The last book club meeting was interesting on a few points.
The book was A few right thinking men by Sulari Gentil, which is set in NSW in the Depression and is ostensibly a murder mystery, but is really about the fear of Communism at the time.
Now this is an area of Australian history that I know a bit about and find interesting, so I’d been a bit surprised to find myself not all that engaged by the book. I couldn’t put my finger on why that was happening, but it was consistent lack of engagement all the way through.
Apparently it wasn’t just me. Pretty much everyone failed to engage with it.
After hearing everyone discuss it, I concluded that there were two main reasons for this. First there was so much stuff going on in the story that it had a confusing / fragmentary feel. Second, the murder mystery was really weak, and in fact more of a catalyst than an actual plot, and this was problematic because your expectation of what the story was about was always at odds with what it was really about.
And the random head-jumping – though minimal – was confusing for most of the book clubbers.
What was of great interest to me, though, was that despite not engaging with the text, most of the book clubbers had gone and googled the history included in the book to learn more. So the history was of interest and presented in a way that made people want to learn more.
Seems like using a murder as the vehicle for a novel that explored the history wasn’t the right choice in this case, or the mystery itself needed to be much stronger to make it work as more than a history lesson.
I think part of my problem with the book was that the protag never came off the page for me. I didn’t ever feel I had a handle on him.
Very interesting discussion!