I am starting to write this on the evening of our February meeting, in the hope that the excitement of our wee group will be evident in my post. Such a fun meeting, with great chat and, for the first time ever, a vast difference of opinion on this book.
The light between oceans – M L Stedman
The blurb read well, it could be a little bit thriller-like? maybe a twist that would keep you on the edge of your seat? I had high hopes, those were dashed pretty early in the book, and I ploughed through, what became for me a two week endurance test. I did not enjoy this book at all, I did not like any of the characters (with the exception of Septimus) enough to be anything other than frustrated by their inability to just do the right thing!! The story was longer than it needed to be, I got bored with life on Janus, and couldn’t care less if the boat was back with supplies. It was a romance, with no great passion, it was a character lead story with no great characters, and I was glad to reach the end, which was all a bit too Hollywood for me, BUT I did not say any of this whilst we discussed the book because It became clear to me quite early in the discussion that most of the group really enjoyed it, so I kept my mouth shut.
The group loved the characters, and felt some sympathy for the main characters, they loved the writing and the descriptions of the island. I asked questions and I tried to encourage chat, but did not offer much by way of opinion (which is really unusual for me), and I listened, to try and understand why they loved it so much. The story was certainly one of flawed humans, which can be fascinating (Ove for example), but in order for flaws to make a person interesting, you have to like the person beneath, the group did like Tom and Hannah, so they felt involved in the story where I did not. At one point, whilst reading the book I googled to see if M L Stedman was Australian (she is), because to me it read like an author who was not from Australia, throwing in the odd very Australian word randomly, it did not feel authentic.
It was towards the end of the discussion that I noticed Sam giving me knowing looks, I have known this girl way too long to be able to fool her. I reached the end of the questions, she looked at me again, as if to say “well??? Come on Mel, just say it!” so I did, “I hated this book” to which she shouted “Me too!” and then we had our little rant, which surprised the others almost as much as their love for the book had surprised us. This was the first time that there has been such a division in the group, and that is a wonderful thing, everyone feels free to express their opinion. Usually we rate books and there is a small variation, tonight the ratings went from 1.5* – 5* and that is quite something. I gave the book 2* because I liked Septimus, and the science bit about the light in the lighthouse, and I thought the scenery was well described. I would not recommend the book, however 5 of 7 would, so I will have to let you judge for yourselves.
The picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
I chose this book for the group, as I thought I really ought to read it. I knew very little about the story, apart from the fact that Dorian Gray keeps a portrait in the attic which ages whilst he says young. The book is easy to read, and being around 200 pages it is fairly quick to get through, but my copy was hard going, with too many words per page, as is often the case with reprinted classics.
The story starts well, there are three main characters, Basil (the artist) who has fallen for Dorian Gray, and spends as much time painting him as possible, and Lord Henry (Harry) who is articulate and philosophical and lives a life of frivolity. It also ends well; on the eve of Dorian’s 28th birthday, the book takes a dark turn and becomes a bit more gothic horror in style, and from that point I was hooked. I did think of an alternative ending that I would have preferred, and another group member thought of a third option, which was also very good. There was a point, somewhere in the middle of the book where I lost interest, but it definitely got much better and held my attention.
For me the story (concept) was brilliant, the writing was not as good, and I do wonder if Wilde felt he needed to pad the story a little in the middle. The group rated the book a solid 3.5*, I gave it 4* and am glad I can cross it off my list of books that I really should read.