Sunday, February 11

The Book Group

So just how long can a bunch of people talk about a single book that they've been recently reading? Well, being the cynical chap that I am, I figured not long at all. If we had managed thirty or so minutes today, at our first book group meeting, I would have gone away happy and fulfilled. Thankfully though, I was way off the mark.

As you might have read already, the book in question was The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. We had given ourselves a month or so to read it in preparation for today, and I suspect that, for most of us, meeting was an excuse to force ourselves to read something, and since we had done that anything else would have just been a bonus.

I think we actually talked about the book and it's surrounding themes for around two hours or so. It felt much less though, and to be honest I think we could have gone on for two more. I've already written what I thought of the book and more or less stuck to that at the meeting so I won't bother recounting my thoughts here.

But there were other opinions this afternoon too. It really is amazing how different people interpret books in their own personal way. For example, a major issue in the book for some was how Henry had treated Ingrid. Now, personally I found this to be quite irrelevant in the wider scheme of things, but that didn't stop the topic itself being amongst the most heated for us all. In fact, the book became a tool to discuss some quite abstract and profound issues - and we were referring to the characters as if they were people we knew personally rather than the creations of an author.

The thing I found most striking was how everyone was up for talking about the book. We were all focussed and didn't go off topic to talk about something else every two minutes as you would expect to on a more regular meeting of friends. We took the topic seriously instead of just as an excuse to talk, and I guess that's what it was - quality conversation borne of a quality book and quality people.

Book talk aside, the whole set up was really good too - it was comfortable for all of us with food and drink generously provided. In fact we ended up chit chatting for an hour or so after we were done with the book (I think we got up to leave at least three times before we actually did). By design there were a fair number of new people too and it was good to have all participants hitting off each other's contrasting opinions while completely accepting them all the same.

Aside from being a pleasant and sociable way to spend a Sunday afternoon, this particular session allowed me to enjoy The Time Traveler's Wife even more than I did by just reading it; and that by not turning a single further page. The various discussion that came out of today added much more depth to what was "just" a book before, and so in my opinion the book group was a total success. I'm really looking forward to the next one too (we've given ourselves two months to read since we're so, uh, busy), where the book in question will be John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath. Hmm. I'll be needing a copy of that then...