Ship of Fools Book Group - the 2021 Edition

SarasaSarasa Shipmate
As promised here is a thread to start thinking about next year's book group picks. If you are not sure as to the format or what we've discussed lately here is the 2020 thread.

First of all, do we still want to have a book group? The numbers discussing some of the books was a bit low this year, though discussing classics, as we are doing for the next three months does seem to result in more people joining in.

Secondly any ideas for next year. We agreed to do at least one detective novel and have had suggestions that we try The Dry by Jane Harper, or something by Cynthia Harrold-Eagles, Michael Connolly or Faye Kellerman. I can vouch for the later, but would be interested in thoughts about the other authors. Of course we can do more than one. I'd also like to discuss Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo, which is the book I've enjoyed most recently. It should be widely available as it one the Booker along with Atwood's The Testaments that we read last month. We could also do more classics, any ideas?

Looking forward to your thoughts.
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Comments

  • Oh dear no one has come up with any suggestions. Maybe it is time to lay down the Book Club for a while? What do people think.
  • I’m only a very occasional participant here, but if there’s critical mass to keep going I’d be happy to try to take something on.
  • TrudyTrudy Heaven Host, 8th Day Host
    I usually suggest one book during the year, but in 2019 I suggested we read Rachel Kadish's The Weight of Ink, a substantial part of which is set in London during a major outbreak of plague, and we ended up reading it in April 2020 and feeling haunted by the eerie echoes ... so honestly I'm a bit scared to suggest a book for 2021! But I am thinking about it.
  • Would there be interest in reading If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin? Or Prodigal Tongue by Lynne Murphy?

    The latter is a book about the differences in UK & US English; Murphy is both amusing and enlightening on twitter.

    If we run out of solid suggestions we could try out themes/authors, so participants read any cook book or any Agatha Christie, and discuss it?
  • MiliMili Shipmate
    I will still join in next year. I think the lack of access to real books in libraries has had an effect this year and probably will into next year, especially when reading newer books. I'm finding it hard to plan ahead because of Covid and the long lock down Melbourne is just coming out of and uncertainty about the future, otherwise I would have replied earlier!
  • Any more suggestions. Seeing as classics seem so popular and there is a lot of interest in crime novels how about kicking off with, say, Agatha Christie as @ArachnidinElmet suggested. We could either discuss a specific novel or just discuss her in general. The latter seems a bit unfocused so I think maybe start with a book and then discuss the whole oeuvre. A friend managed to bring in The Murder at the Vicarage into an academic essay into the history of the Anglican church in the 20th Century, so that might be a good one to think about.
  • TukaiTukai Shipmate
    Would there be interest in reading If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin? Or Prodigal Tongue by Lynne Murphy?

    [snip]

    This book was made into a widely acclaimed film recently, which sounds promising. I did not see the film, but cold be interested to read the book.

    I also enjoyed one of last year's books, the one about he Nigerian online scammers. That suggests to me that another "African" book might be a good choice; certainly it would widen my reading. I don't have much in the way of a specific suggestion for such a one, but am currently reading Out of Darkness Shining Light by Petina Gappah, which is a readable fictionalised account of the group trekking across Africa to bring David Livingstone's body to a port from which it could be taken "home".



  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host, 8th Day Host
    The Murder at the Vicarage was the first Agatha Christie book I read, and I didn't like it much - there were others I preferred, plot-wise and character-wise, and where the plot and scenes and characters stick in my mind more. My favourite is A Murder is Announced - I found that one clever and the characters engaging. It has a vicarage in it too, and a vicarage cat called Tiglath Pileser. That is just my personal preference though - I imagine everyone has a different favourite. It might be interesting to have a wider discussion about people's favourites and least favourites, and her books in general, if a lot of people have read a lot of her books, even if there is one book to focus on. I wouldn't reread The Murder at the Vicarage, but I would join in to talk more generally about Agatha Christie's novels. Well, I might reread it, I guess - I was fourteen and fifteen when I read Agatha Christie's novels, so I might have a different view now I am middle aged.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host, 8th Day Host
    I can't remember if I suggested this before or just thought of suggesting it, but I recently read Beloved by Toni Morrison, and I was thinking that would be a good one to have a discussion on. I don't know if it's already been read and discussed here though. I'm also aware I have lots of good intentions of joining in the book group reads and discussions, but I'm often very disorganised and then don't. So I don't want to be suggesting something that others aren't particularly interested in, but suggesting it in case it's a book other people would also like to read and discuss.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host, 8th Day Host
    This is another suggestion, just because you are asking for suggestions, and people like crime novels. Do people like Ruth Rendell, and particularly the psychological thrillers she wrote under the pen name of Barbara Vine? I love those books, and how they deal with social issues too, and how people are affected by them. And the plots are clever, full of twists.
  • TrudyTrudy Heaven Host, 8th Day Host
    While we're talking about books by Black writers, I just finished Yaa Gyasi's Transcendent Kingdom and I think, for many reasons, that it would be an interesting Ship Book Group read, but it's just now out in hardcover here quite recently, so might be awhile before it has the level of paperback/library/etc availability we like for Ship books, so it might not work for 2021. It's such an interesting book though.
  • TukaiTukai Shipmate
    I see tht John Le Carre died this week. Perhaps we could look at one of his masterpieces, or perhaps another similar "spy" work , e.g. by Graham Greene (e.g. The Third man, The honorary Consul, or the lighter Our Man in Havana) .
  • That would be interesting. Both authors are on my to read list (I did read an Eric Ambler last year which was along similar lines and pretty good but am not sure how ubiquitous they are).
  • Tukai wrote: »
    I see tht John Le Carre died this week. Perhaps we could look at one of his masterpieces, or perhaps another similar "spy" work , e.g. by Graham Greene (e.g. The Third man, The honorary Consul, or the lighter Our Man in Havana) .

    I’m a fan of The Honorary Consul though I suspect you may be thinking of The Human Factor - also a good book as I remember though I haven’t read it recently. Anyway, I’d be up for re-reading one of those or perhaps some Le Carre - Tinker Tailor is the only one I’ve read.

  • Le Carre is a good one. I've never read The Spy tha Came in from the Cold for instance. Also Graham Greene, who I loved as a teenager, but am now not at all sure about.
  • I've just realised that it isn't long till January and we haven't really got a January read sorted yet. How about Christie's A Murder is Announced as suggested by @Fineline, with a general diversion into all things Christie and Golden Age mystery writers as well? Do you fancy leading @Fineline.
    Maybe a Le Carre for February and Greene later in the year? Anyone fancy doing that, @Tukai perhaps. Also which one should we do?
    How about Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo for March. I think that should be widely available and it was one of my favourite reads of this year.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host, 8th Day Host
    @Sarasa - yes, sure, I can lead it.
  • MiliMili Shipmate
    Sounds good!
  • Great @fineline. Proposed timetable for the first three months of 2021

    January - A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie, led by @fineline
    February - A John Le Carre, maybe led by @Tukai
    March - Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo led by @Sarasa
  • TukaiTukai Shipmate
    Yes, I am OK to lead a discussion in February about a Le Carre novel.
    On my shelf I currently have The Spy who came in the from the Cold and A Small Town in Germany. "Cold" was his first best-seller, but is a bit tricky to start with (e.g. it took me a while to realise that "Control" was a person, the spy boss no less) . "A small town" is less well known and relatively straightforward (hero sent to cold war Bonn to find and plug the leak from the British embassy).
    But the others , particularly those featuring George Smiley (so memorably portrayed on TV by Alec Guiness) are readily available. The main ones of these are Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Honourable Schoolboy, and Smiley's People.
    Does anyone have a strong preference?
  • SarasaSarasa Shipmate
    I quite fancy A Small Town in Germany, though I think we have a copy of The Spy that came in from the Cold somewhere. I've ready most of the Smiley ones, and really like them, I so admire his writing. However it would be nice to read something new.

    Thanks for leading it @Tukai.

    Programme so far:

    January - A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie, led by @fineline
    Thread now open.
    February - A John Le Carre, led by @Tukai
    March - Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo led by @Sarasa


  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    The Christie is announced sitting on my bedside table. I am currently reading Obama's A Promised Land and The Queen's Gambit, the 1983 book upon which the mini-series i based.
  • TukaiTukai Shipmate
    I've been told to choose a specific Le Carre book for February. With @Sarasa the only shipmate to respond to my general question, I hereby nominate A Small Town in Germany.
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    I read that a few years ago and have no memory of the plot. I look forward to reading it again, Tukai.
  • Just finished The Hard Facts of the Grimms' Fairy Tales by Somebody Tatar. The "hard facts" are that they are all really about sex. It's like each fairy tale is a Rorschach test, and the author looked at them one by one and saw somebody doing the naughty. Fucking tedious (no pun) but I finished it out. Sadly she's the redactor who annotated The Annotated Brothers Grimm. Read the first couple of tales in that, and the annotations show the same point of view. Every concave surface was a vagina and every convex surface is a penis. Also eating. Don't get her started on eating.
    .
    Now reading Fahrenheit 451.
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    Many of the original Grimms' Fairy Tales were also quite anti-semitic.
  • Caissa wrote: »
    Many of the original Grimms' Fairy Tales were also quite anti-semitic.

    I wouldn't say many. I'd guess less than 5, probably closer to 2 or 3. (I just read them all last month.)
  • SarasaSarasa Shipmate
    Thanks @Caissa for deciding on our February read.

    The up-dated programme is:

    January - A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie, led by @fineline
    Thread now open.
    February - A SMall Town in Germany by John Le Carre, led by @Tukai
    March - Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo led by @Sarasa
  • venbedevenbede Shipmate
    I think you would find Margery Allingham would provide far more interest than Agatha Christie. She managed to adapt to a post WW2 world. I've just re-read Tiger in the Smoke a highly atomospheric thriller set immediately post war. Like Dickens nearly every character, however minor, is characterised and the streetscapes and landscapes vividly described. More Work for the Undertaker is good as well.

    You did Mansfield Park last year. How about some other classics? I found Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters very readable last year.
  • SarasaSarasa Shipmate
    I agree doing classics seems to go down well and Wives and Daughters is one of my favourite books @venbede I'd be happy to add that to the list. What do other's think?
  • venbedevenbede Shipmate
    Although it was his first novel I think E M Foster's Where Angels Fear to Tread is fascinating and a manageable length. The trouble with C19 classic novels is their length. Otherwise how about a bit of Trollope ? Doctor Thorne was his own favourite.
  • NenyaNenya Shipmate
    I'm not really a regular here but it's years since I read Wives and Daughters and I would welcome the opportunity to revisit it.
  • HuiaHuia Shipmate
    Me too for both Wives and Daughters and something by Trollope.
  • MiliMili Shipmate
    Just jumped on the bus in Melbourne while reading February's book and the eccentric bus driver was listening to a local German radio program playing music from around the era the book is from. He was even singing along at times!
  • MaramaMarama Shipmate
    Well that's an improvement on the 2GB rubbish that's sometimes on the Canberra buses. On the other hand, we sometimes get the broadcast from parliament when it's sitting.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host, 8th Day Host
    I'm not a Trollope fan, so won't join in that one, but I do like Elizabeth Gaskell. Have we ever done Jane Austen? I don't like her much, but I know lots of people love her, and I've never read Pride and Prejudice, and keep meaning to at some point. If people wanted to do Pride and Prejudice, I would join in largely for the curiosity of seeing what people think and why they like her so much. If people like more modern classics, and American ones, what about William Faulkner? Or Edith Wharton? I don't know if people like them, but just wondering if they do, as those are shorter than a lot of the 19th century ones. I like them a lot. When it comes to murder novels, do people like psychological thrillers, like the ones that Ruth Rendell wrote under the pseudonym Barbara Vine? Those are just some ideas, in case people like those authors. One of my favourite authors is Jeanette Winterson, and I'd be up for anything by her, if other people like reading her too.

  • SarasaSarasa Shipmate
    Seeing as quite a few people are keen I'll put Wives and Daughters on the list for April. Does anyone fancy leading it? I don't mind, but as I'm doing March I thought someone different might be a good idea.
    We did Mansfield Park in November, so probably not another Jane Austen for a while. We also did Trollope not that long ago, but I quite fancy the idea of Edith Wharton. What do others think. Any suggestions as to which Janette Winterton we could look at @fineline.

    January - A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie, led by @fineline
    Thread now open.
    February - A Small Town in Germany by John Le Carre, led by @Tukai
    March - Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo led by @Sarasa
    April - Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell led by ?
  • venbede wrote: »
    I think you would find Margery Allingham would provide far more interest than Agatha Christie.

    I would recommend Allingham's "The Oaken Heart". It isn't one of her crime novels, but a remarkable account of life in the coastal Essex village where she lived, between 1938 & 1941. I read it again recently and was struck again by the fact that when she was writing it, she didn't know how the war would end. We tend to read about WW2 with the comforting thought that "it will all be ok in the end" - that feeling is distinctly absent in Oaken Heart. She was living in a place where the Gernans could land at any moment.

    She brings her skills as a writer to describing circumstances that were at the same time both astonishing AND shared by most of the country.
  • MiliMili Shipmate
    I can lead wives and daughters unless somebody else is keen to. I have read it before.

    Melbourne bus drivers seem to prefer Smooth FM, the local easy listening station, Marama.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host, 8th Day Host
    Sarasa wrote: »
    We did Mansfield Park in November, so probably not another Jane Austen for a while. We also did Trollope not that long ago, but I quite fancy the idea of Edith Wharton. What do others think. Any suggestions as to which Jeanette Winterson we could look at @fineline.

    Whichever one people would want to. My favourite is The Passion. That's a mix of magical realism and historical, and plays with concepts of gender. I also like Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. People might be more familiar with that one, as it was on telly years ago (Geraldine McEwan played the mother - before her Miss Marple days!). It's a coming of age novel, semi-autobiographical of Winterson's real life, growing up as a lesbian in a Pentecostal church community in the north of England. People might prefer that one if they are familiar with it, but equally if people have already read it, they might want something different. Her most recent novel is Frankisstein, which I haven't read, but I think I own it, and it looks interesting, and I want to read it. I don't know how different it will be from the other two I suggested; they were published in the 1980s, and this one was published in 2019. Wikipedia describes it this way:
    The novel employs speculative fiction and historical fiction to reimagine Mary Shelley's classic novel Frankenstein (1818). The story switches between Mary Shelley writing Frankenstein in Geneva, Switzerland in 1816 and the story of Ry Shelley, a transgender transhumanist who becomes involved in the world of artificial intelligence in present-day Brexit-era Britain.

    I'm happy to lead any of these three. I find in general her novels challenge and subvert gender norms and binaries, which I find interesting, and enjoy - she is intelligent and playful with it.
  • SarasaSarasa Shipmate
    edited January 24
    Thanks @Mili, I'll put you down to lead Wives and Daughters. The Passion sounds interesting @fineline, would you like to lead that, maybe in May? Seeing as we've had some good discussions around Agatha Christie, it would be interesting to read a Margery Allingham too. I was wondering aboutMore Work for the Undertaker or Tiger in the Smoke, as they were both written about the same time as A Murder is Announced. Who fancies leading that?
    Beloved by Toni Morrison was mentioned up thread. I was wondering about that for July. A book I tried to read and failed with, but a friend whose judgement I respect thought it very good. What do other's think. Totally different, but in keeping with the crime theme I do quite like the idea of a Rith Rendell/Barbara Vine as well.

    Provisional Programme
    January - A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie, led by @fineline
    Thread now open.
    February - A Small Town in Germany by John Le Carre, led by @Tukai
    March - Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo led by @Sarasa
    April - Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell led by @Mili
    May - The Passion by Jeanette Winterson led by @fineline?
    June - A Margery Allingham?

    [Spelling correction
    jj-HH]
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host, 8th Day Host
    edited January 24
    Yes, I can lead The Passion in May. I look forward to it.

    (By the way, not to be pedantic, but for the sake of people searching for the book, the author's name is spelt Jeanette Winterson, not Janette Winterton.)
  • SarasaSarasa Shipmate
    edited January 24
    Thanks for leading on The Passion, @fineline and thanks for pointing out my spelling mistake. Spelling is not forte. One of the most annoying things that ever happened to me was when an author (Rosemary Sutcliffe?) visited my school and I wasn't selected to meet her. When I pointed out to my English teacher I was the only person in the class who'd actually read her books her reply was 'Your spelling is so bad, I didn't think you read anything.' Agghh!

    Corrected programme below.

    January - A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie, led by @fineline
    Thread now open.
    February - A Small Town in Germany by John Le Carre, led by @Tukai
    March - Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo led by @Sarasa
    April - Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell led by @Mili
    May - The Passion by Jeanette Winterson led by @fineline
    June - A Margery Allingham?
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host, 8th Day Host
    @Sarasa - sorry, I should have bolded the wrong letters, to make it clearer, because also the surname is spelt slightly wrong - should be Winterson, not Winterton. Maybe a Heaven host (@Trudy or @jedijudy ?) can change it, so you don't have to do a new post. I find names are easy to get wrong if you are more familiar with different, similar names. I do that too sometimes, where I read a name and think it's a different name. That was ignorant of your English teacher to think spelling errors meant you didn't/couldn't read. I also had annoying experiences with teachers thinking me stupid because I wasn't able to express myself well in speaking, and then they were surprised when I did written work and was clearly not stupid.
  • TrudyTrudy Heaven Host, 8th Day Host
    edited January 24
    Thanks, I made the correction to Jeanette Winterson's name in the post.
  • SarasaSarasa Shipmate
    Thanks @Trudy
  • TukaiTukai Shipmate
    I heard a long interview on radio (or maybe podcast) with Jeanette Winterson a few years ago, based around Oranges are not the only fruit. It certainly gave some insight into parts of society and "Christian" practices with which I am only passingly familiar, but which I think would be a worthy subject for discussion on Ship of Fools. Personally I am not much into "magic realism" being sceptical and prosaic by nature, as befits a professional scientist. So, based on Fineline's descriptions, I'd prefer one of her semi-autobiographical books to The Passion.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host, 8th Day Host
    @Tukai - do have a read for reviews too, rather than just go by my descriptions, as I didn't describe The Passion in detail at all. That's why I included links. The magical realism element isn't the main aspect of it. Plus the magical/surreal aspects are specifically symbolic, to challenge assumptions and conventional ways of thinking, where plain realism wouldn't be so effective - they certainly don't require you to stop being a sceptic. It's set in the Napoleonic Wars, with Napoleon as a character (though not intended to be a straight historical novel either), along with fictional characters. It's postmodern and explores many of the same themes of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (abuse of power, binary/black and white thinking, fear of the different) but in a more abstract and unusual way, rather than being specifically explored in the context of a church community.

    I'm very happy to lead either - they're both great books - but want to make sure I've given a decent sense of both. Though The Passion is one of those books that you kind of need to just read and go with it - it doesn't lend itself to a simple description in the way that Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit does.

    I thought that generally most people would be familiar with Jeanette Winterson and have an idea of which they'd like to do. I also imagined most people would have read Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and might want to read a different one. But as people aren't commenting, maybe they are not familiar, and so maybe people would prefer Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. Books that involve church stuff do seem quite popular. It would be good if some other people commented their preferences too.
  • NenyaNenya Shipmate
    I have not read any Jeanette Winterson although Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit has been on my mental (and ever-growing) Books To Read list for a very long time. The Passion sounds very interesting and I like the Napoleonic Wars period; I'm thinking that one (having read neither) might lend itself more to discussion but would be interested in both.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host, 8th Day Host
    I think both lend themselves to discussion - I kind of wish we could do both! But Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit more specifically relates to church issues, is set in a church community, and so, as this is a churchy website, it might be more interesting to more people here. Specifically it deals with attitudes to homosexuality within a small Pentecostal community, and a young girl growing up in this community, and realising she is a lesbian. A coming of age novel. And there is a TV adaptation which you can find online and watch free, and it's fun to discuss a movie version of a book in relation to the book. Also, if people are interested in background, and fancied reading another book as background reading for context, there is Jeanette Winterson's autobiography Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal (which I haven't read, but own it and want to read it some time).

    I suppose, as Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is her first novel, and the one people often start with when they read her books, it makes sense to do that one, if people haven't read it. And if people enjoy it, maybe we could do The Passion in a few years time. (I need to reread both, as it's been a very long time - I remember loving both books when I read them though.)
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