Reading 3 articles

Reading 3 group articles

Group report

Our first book for 2020 was ‘The Plague’ by Albert Camus - very apt we told ourselves 2 months later!! It was acclaimed and an immediate triumph when it was first published in 1947 as it is in part an allegory of France’s suffering under the Nazi occupation and a story of bravery and determination against the precariousness of human existence. The townspeople of Oran are in the grip of a deadly plague, which condemns its victims to a swift and horrifying death. Fear, isolation and claustrophobia follow as they are forced into quarantine. Each person responds in their own way to the lethal disease: some resign themselves to fate, some seek blame, and a few, resist the terror.

We did find it a rather depressing read.

In February we moved on to ‘The Silk Roads’ by Peter Frankopan - The sun is setting on the Western world. Slowly but surely, the direction in which the world spins has reversed: where for the last five centuries the globe turned westward on its axis, it now turns to the east.... For centuries fame and fortune were to be found in the West - in the New World of the Americas. Today it is the East that calls out to those in search of adventure and riches. The region stretching from Eastern Europe and sweeping right across Central Asia, deep into China and India, is taking centre stage in international politics, commerce, and culture - and is shaping the modern world. This region, the true centre of the Earth, is obscure to many in the English-speaking world. Yet this is where civilisation itself began, where the world's great religions were born and took root. The Silk Roads were no exotic series of connections but networks that linked continents and oceans together. Along them flowed ideas, goods, disease, and death. This was where empires were won - and where they were lost. As a new era emerges, the patterns of exchange are mirroring those that have criss-crossed Asia for millennia. The Silk Roads are rising again. A major reassessment of world history, The Silk Roads is an important account of the forces that have shaped the global economy and the political renaissance in the re-emerging East.

In March we had ‘Do Not Say We Have Nothing’ by Madeleine Thein. However although this novel was shortlisted for the Baileys Women’s prize for fiction in 2017, also for the Man Booker prize in 2016 and the winner of the Scotiabank Giller prize in 2016, none of the group were fans of it and several of us did not finish reading it. Lockdown came 2 weeks into March and the library closed. The instructions were that books could be put through the letterbox of the library or retained until they reopened.

In July I received an e-mail from Hampshire Libraries informing me that from 1st August book sets could be re-ordered if we so wished. After discussing via e-mail with group members whether they wished to continue it was decided that we would and we began in August with Edna O’Brien’s ‘Little Red Chairs’. We all felt that although the author is an acclaimed writer over several years, this novel could surely not be one of her best. She wrote it in 2015 at the age of 85 and after a gap of 10 years since her previous book. We were unanimous in not enjoying the book at all, feeling it was very disjointed, dark and depressive.

We do read a variety of books, chosen each year by the group from the lists of New Additions that are on the Hampshire Libraries website. I then e-mail the choices to Matthew at Hayling Library and he orders them for the year for us and kindly tries to ensure that as many of the group as possible get one of their choices. There are 10 books in a set and there has for several years been 10 in this group. However just before lockdown one lady decided she wouldn’t come any more; although she had always enjoyed it she felt her age had caught up with her. Another member is unwell at the present time, but we hope she will return to us. When we are back to some sort of normality again I will advertise the vacancy.

We all enjoy the afternoons; after discussing the book we have all read (or not), we talk about other books we have read during the month. We then enjoy a cup of tea and a slice of home-made cake while catching up on what else we have done during the month. Things are a little different now and for the meetings since re-starting we have been able to space out in my garden.

However now we are limited to 6, it is a little more difficult. Two ladies in the group have decided they will take the book each month but not come to the meetings, they will send in their reviews. If any of the other members cannot come for any reason then one or the other of them can stand in. Hopefully this state of affairs won’t last for very long.

Pauline Brice

This is an article published in the Autumn 2020 edition of the Hayling Island U3A newsletter .

Group report

As members of a reading group we have varied interests and tastes: how, therefore, to choose books that satisfy us all?

We like biographies, so read two over the past year, but though interesting books, neither of the subjects appealed to us. “Sheila” by Robert Wainwright, chronicled the life of a beautiful Aussie socialite who married into the British aristocracy and was rumoured to have had an affair with the future King George V!. (There was a Hayling connection – one of her lovers was the ex-husband of the Russian princess buried in St Peters’ churchyard). In “Spilling the Beans” well-born Clarissa Dickson Wright (one of the two fat ladies of TV cooking fame) told of her abusive childhood and descent into drunkenness. We thought her at times too boastful and economical with the truth and found some of her views abhorrent.

Choosing books by authors we have previously (separately) read and admired does not always guarantee a popular read. Robert Harris’ “The Fear Index” (topically about Artificial Intelligence) and Eric Newby’s “Departures and Arrivals” (snippets from his extensive travels about the world) were agreed not to be their best works.

Reading classics has been an aim of our group, and Daphne du Maurier’s “The House on the Strand”, deemed an example of a modern classic, was thought to be a very good read. Far more sombre, “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin, published in the USA in 1899, and described as the first feminist novel, was rated rather dull and tame. (The author’s beautifully crafted prose went unappreciated!) Taking as its subject the growing sexual feelings of a married woman for another man, it was thought scandalous in its day, ending its author’s novelistic career.

Comedy novels were surprisingly unpopular. Chosen as lighter summer reading “Mapp and Lucia” by E F Benson (between-the-wars social rivalry) and “Hitman Anders and the Meaning of it All” by Jonas Jonasson (a Swedish satire from the author of ”The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared”) proved flops. Taste in comedy is very personal, and it may be best to steer clear in future!

So, does it matter that some books are not liked by some of the group? We feel that the challenge of trying books we would not otherwise have come across, thus widening our reading experience, is what a reading group is for.

Now it is time to choose again for 2020 ………..

Jen Cayley

This is an article published in the Summer 2019 edition of the Hayling Island U3A newsletter

Group report

This is an article published in the Winter 2017 edition of the Hayling Island U3A newsletter...

It is hard to believe that it is nearly 7 years since I was asked to take over Reading Group 3. At the time I was unsure how it would work out, having never done anything like it before. However I approached the members at that time and proposed that I was quite happy to host the meeting, collect the sets of books and return them to the library and make the tea, and sometimes even make a cake and the group would have to run itself. We began this 'system' in January 2011 and it seems to be working out ok, we are still going and have a full complement of 10 once again. We have had a few changes of membership along the way, a few decided it wasn't for them and unfortunately a couple have passed on, but all in all, it has been a successful venture. The members of the group select books from those available. The person who chooses the book leads the discussion meeting the following month. Some books we all like, there have been a few that none of us have liked but mostly there is a mixed reaction and we are able to enjoy a good discussion. As we all say, Reading Groups are great for discovering books that we would probably never have chosen in the first place. Over the tea and cake we discuss holidays and whatever anyone wishes to share since the previous month.

Long may we continue!!

Pauline Brice