It’s amazing that even though I don’t have a day job I always seem to be running out of time. Today it’s the annual book group and holiday potluck that will truncate my usual Sunday (both in the morning to bake the bread and soon to actually go to the group). I used to go to book group regularly, but don’t anymore, just dropping by for the pure social part of the holiday feast.
I suspect many of you have had experience with book groups, a good idea, but one that rarely turns out as well as we might hope. The people in my group were a good group, interesting and fun and certainly capable of reading depth, but the discussion tended to focus on surface level features of the writing and not so much the ideas. Since almost every book was fiction I am biased that even well-written fiction is just soap opera unless there is MESSAGE buried (or readily visible) somewhere in those pages. But more often than not the books were just stories, loaded with character development, minimal plot, few surprises, and almost no content beyond the basics of the story. Not my cup of tea so I dropped out but it’s fun to see the old crowd once a year.
Actually today’s book turned out to be one that meets my fancy, Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. Since my significant other (an active member of the group) still likes dead tree books I also got the Bring Up the Bodies for my Kindle while she was reading print. I’ve read about 82% of Bring up the Bodies (Kindle is handy for looking up obscure words, either particularly British or old and/or historic terms) and was reasonably hooked so I decided to try to complete Wolf Hall before the discussion today (but deny I’ve read it, so I can sit passively listening to the others).
I like this type of book, the semi-historical fiction, or even just pure fiction but with a historical context. The reason is that reading that type of book allows me to “research” the historical context (thanks to web searches) and thus add some sort of additional “learning” to just reading the book. It’s interesting how closely Hilary’s rendition of the story matches some of the historical context (or The Tudors) but differs from some other renditions (for instance, the Thomas More presented in A Man for all Seasons). Obviously from all the books, movies, specials, etc., good old Henry VIII made for plenty of good tales. There is just enough fact preserved to force a writer like Mantel to be careful, but enough omitted to provide ample opportunity for invention. So in addition to both of these being very engaging (not tedious, at least to me, as some reviews say) and certainly in the good company of other Bookers (as my amateur opinion holds).
So it will be interesting what the group says, but I suspect they’ll like my bread at the very least and there will be plenty of goodies from others I’ll enjoy. So despite having too little time today for writing this will be a good change of pace.