Monday, 10 December 2012

Thursday Night Book Club – Favourite Reads of 2012

1. Our favourite book of the year was A Perfectly Good Man by Patrick Gale, which was conceived as a companion piece to his earlier book Notes on an Exhibition. The central idea of that book was of the difficulty in growing up with a mother who was a mad genius, and in A Perfectly Good Man the madness is on the father’s side. We admired Gale’s skill in having the plot move in two directions at once spiralling backwards into the main character’s roots and troubled teens and childhood to find out what the answer to his need to be “good” might be and how each chapter felt as contained as a short story. Our group has been a fan of Gale’s since he first visited Shearer’s discussing his earlier work. To have him return to Shearer’s this year to discuss his latest novel and to revisit some of the characters we loved from the first novel makes him feel like one of the family! 

2. Elliot Perlman’s The Street Sweeper was chosen as a very close second. He is also one of our special visiting authors who feels like a family member to us. We admired Perlman’s skill at describing the worlds surrounding two men and their families and how they swirl in and out of history as the forces of the Holocaust, the American civil rights movement, Chicago unions, and New York City racial politics combine in a thrilling cross- generational literary symphony. Despite describing some of the worst horrors of the 20th century, it ends unapologetically happily as ''a young African-American oncologist and a white Jewish historian stood smiling and talking to a skinny black street sweeper.''

3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn was chosen as our third pick. Beautiful Amy and handsome Nick would seem a perfect match. Our interest in this unconventional crime novel was piqued when we learn that they are both consummate liars with dark secrets they are keeping from each other and the reader. This provided us with many discussion points about relationships, what is the truth and society’s propensity to always suspect the husband whenever a wife goes missing. Flynn has suggested that one of her inspirations was Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? - the play by Edward Albee about power games in a toxic marriage performed on film by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, who ripped into each other with such gusto it was hard to watch. This influence can be seen when we reach the astounding ending.

- Jane

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