uncle but is the judges closest neighbour). The two characters do everything together and are really like an old married couple - half of us thought that they were actually a couple and the other half that they were just friends!! (If you've read it I would be interested to hear what you thought)
It's almost made me want to go back and read the book again to see if I still have the same view points. Perhaps some day I will.....