After a run of similar books, March’s choice proved very different. Ali Smith’s How to be Both was shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize and won the novel award in the 2014 Costa Book Awards. It’s in two parts. One is set in contemporary Cambridge where George, a 16 year old girl, is dealing with the sudden death of her mother. Francesco, an Italian Renaissance painter, narrates the other.
Two editions of the book have been published, each starting with a different story. In our experience, this made a difference. The modern day story was more accessible and those whose copies began here were more likely to persevere. The Renaissance story is harder work although we liked the atmosphere it evoked. Have we become lazier readers now we can Google instead of re-reading, we wondered. Or do we try more challenging fiction because there’s help available? We’re not sure but we liked this quote from George’s mother on the subject of art:
‘I don’t know much about it. It was quite hard to find out anything. But I’m finding it quite enjoyable, not knowing.’
Next month, we’re looking at The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. Paula will be at a special event for book groups at the Hexham Book Festival on 29 April.