Good Reading : February 2007
HE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY Robert James Waller Francesca Johnson, a middle- aged Iowa housewife, has a four-day affair with a National Geographic photographer Robert Kincaid who is pass- ing through her area photographing the local covered bridges. She never forgets the affair, and looks back with regret and longing in later life. CHRIS of the Variety Reading Group, SA wrote: As a change from our nor mal reading group get together, we decided to read a book then watch the video of it. We all agreed that it was best to read the book before seeing the film, as we didn’t want to have actors intruding on our own imaginations, and thought it would make interesting discussion as to how we all saw the characters in our heads. Some loved the book, loved the romance and the tragedy. Comments included: ‘a book to linger over’, ‘so evocative’, ‘dropped many a tear’. One member even read it twice – luckily, it’s only a slim volume! But not all of us loved it. Four of our nine members either thought it a middle-of-the-road read, very ho hum, or didn’t like it at all. One member thought you might have to be a romantic so maybe that’s why it didn’t resonate with her; another said she just found it a bit boring. The film received a similar reaction to the book.The majority thought it was a good attempt, as so many books-to-film just don’t make the grade for the book lover. But those who loved the book had more tears falling at the movie, while those who were not so enthusiastic took more interest in the nibbles provided. But we all agreed that Clint Eastwood still has that certain something … YEAR OF WONDERS Geraldine Brooks In 1655, in the remote English village of Eyam, bubonic plague has taken the town hostage. The villagers voluntarily quaran- tine themselves, but eventually turn on one another in their grief and fear. GAY of the Stroud Reading Group, NSW wrote: This was chosen by us for our September read ast year. Members unani- mously agreed the book eserved the accolades it ad received. Well crafted, meticulously researched, tragic yet happy – a gripping tale. The characters live on in memory after the book is finished. The historical detail provides insight into the superstitions which caused the hor rific witch hunts of the 17th century. Year of Wonders raises many social questions, and led to discussion on how we would react in similar circumstances. How would the people of our small town respond? It was agreed that people have not essentially changed. While we all enjoyed the book, we questioned the final chapters. It seemed that some of the threads drawing the story to a close were weak and unbelievable. Our meeting was enriched by our group’s convenor having a book of sketches of English villages. One drawing was of Eyam – the very village in the story. Some members had editions of Year of Wonders that contained excellent questions for reading groups. These provoked further thoughtful discussion. It’s a great, 5-star read. SALVATION CREEK Susan Duncan Susan Duncan had a high- powered career in journalism ntil the deaths of her usband and brother provoked an eventful journey of self-discovery. SUSAN of the Booklovers Club, Narrabeen, NSW wrote: Our discussion of this was unusually ani- mated, because most could relate to the issues and themes involved, particularly loss and grief. Every step forward for the author seemed to come at a price. The married lover provoked some discussion. Some of us identified with the author’s grasping at happiness, whatever the cost, as part of the grief process. Others were not so tolerant! While the majority appreciated the humanity in the book, a few members thought that it appeared self- indulgent and manipulative, and there was some discussion about whether or not this is endemic to the genre of autobiography. The liveliest discussion was about the author’s final remarriage to a man whose wife, Barbara, had recently died of cancer. There was more than a hint in the book that, before her death, Barbara had covertly given her approval to this eventual union. For many, this was a positive outcome, while a few thought that it was a bit of self-justification on the author’s part.There followed some discussion about whether bereaved husbands should be left to grieve indefinitely, or whether they should be encouraged to find happiness with some- one else – some very personal responses! Generally, the book was positively received, and nobody could argue with the message about the power of nature and relationships in the healing process! This month’s discussion summaries are of The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller, Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks and Salvation Creek by Susan Duncan. reading group round-up reading group If you’d like to join our reading group register, you can register your group online at www.goodreadingmagazine.com Join our national reading group register! WANT TO WIN SOME GREAT BOOKS? Send us your summary (round about 200 words) of your reading group’s discussion of ANY book, and if it’s chosen to be published we’ll send you a parcel of books as a thank you! Subscribe to receive ���� ���� at penguin.com.au and be in the running to WIN a year’s supply of books ���� ���� your monthly Penguin Books newsletter Receive sneak peeks, keep up to date with what’s hot, download reading guides, receive special offers, plus much more.
December / January 2007