I was away in June, so another of our members, Sarah Hudspeth, led the meeting. Here’s her excellent summary of the discussion:

For our June meeting, we read Us, by David Nicholls. Everyone enjoyed the book; it was accessible and easy to read, with a storyline that engaged us. Inevitably, we talked a little about Nicholls’ previous novels, particularly One Day. Where many of us found One Day annoying or frustrating, this wasn’t the case with Us. One common thread, however, was the feeling that we were reading a film script. Nicholls’ background as a screenwriter and the successful adaptations of other novels have perhaps led to him writing with one eye on the film deal.

We felt that Nicholls’ characters were complex, rounded and believable, with elements of their personalities that we liked and disliked. Most of the group agreed that Douglas was the more sympathetic of the two main characters. We appreciated his vulnerability and his naivety, although this often left us impatient with him. Some people also related to Connie’s creativity and independence, but not to her cruelty. As parents, we identified with Douglas’s strained relationship with Albie, noting how easily it could be to slip into that habit of confrontation if the parent/child bond was broken. Whatever our feelings about Douglas, we saw an element of the ‘outsider’ narrator in this book, similar to other books we’d read recently. How much of Douglas’s factual and scientific nature, his organisation and meticulous planning, and his difficulties in connecting emotionally, were down to his personality and the people around him and how much (if any) of this was to suggest characteristics of autism?

The group was split over the ending; was it hopeful and, therefore, happy, or poignant and almost too sad? We discussed attitudes towards male and female authors. We weren’t convinced that a female writer would generate the same critical acclaim for this type of book. It is somewhere between literary and light, but we thought that had it been written by a woman it may have been classed as ‘chick lit.’ As an unintentionally all-female group, we’d have loved to have had a male reader’s perspective on the book. Any book-loving new parents, regardless of gender, would be very welcome to join us in future.

Our next meeting is at 10.30am on Friday 10 July where we’ll be talking about Burial Rites by Hannah Kent.

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