Posted by: billpurdue | June 19, 2008

12 Kirkby Library Reading Group and my pick of the bestsellers

Last week I spent a very enjoyable hour or so in the company of the Kirkby Library Reading Group; as you might guess the group meets at Kirkby-in-Ashfield Library and meetings take place on the upper floor of the library (lift available) on the second Tuesday of each month at 2 pm until about 3pm or a little later. The group selects the titles they would like to read and discuss from a very long list provided by Nottinghamshire Libraries, so they have a wide choice. Trisha Rudd at Kirkby Library ensures that the sets of books are there in time for the meetings and generally helps to organise the group, but the actual meetings are entirely the group’s own affair.

 Last week the group met to talk about the book they had just been reading: The Favoured Child (1) by Philippa Gregory. This the second book in the Wideacre trilogy and is set in 18th century Sussex. Two children are being raised in the Dower House. They have equal claim to the inheritance of Wideacre, but only one can inherit the estate. Though this is the second in the series, the group felt that it wasn’t necessary to know what had happened in the previous book to enjoy this one. The book provoked a lively discussion. One group member said she preferred the books by Philippa Gregory which were based on fact, as the purely fictional titles always seemed to contain a supernatural element. Some criticisms of the novel were that fantasy and the real world were sometimes confused, the story was a little far fetched at times and, to quote one group member, “it didn’t paint a picture”. Another reader felt that there was too much padding and that the story was a little drawn out. Other comments were that some characters were stereotyped and that it didn’t encourage the reader to read the other two books in the trilogy. Oh dear! – but I think most of them enjoyed the book to a greater or lesser extent.

Throughout the meeting, they were constantly mentioning other books that they had read and were recommending them to others. They are a very friendly and enthusiastic bunch of people. I’d like to thank the group for allowing me to eavesdrop on their discussions: I thoroughly enjoyed my visit.

A bestseller or two

I’ve been browsing through some of the bestseller lists this week – there are several categories, hardback fiction, paperback, non-fiction etc – and as well as the titles which you would expect to find there, such as Delia Smith and Alexander McCall Smith, three caught my eye.

The first is a Philip Pullman novel, which is a kind of spin-off from the His Dark Materials trilogy. Once Upon a Time in the North (2) is the tale of the first meeting between Lee Scoresby and the Arctic bear Iorek Byrnisson. It is currently No 7 in Waterstone’s paperback bestsellers.

The next is something quite different: Persepolis I & II (3) by Marjane Satrapi is a memoir of growing up in Iran during and after the Islamic revolution. It’s told in comic strip format and is No 3 in Bertram’s Library Services fiction list.

Finally Bill Bryson has a place in both Bertram’s non-fiction list (No 5) and Waterstone’s hardback list (No 6) with Shakespeare (4). This is a short biography which “brims with the author’s inimitable wit and intelligence”.

Just one more thing – I featured the latest James Bond novel Devil May Care the other week. Well, for those with loads of money to spend (or, if you like, throw away), Penguin have brought out a hand stitched edition with a burnt oak leather binding containing a pewter toy Bentley car. If you’d like one, tough: I gather that all 100 copies at £750 each have sold out.

1 The Favoured Child by Philippa Gregory HarperCollins £7.99  978-0006514626

2 Once Upon a Time in the North by Philip Pullman  David Fickling Books £9.99 9780385615235

3 Persepoliss I and II by Marjane Satrapi  Vintage £7.99 978-0099523994

4 Shakespeare by Bill Bryson  HarperPerennial  £7.99  978-0007197903

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