Monthly Archive for November, 2015

In Praise of a Good Book

Did it really happen? Elizabeth Strouts latest novel, The Burgess Boys, bewitched the Durham readers group into overwhelming consensus! (Well, only 2 dissenters!).We loved the ease, fluidity, and artistry of this gifted story teller. As Jane proposed in her opening comments, we felt the writer had achieved the remarkable feat of turning a dramatic act of outrageously offensive vandalism, the throwing of a pigs head into a local mosque, into the catalyst for a family to uncover it’s ugly secrets and face its demons. Zach, the teenager at the heart of this event soon becomes peripheral as the story shifts to his uncles, the Burgess Boys, who ride in to the rescue. Both are lawyers but Jim is the successful, high flier with status and high standing in the community. Bob is good at his job but his clients are legal aid and his earnings and lifestyle generally more ordinary. Strouts narrative unfolds rapidly, her characters engaged in easy fluid dialogue, reminiscent of the finest American TV series. We are pulled in, keen to learn more, intrigued by the characters. The fictional town of Shirley Falls in Maine is commonplace and utterly convincing as a place fomenting racial unrest having become the unlikely home for Somali refugees. Whilst the dialogue skilfully moves the story forward , there is exquisite descriptive prose that suddenly and disarmingly delights, ‘Then the sinking sun sent up a spread of lavender and yellow, and the horizon line seemed cracked open to give a peek at the heavens far beyond.’ Our readers loved the characters in this book, easily warming to Bob, disliking Jim and revelling in the exposed hypocrisy of all in their politics, social climbing, affectation and frustrated ambition. Unusually, the group struggled to find controversy and debate in this book. We fleetingly toyed with dissatisfaction at such major political and cultural concerns as female genital mutilation and refugee status somehow always remaining unremarkable, ordinary, secondary to the major preoccupation with family relationships and individual characters in the novel. Overall, however, we were charmed into submission by this awesomely talented writer.

It’s very pleasing to see our numbers continue to grow, enriching and widening our group . Maxine wasn’t with us this month and we look forward to her return in top form . Next months read is ‘The Herring Girl’ by Debbie Taylor. There will be an option to join in a Xmas meal after the December meeting. See you there.