On 25th September we met at the Old Punch Bowl Inn in Warwick. The book for that month was “Restoration” by Rose Tremain. Set in the reign of Charles 11, it tells the story of Merivel who quickly becomes a favourite of the King in his glittering Court. The King asks Merivel to marry one of his mistresses and keep her safely from the Court. Celia, the lady in question, is not the sort of woman who appeals to Merival but he agrees to the marriage and the gifts that go with the arrangement.
Sadly for him, though, he does come to fall in love with Celia, she does not return his ardour and, from this disaster, things get even worse for Merivel
The whole group enjoyed the book, which falls into three parts – the rise of Merivel and the wedding, the fall of Merivel, and afterwards. The first part is light-hearted and amusing but the book gradually darkens and becomes quite sad. There are wonderful descriptions of the madhouse where Merivel takes shelter and the period is brought vividly to life. There is a follow-up book by Tremain which several of the group had read and we would recommend both to a friend.
Frances & Keith were away on holiday in October when the group discussed, “Bring Up the Bodies” by Hilary Mantel. This Booker-winning novel has won high praise and is a little more accessible than the equally successful “Wolf Hall”. It was interesting to compare the two historical novels, “Wolf Hall” and “Restoration”, one peopled entirely by “real” historical characters having imaginary conversations and thoughts and the other with mainly fictional characters set against a well documented historical context.
Our next meeting (at The Old Punchbowl Inn again) will be on Wednesday 20th November at 6.00pm. We will be discussing Michael Frayn’s “Spies” in which an elderly man looks back on his war-time childhood with his friend, Keith. The boys become convinced that Keith’s mother is a German Spy and start to follow her and spy on her themselves. They discover that she really does have a secret to keep although she is not a spy. Is this a coming of age book? (It has been compared with “What Maisie Knew”) a humorous book? (Keith’s Mother’s “suspicious” activities are pretty humdrum) a memoir? (Frayn himself was brought up in a suburb during the war) or a mixture of all three?
The December meeting is to be on Wednesday 11th December when we will be discussing Colm Toibin’s “Testament of Mary”. We have also provisionally arranged a Christmas meal at the Punchbowl afterwards and so we really have to have an idea of numbers. If you cannot come to the meeting on 20th November and want to come to the meal, please e-mail Frances ASAP at email@example.com so that I can finalise numbers with “The Punchbowl”.
Looking forward to seeing you all.