16 years and counting


mothering sunday graham swift novel book cover

Had a splendid evening yesterday at the annual Dickens gathering of one of the members of the book group to which I belong (and have done since it was set up in November 2001 by David Price). We drank a Victorian brandy & rum punch made to a recipe of Dickens himself, the preparation process reaching its apex when the whole thing was set aflame (harder than you’d imagine). Besides the vigorous blue flames, other highlights included lively readings from Bleak House and Great Expectations among others. I chose the passage from Our Mutual Friend (my favourite Dickens) which gave T.S. Eliot his working title for The Waste Land – ‘He do the Police in different voices’. It culminates in…

“I aint, you must know,” said Betty, “much of a hand at reading writing-hand, though I can read my Bible and most print. And I do love a newspaper. You mightn’t think it, but Sloppy is a beautiful reader of a newspaper. He do the Police in different voices.”

I last wrote about Dickens in Simple Pleasures part 4 a year ago almost to the day. I was reflecting on 2016 through the lens of the opening of A Tale of Two Cities:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.

Not much changed there then.

Nor has much changed in the book group. Same personnel since June 2015, which is when I last listed what we’ve read since the very first gathering – for Atonement. I seem to have become the de facto archivist so here is an update to the on-going list which is put out there in the spirit of offering ideas to other book group title choosers.

In The Country Of Men by Hisham Mitar – June 2015
The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford – Sep 2015
The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami – Nov 2015
Soumission/Submission by Michel Houellebecq – Jan 2016
Brooklyn by Colm Toibin – Feb 2016
The Man without a Shadow by Joyce Carol Oates – Apr 2016
The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht – May 2016
A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam – July 2016
The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany – Sept 2016
The Looked After Kid by Paolo Hewitt – Nov 2016
The Sell Out by Paul Beatty – Dec 2016
Autumn by Ali Smith – Jan 2017
The Vegetarian by Han Kang – Mar 2017
It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis – Apr 2017
Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift – June 2017
Men Without Women by Haruki Murukami – July 2017
Zeno’s Conscience by Italo Svevo – Sep 2017
The Remains of the Day by Kasuo Ishiguro – Nov 2017
The Information by Martin Amis – Jan 2018

The first 14 years

brooklyn colm toibin novel book cover


21 comments so far

  1. ArkAngel on

    Fire & Fury by Michael Wolff – Feb 2018

  2. theluckhabit on

    I must get round to doing mine. Sport is the 1st Test England Vs Argentina in the summer. One of the best games I have ever seen.

  3. ArkAngel on

    Hard Times by Charles Dickens – Mar 2018

    Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie – Apr 2018

  4. ArkAngel on

    How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid – June 2018

  5. ArkAngel on

    The Sparsholt Affair – Alan Hollinghurst – Sept 2018

  6. ArkAngel on

    Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor – Oct 2018

  7. ArkAngel on

    Arno Geiger – The Old King in his Exile (Oct-Nov 2018)

    Ann Tyler – Back when we were grown-ups (Dec-Jan 2019)

  8. ArkAngel on

    Crudo – Olivia Laing (Jan-Feb 2019)

  9. […] from the tube journey. He asks me what the book is. “Crudo, we’re reading it for my book group.” “She’s one of my best friends, Olivia Laing [the […]

  10. ArkAngel on

    “I Served The King of England” by Bohumil Hrabal (Mar-Apr 2019)

  11. ArkAngel on

    “Exit West” by Mohsin Hamid (Apr-May 2019)

  12. ArkAngel on

    Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer (June-Aug 2019)

  13. ArkAngel on

    To Calais, in ordinary time – James Meek (Sep-Oct 2019)

  14. ArkAngel on

    The Unwomanly Face of War – Svetlana Alexievich (Nov-Dec 2019)

  15. ArkAngel on

    Karoo – Steve Tesich (Dec-Jan 2020)

  16. ArkAngel on

    Old Filth by Jane Gardam (Feb-Mar 2020)

  17. […] on the bus to come home. I open my novel, Old Filth by Jane Gardam, which we are reading for my book group. (I’ve just looked it up because I suspected as much… Jane Gardam is the mother of Tim […]

  18. ArkAngel on

    A Sorrow Beyond Dreams by Peter Handke (March 2020)

  19. […] Senate House, University of London to online (for the first time) and having our first ever online book group after 20 years […]

  20. ArkAngel on

    Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev (April 2020)

  21. […] Our book group started in November 2001 with much the same personnel as we have now (lost one or two along the way with moves out of town etc., added one or two to bring fresh blood). I’ve ended up being the one archiving the titles read so here is the last two years’ worth since I last made a record in December 2017. […]

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