Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Summer reading

I'm in a book group and each year the members put forward their suggestions for the twelve months ahead. Each person is given just a minute or two to 'sell' their proposal, which will later be put to the vote.
Ours is a very sociable group. Everyone brings a contribution to the meal and we always eat well and have a lot of opinions!

 I have learnt to beware the choices of the silver-tongued Welshman in our group, but this year all was forgiven because he suggested 'Tender'. I hadn't read it for over thirty years and couldn't find my old copy anywhere. I bought a new edition at the airport terminal and was so pleased that I did so, not only an excellent introduction to the novel, but also Scott Fitzgerald's original structure. 
My new book starts on the beach and we first see Nicole and Dick Diver through other characters' eyes. Their history is only later revealed in flashback. I much preferred this structure, it is how we get to know people in real life. 

It was the perfect book to read whilst lying under a woven sunshade in total indolence, having noted with satisfaction that the sand each morning had been carefully raked!

I find this such a moving book. Making the link between Dick and Fitzgerald's own life, it disturbs me that he could write so knowingly of all that goes wrong and yet do nothing to help himself. The ending is very quietly and ironically written, which makes it incredibly powerful.

Of course, as soon as I got home, not one, but two copies of the book were easily spotted in the bookcase! Both were the reconstructed text, where the 'flashback' chapters had been rearranged to be in chronological order.

I looked a little more carefully along the bookshelves and discovered three books of his short stories. And 'Love in the Night' even ends happily - how wonderful is that!

A book group choice that I absolutely HATED (suggested by the infamous Welshman!) was Ivy Compton-Burnett's,  'A Heritage and it's History'. It befell me to introduce it, so I know far more about her than I would wish to know, having plowed through a large and, oh, so thorough biography. her writing seemed to me to be everything that Fitzgerald's is not.
If you are a fan of her work, please explain to me why.
This was another book group choice for this summer and demonstrates why it's so good to be in a group. I didn't vote for it. Beneath the title it states, "his masterpiece of war and military life." That and a name that sounds like a member of the rat pack would be enough for me to ignore the book completely. But other members voted it in, and I'm so glad that they did. It defied all my expectations.

The other books that I read come from the fortnightly mobile library, which very conveniently stops right outside our gate. There isn't a huge choice, and it is pot luck as to what's on the bus.
'The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society' was a happy choice, one of those feel good novels that it's great to escape into now and then.

For our next book group meeting I'm reading 'What I Loved'. Not very impressed so far, and I keep arguing with the main character's/author's statements about art, among other complaints.
Should make for a lively evening!


  1. A 8 or 9 year old book I have just discovered and love: 'Raw Spirit - The Search for the Perfect Dram', by Iain Banks. Wonderful.

  2. The book group I am in will begin its fifth year a week from tomorrow. We will gather at my home, share a glass (or two) of wine, a little antipasto and start throwing out book titles and defending our choices before settling down to vote. We break for the summer and reconvene in September. I find the least liked books are the ones that elicite the best discussions. I would love to sneak a peek at your list. Bonnie

  3. I loved F. Scott Fitzgerald. My youth was spent reading him along with playwright Tennessee Williams. They were different, but both were about narcissism, depression, and desperate love. It touched my young,romantic heart. I don't read this type of literature anymore. Too bad, that part of me is no longer. However, at the time, it was lovely.

  4. Tom, I can just imagine you in our book group - but we are chaotic enough as it is!

    It is fascinating which books make the best discussions, Bonnie. Like you, we have found that ones that we all like do not necessarily produce the most interesting conversation. Two books that produced fascinating evenings were 'The Reader' and 'Heart of Darkness', probably because they prompt a moral debate.

    Dear Starting Over, All the rest of me may be going to pot but I'm still hanging on to my 'young, romantic heart'!

  5. I was just reading this post to Amanda, as she sometimes likes to hear various bloggy entries, and on hearing about 'Tender is the Night', sat up and informed me that she had only this morning been asking a friend about it!

  6. Dear Gary, I recommend that Amanda reads the original version, (top 'Tender' in my blog). It has a very informative introduction and a far better structure. Enjoy!