A book discussion group meets at Bergli's office
every month on the second Tuesday at 7 pm. Anyone is welcome. Space is limited so if you are interested
in attending, please let us know in advance at email@example.com.
A notice will appear here if the meeting takes place other than at Bergli's
The next discussions will be held as follows:
Tuesday, 11th June: The
Quality of Mercy by Barry Unsworth
Tuesday, 9th July: Hotel
du Lac by Anita Brookner
Tuesday, 13th August: Why
Be Happy When You Could Be Normal by Jeanette
Tuesday, 10th September: A
Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman by Margaret
Let us know if you have a book to recommend.
If you are interested in participating, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org and you will be kept informed regularly
by email of the schedule of meetings and the books chosen.
Books we have discussed in the past
(with reports from Elizabeth Seiler):
Because other book discussion groups are interested
in what we are reading, from now on we will list the books we discussed
in previous meetings below. Many thanks to Elizabeth Seiler for providing these
reports of our discussions.
Tuesday, 14th May: True
History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey:
Everyone had some reservations at the start and those who stuck with it got
used to the unusual language (traps, cobe, punch fives, duff, fizgig), punctuation
(lack of), wonderful similes until the style was maintained so effortlessly
that the reader was pulled in. Some were interested in the tensions between
England and the Irish that were transported to Australia and how land selection
was made. In Australians' eyes, the Kelly gang epitomizes the image they like
to have of themselves. Kelly does not come across as a thug, his fate seems
to be decided for him and the reader feels sympathy for him even if the author
does not glorify him. Once treated like an outlaw, Ned Kelly seemed to have
no choice but to act like one.
Tuesday, 9th April: The
Death of Sweet Mister by Daniel Woodrell:
Already in the first couple of pages Daniel Woodrell
takes his readers well out of their comfort zone. It is a tragic story in which
the characters range from infinitely sad to monstrously evil, and the pressure
never relents, not on the last page, not in the last foreboding sentence. The
question was asked, "Would you recommend this novel?" In relation to
the night-marish subject matter, the answer was negative or with great
reservations, but positive with respect to the way that Woodrell develops
the story line, his brilliantly presented characters, the setting in which he
places them and the high quality of the prose.
12th March: Nothing to Be Frightened of by
Julian Barnes:‘Rambling’ was a good adjective which someone used to
describe this occasionally rather taxing book. There were opposing opinions,
one passionately positive, two distinctly negative, the rest at various degrees
in between. However, the enthusiasm of the one and the negativity of the two
provided a discussion which led to interesting modifications of opinion.
Tuesday, 12th February: Swimming
Home by Deborah Levy: There was vociferous objection about
the book from the majority of those present! We welcomed with pleasure a
newcomer who hadn't had time to read the book but who took an active part with
his questions and comments. This was good, because our explanations of
the characters and the story line were often a help to the rest of us to clarify
our ideas about many enigmatic points and about symbolism.
Tuesday, 8th January: Is
That a Fish in Your Ear? by David Bellos (non-fiction):
non-fiction book full of fascinating information about translating was a challenging choice indeed to start the
new year. Seven of us responded to the challenge with varying degrees of
enthusiasm. Not everybody had actually got through it but everyone
thought it had been worthwhile. The author seemed undecided as to his target
readership: language specialists or non-specialists. If primarily to attract the
‘common’ reader, the book was too detailed and contained too much specialised
translating. The neatest summary came from one member of the group who said it
was "good, interesting stuff, but very much in need of energetic pruning.”
Tuesday, 11th December: How
It All Began by Penelope Lively. One thing you
can be sure of at the Bergli book discussion evenings is animation! All seven of us joined in vigorous discussion with sufficient
divergence of opinion to keep it spicy. We thought we had covered the ground quite well and then fresh impetus came when Mary came out with an excellent questionnaire which raised all sorts of new aspects to talk about.
Tuesday, 13h November: The
Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.
Six Pro: one Contra. The one against was the only male among us and that
fact alone could be significant! The approval of the women varied in its intensity
and the second-time readers confirmed that, as so often, a re-reading revealed
some previously unappreciated subtleties. One of the Pros used the word "life-enhancing"
and then apologised for sounding pretentious but the adjective was a good choice
because in spite of some implausibilites, this parable-book is often enriching,
sometimes moving, and the huge cast of characters is highly entertaining and
full of well-observed details.
Tuesday, 9th October: The
Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje. There were
nine of us attempting to thresh out the complexities of this intriguing book. Thanks
to our exchange of impressions, the confusing interactions of this cast of
large and highly-colourful personalities and the to-and-fro switches between
past and present became less bewildering and revealed subtleties of construction that had not been obvious at first.
Not easy reading, but worth the effort.
Tuesday, 11th September: State
of Wonder by Ann Patchett. No consensus this time! 5 Contras against 1 Pro. The 1 defended the
book vociferously, unfortunately without the support of the person who had
advocated the book in the first place and then did not appear. Of the
5s, three did admit that they had actually not read more than parts of it. However, the 5s' reasons for being Contra were
so varied that the discussion was really very active. There
were a number of assessments about Patchett's skill as a writer, with reference
to the character credibility, the re-creation of the appalling local conditions
round a sophisticated lab, the social interactions, and the profound moral
issues involved in the work of the researchers (share-holders’ profits against
humanitarian ideals.) While we were
naturally for the humanitarian aspect, Robert contributed a very perceptive and
sobering comment pointing out the possible adverse effect on global population
if the ideal were realised -- and that set us off again ....
everyone would like me to add our sympathetic greetings to Bernhard about his
accident and wish him a speedy recovery.
Tuesday 14th August: Too
Much Happiness by Alice Munro. Unlike
Before I Go to Sleep, this book
received universal approval. We were all intrigued by her insights into the
complexities of the human mind and her subtly-layered probing into the motives and
reactions of her characters. Each one of us was able to contribute a useful
comment helping to unravel one or other
of the obscurities and so gaining better understanding but there remained
puzzling aspects and the discussion was really inter-active. We finished up
getting very involved with a definition of happiness and what was the meaning
of the "too much" in the eponymous story.
Tuesday 10th July: The
Hare with the Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal. The book and the
discussion was enjoyed by all.
Tuesday, 12th June: Before
I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson. This time there was much (good
humoured) disagreement, which kept the discussion animated. Views varied from
unmitigated rejection (Dave) at one end, to enjoyment and support (Elizabeth
and Bernhard) at the other. There was a range of opinions from the rest of the
group, admittedly more negative than positive, but it made the get-together
worth while and enjoyable.
Tuesday, 8th May: A
Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Tuesday, 3rd April: Great Expectations
by Charles Dickens. We didn't agree on every point
(how do you define ‘contrived’ with reference to plot construction? - Leslie
and Howard exchanging opinions very entertainingly). We did agree, however, in appreciating the
skill with which he creates a rich array of characters, the humour, the
descriptions of the dark side of poverty and crime in the London
of the period, his passionate concern with social conditions and, as a
story-teller, his gift for creating high suspense.
Tuesday, March 13, The Yacoubian
Building by Alaa Al Aswany. What a contrast of cultures and human
predicaments! It was a good discussion with lots of different perspectives.
Tuesday, February 14, The
Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (winner of the 2010 Man Booker
Prize for Literature) - it was a lively discussion. Each of us had topics in
this book that we were eager to discuss and could relate to.
Tuesday, 10th January, Brooklyn
by Colm Toibin - everybody enjoyed this book immensely and could relate to the
situation of the changes of perspectives that living in another country invariably