We read three books this month because we had the Easter holidays, and one of the books was very short. The meeting was small, with only 6 present, but it was good fun, and most people had read at least 2 of the books.
Atonement – Ian McEwan
Having watched and hated this film years ago, I was far from keen to read the book. In fact, it had been on our book club list for 18 months and I had done a damn good job of navigating my way around it. I finally picked the book up to read it a week before the meeting, and I didn’t put it down. There is something mesmerising about this story, and even though I knew what was coming, still I couldn’t stop reading.
Most of the book club girls disliked the beginning of the book, they found it slow, or disliked the main character Briony so much that they were getting annoyed whilst reading. I did not have this issue, I think possibly because I read it in a day and therefore moved quite quickly to the second part. I can absolutely see why this self absorbed, drama queen teenage girl would irritate the reader, but I wasn’t that bothered by her (perhaps because I live with teenage girls).
Briony’s misinterpretation of the relationship between her sister Cecilia and Robbie (the cleaner’s son) causes her to act with malice towards Robbie. As readers, we are not entirely sure if that is out of a desire to protect her sister, or out of jealousy, but that does not matter. She behaves very much like a 13 year old would, but in this instance the results are catastrophic for the young couple.
Briony’s immaturity is evident right from the beginning of the book. The belief that she is capable of anything, and that she can control everyone around her, is naive. McEwan writes of lust, loathing, revenge and guilt, his prose is beautiful, and enables the reader to empathise with the characters, whether they like them or not. I did not like Briony in the first part of the book, but as a nurse during the war I loved her. This is a very emotional read, the basis of which is that saying/doing something is much easier than unsaying/undoing it, a tough lesson to learn at 13.
I would recommend this book, and surpisingly, given my hatred of the film, I rated it 4*. The whole group rated the book 4-4.5*, so we were in agreement on this one. PLEASE don’t just watch the film, sit down and enjoy the story as it was written by the wonderful McEwan, you wont be sorry.
The Catcher in the Rye – J D Salinger
‘The Catcher in the Rye’ is a book that appears on many of the top books lists, it is famously the book that Mark David Chapman was reading when he shot and killed John Lennon, and as such, it is one that I thought I ought to read. The best I can say for the book is thank goodness it was short, nothing of any real interest happens, the main character Holden Caulfield is neither particularly likeable nor villainous, but he does say ‘goddamn’ far too often. The author’s use of ‘goddamn’ ‘sonofabitch’ and ‘chrissakes’ in every paragraph became tired very quickly, they did not offend me, the problem was they bored me, and the over use of these started to grate when I had only read about 40 pages. As Aimée observed “it’s like a parody of a teenager”.
The writing isn’t great, the main character is a bit of a dick with a chip on his shoulder and the other characters aren’t interesting enough to pull the reader back in. I do wonder if Salinger drew inspiration for Holden from the character of Pinky in Greene’s ‘Brighton Rock’ (Published 13 years earlier and released on film 4 years earlier than TCITR), but Pinky is really well written, and shocking, Holden is neither. I did not hate the book enough to give up on it, but it left me cold, I don’t even think I can be bothered to have much of an opinion on it at all, which is a really odd feeling. I believe I chuckled once, but I really cannot remember at what, all in all it was just meh. I gave the book 2* and the group almost all agreed, with only one person enjoying the book and giving it a 4* rating.
The Guest Cat – Takashi Hiraide
I cannot think of a single good thing to say about this book, oh wait… It’s really short. It really is utter nonsense, firstly there’s a cat, that belongs to somebody else, it visits a young couple. Then there’s no cat, there’s a tree that the couple want to be near. There’s a peaceful garden and a big house that also belong to somebody else. That is about all there is to it. The writing (or translation) is bad, it is dull, and there are long descriptions (sometimes pages) that end up being irrelevant. Seriously, do yourself a favour and don’t bother! I gave the book 1* and that was probably generous, Karen gave it 1.5* and Alex (who liked it enough to read it twice) gave it 3*, nobody else read this one, and I envy them that.