I have to be honest, there is little chance of me actually remembering any of the discussion from this meeting. I remember my excitement as I prepared for the first gathering of the new group, I remember sending my son to the shop to get cookies and cake and I remember cleaning my house like a woman possessed. Mostly I remember hoping beyond all else that my plan to bring together a group of people, none of whom knew each other, with only a love of books in common, would not fall flat.
I had invited friends to join the group, and to send me a short list of books that they were keen to read, from which I would create a master list, and then choose two books per month; one main book and one optional second book. ‘Still Alice’ by Lisa Genova was the most requested book, so that became the main book for May, the optional second book was ‘The Children Act’ by Ian McEwan. It was a busy first meeting, with ten people squished into my dining room, sharing chairs and getting to know each other, whilst sipping prosecco (brought by one of the group to toast our first meeting).
Still Alice is an emotional read, particularly if you have known someone who has suffered from Alzheimer’s or dementia, recalling our own experiences brought tears and laughter and quickly created a bond amongst group members. The book is written in the first person, and as such enables the reader to imagine how frustrating it must be to slowly lose your memory, and then yourself, whilst still understanding exactly what is happening to you. The main character is only 50 years old when she is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, this makes it shocking and sad, as her life is halted so young. The average group rating for Still Alice was 4* out of 5*, this book is definitely worth a read, but grab a tissue, you will probably need it.
The Children Act was disappointing, the main story line of the young man, who needed a blood transfusion, but was refusing it on religious grounds seemed appealing. The legal ramifications of the situation were fascinating, and I wondered what I would do, in that situation, to encourage the boy to go ahead with the procedure that would save his life. However the book also contained the story of the lawyer’s life, her marriage and her character, which was of little interest to me, or the other readers in the group. Those of us who read the book gave it an average rating of 2.5* out of 5*, which was a shame, as it could have been so good.
In conclusion, we had a fabulous first meeting and would happily recommend ‘Still Alice’ as a great read, but also as a great book for discussion.