I was a bit naughty this year and failed to read most of the bookclub books. Weirdly I find it hard to want to read fiction for a purpose if I’m deep in an edit. So I have read a bunch of fun fiction this year – just not the ones for the meetings!
Our xmas bookclub meeting (where we almost forgot to talk about the book) was a fairly unanimous liking of People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. I’ll admit I had to be the party-pooper and express some disappointment with it, but even I liked the structure and the concept of it.
If you haven’t come across this novel, it is about a book conservator who is invited to work on a Jewish religious text that is some centuries old and through her investigations she finds clues about its journey through many hands. Each clue becomes a historical flash-back where we see the actual events that her analysis can only hint at.
Because it’s Jewish history for the most part being told in these sections, it’s not pretty. The Spanish Inquisition and WWII are some of the predictably awful parts of the story.
What I found a bit odd in the narrative choices, was offsetting these historical events and all their misery, with the conservator’s own life. She has mother issues. Seemed like an odd combination. I might have liked that aspect of the book more if I liked her more, but the protag is a bit… whiny.
I also had a bit of a problem with the amount of description, but then I often do. I was listening to it as an audiobook and it was bugging me so much I kept having to stop what I was doing to go fast-forward through bits.
The only thing I activley disliked about it – and thus was the dissenting voice at the bookclub – was that most of the men in it were obnoxious characters in one way or another and the women were completely at their mercy, bar a smattering of obnoxious bossy-bitches. Now in the historical sections I can forgive that. In the modern sections though it seemed lame. Then, at the end, I found it very disappointing because (spoiler alert!) the female protag forgives a man who has used and betrayed her, made her doubt herself and, essentially wrecked her career, because he’s “the one”. Gah!
I do tip my hat to the author though for having come up with an astounding range of characters to populate all the different parts of the story. All well-drawn and memorable.
Funny thing about our end of the year meeting was that no one had any book suggestions… so I suggested we read one of the Jack Irish novels by Peter Temple. It’ll be interesting to see how the group goes with it as they usually don’t much like what I suggest!