Warwick Books Book Group

March 27th, 2014


We meet on Wednesday evenings at 6.00pm at “The Punchbowl Inn” which is at the corner of The Butts and Priory Road in Warwick. (www.punchbowlwarwick.co.uk) Thanks to Claire and Ellie for making us so welcome.

We usually have quite a light-hearted discussion of the book we have been reading – characters we warmed to or hated , bits we particularly liked (or didn’t like), whether or not we enjoyed the book and if we would recommend it to a friend. We also talk about books we have recently read and often this leads to ideas for our next few choices for discussion. The meetings last for between an hour and one and half hours. New members are always welcome.

Recent discussions have covered JL Carr’s “A Month in the Country” which everyone loved, both for its poetic prose and gentle evocation of a time long gone, and “An Uncommon Reader” by Alan Bennett, another very short novel. This one is funny and the reader can almost hear the voice of Alan Bennett in the gentle prose. It also poses a serious question about the role of fiction in the modern world. This was voted extremely enjoyable, even by one of the group who is not usually a Bennett fan!

The March meeting is to be held on Wednesday 26th and we will be discussing Alice Munro’s collection of short stories, “Dear Life”

Warwick Books Book Group

November 21st, 2013

9780099531951On 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.

9780007315109Frances & 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?

9780241962978The 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 kenilworthbooks@tiscali.co.uk so that I can finalise numbers with “The Punchbowl”.

Looking forward to seeing you all.

Where’s Wally?

August 1st, 2013

Where’s Wally? in Kenilworth

IMG_1109For the last three weeks, Wally from the “Where’s Wally?” books has been popping up in shops and shop windows all over the centre of Kenilworth. Families, intrigued by the little figure have been chasing around collecting Wally stickers from ten independent shops. When they had five stickers they went to Kenilworth Books (who were organising the whole event in collaboration with the publisher “Walker Books) and received a big poster of Wally with games and puzzles. When they had eight stickers or more their names were entered into a prize draw for two lovely “Where’s Wally?” collections.

The hunt culminated in a “Where’s Wally?” party held in Kenilworth Books on the afternoon of Saturday 27th July.

The winners of the two books were Rosie and Alma. IMG_1104

We played “pass the parcel” and “musical statues” and “Pin the tail on the Donkey”.

With balloons, music and plenty of Jammy Dodgers we had a great deal of fun

Warwick Books Book Group

June 8th, 2013

Warwick Book Group meeting May 22nd at the Old Punchbowl Inn

We were able to repair to our usual meeting place at the Old Punchbowl Inn, which has now been re-opened after its makeover. Pleasingly, the pub still retains its character, but has been opened out a bit and freshened up. Our welcome was warm and friendly.

I had missed the meeting where we discussed “Le Grand Meaulnes” so we had a brief discussion about that. I had tried to read it in the original French while studying for my“A” levels many years ago and had been completely confused. Now reading it in translation, I am not surprised at this. We decided that it is very much a young man’s book. It has a dreamlike quality and is about the pain of a young man falling in love. Whichever English version you read, it must lose a lot in translation because no-one in the group was as enthusiastic about it as a few French customers who all expressed delight that we were reading it!

9781408821985Madeline Miller’s, “The Song of Achilles” met with a completely different response. We all loved her idea of using the character Patroclus to tell the story, especially as he frequently asked for clarification of the myths and names, thus helping the reader. As well as being a beautiful love story, a story of friendship, trust and loyalty, it is a good adventure too; a retelling of the Greek Myths about Achilles, making him very real with human frailties despite  his being a hero. A couple in the group had been inspired by this book to read the Greek Myths and even try Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. They came to the conclusion that they much preferred Miller’s version.

There was lots to talk about, interesting characters beautifully drawn (especially Chiron, Odysseus and the mysterious and terrifying Thetis) and writing that made a complicated story exciting and easy to read. A satisfying book that we would all recommend.

Our next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday 26th June when we will be discussing “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” by Rachel Joyce.9780552778091 This is a first novel which received very good reviews.

Our book for July is “Capital” by John Lanchester. This is an epic novel telling the stories of the various residents of a London street. Again, wonderful reviews means we are expecting a real treat. The meeting to discuss “Capital” will be on Wednesday July 31st.

On August 21st we will be discussing Donna Leon’s “Beastly Things”. This is the latest of Leon’s crime novels set in Venice with Commissario Brunetti investigating a body found floating in one of Venice’s canals. A light read for the summer..

Our 25th September when we will be discussing Rose Tremain’s “Restoration” This is an historical novel about a fictional character and it will be interesting to contrast this with our October book, the prizewinning novel by Hilary Mantel, “Bring up the Bodies” We will be discussing this on October 23rd

All our meetings are on Wednesdays at 6.00pm in “The Old Punchbowl Inn” in Warwick.

We look forward to seeing you there – new members are always welcome.

Warwick Books Book Group

May 22nd, 2013

9780099554790We met on Wednesday March 20th at the Old Punch Bowl in Warwick.  Sadly this is the last meeting we will be having here as the pub has been sold and is going to be the subject of a major refurbishment.  Thanks to Angie and the team who have made us so welcome over the last couple of years.  Good luck for the future – we will miss you.

We had been reading  “The Night Circus” by Erin  Morgenstern.  This is a truly enchanting book.  It is about magic, magicians and the amazing Night Circus of the title.  Full of atmosphere, the reader will certainly have no problem imagining the multiple tents that make up the “Cirque des Reves”, the smells and the mystery.

Set at the end of the nineteenth century, the book tells the story of the power struggle between two magicians, Prospero the Enchanter and the man in a grey suit whose name may possibly be Alexander.  They are both centuries old and the competition between them has been going on for generations.  In “The Night Circus” they use the skills of their latest protégés to compete, Propero’s (or Hector’s) daughter, Celia and a remarkable young orphan adopted by Alexander whom he names Marco.

To describe the circus there is a short passage towards the end of the book….”There are tents, I am certain, that I have not discovered in my many visits to the circus.  Though I have seen a good deal of the sights, travelled a number of the available paths, there are always corners that remain unexplored, doors that remain unopened.”

Everyone in the group enjoyed the book.  We discovered during our discussions that reading the book again gives a new perspective and it is probably worth reading three times or more!  There are at least two time lines running through the story and possibly three.  The characters, despite their magical powers, are rounded and believable.  We all want the Cirque des Reves to suddenly appear one night near where we live – meanwhile we’ll read the book again and recommend it to our friends.

Our next meeting will be at Warwick Books on Wednesday  24th April.  We will be discussing “Le Grand Meaulnes” by Alain-Fournier. It is the only novel completed by this accomplished French writer who was sadly killed right at the start of the First World War in 1914.  It is available in two translations, from Penguin and from Vintage, both £8.99.  At this meeting we can discuss possible new venues for our meetings and plan ahead for the Summer.  We have already chosen “The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller for our May meeting (Wednesday 22nd May)


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