insole court book club – february

Becoming by Michelle Obama

This book is the first of our group recommendations and the first non-fiction novel that we have delved into as a group. Luckily, many of us received it as a Christmas gift as it wasn’t quite out on paperback at the time of reading. There was a very interesting split in the room of people who enjoy autobiography and people who don’t. There was also an interesting split between people enjoying particular sections of the book more than others. Once again, lovely to welcome some new members!

As always, I’ll share some of our general thoughts and musings, and some further reading/watching. All of us, I think, found it hard to offer up comments or critique as it’s not about a narrative, its her life. So please bear with me. As always, I’m interested to hear your thoughts as well so join in the discussion in the Comments section. Like the physical book club, it’s a friendly place, we don’t bite.

Surprised by how unexceptional her early life was.

Race wasn’t acknowledged as much as expected.

Some disagreed with that.

Appreciated the strength that she needed to keep up with the campaigning.

Interesting and inspiring.

Coming of age shift was interesting to those of a similar age.

White House stuff was a bit glossy. Were her real feelings edited?

She spent a lot of time justifying herself. Had to make an impact.

Extraordinary intelligence.

Her passion for education is infectious.

Ability to excel in life is down to you, and your attitude.

Very charismatic.

Interesting that she leap-frogged her own city’s University.  Didn’t see her place there.

Moving from an individualist view-point to wider perspective.

The need to over-achieve. Especially when you are very visible.

The privilege that comes with wealth.

Different up-bringings in the relationship. Sometimes opposites work. They took a chance with each other.

Awareness of the sacrifices of all of the family members.

Some cultural references that require some knowledge – don’t necessarily translate for UK readers.

‘When they go low, we go high’

Powerful.

  • The West Wing
  • Veep
  • Dreams of My Father by Barack Obama
  • The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama
  • Lemmy’s autobiography
  • Nile Rogers autobiography

Our next book club book is Homegoing by Yas Gyasi, meeting on Tuesday 26th March, 7 – 8.30pm in the Reading Room of Insole Court House.

I am also doing a one-off short story book club on Tuesday 5th March as part of the Brilliant Books Festival at Insole Court. We’ll be discussing The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula La Guin. It is available to read for free here. The event is free but ticketed. You can find out more on the Insole Court website.

Kelly

 

Insole Court Book Club – Spring Reads

spring

Springs Book Club picks are:

  • Tuesday 26th February – Becoming by Michelle Obama
  • Tuesday 26th March – Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  • Tuesday 30th April – Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Tuesday 28th May – Eight Months on Ghazzah Street by Hilary Mantel

Read along, join us at Insole Court or share your thoughts here on the blog.

Happy reading!

Kelly

insole court book club – january

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

Another whopper of a book for this months book club. But generally well received, some found it gratuitous, some unputdownable. One book club member read us her favourite passage which can be found on Page 323, beginning with ‘Clara was still young…’

Really chuffed with how many people made it along considering the weather that was fore-casted and the bugs that have been going around. It was also lovely to welcome some new faces! As always, I have tried to capture some of the discussion points and suggested further reading, so feel free to join in the conversation in the Comments section below.

Secret, dark core of the Latin psyche.

So much in the book; politics, class, a family saga.

The political crescendo at the end.

Esteban Treubo: emotionally stunted.

Larger than life characters, not necessarily relate-able. Mythical.

Women’s roles in South America at the time (late 1890’s through to 1960’s).

Catholicism and the traditional society.

The fact that the country is never named.

The struggle for power. Venezuela today. Contemporary resonances.

Similar to Gothic novels and Victorian melodrama.

Men like Esteban can be found in Western literature. Very Dickensian.

Last line of the book being the same as the first. Symmetry and the cyclical nature of the story.

Strength of the women in the camp, a ray of light in the dark.

Clara, Blanca and Alba: all names suggest purity, clarity and innocence.

Nine years of muteness! Strength of character.

Suffragettes and corsets. Would like to have heard more of Nivea.

Symbolism and darkness reminded us to Kafka.

 

  • Love in the Time of Cholera, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor and 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Maria Marin the play
  • Midnights Children and Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie

Have any of our lovely followers read any other books by Isabel Allende of any other female Latin authors? Would appreciate any further recommendations!

Our next book club book is Becoming by Michelle Obama, meeting on Tuesday 26th February, 7 – 8.30pm in the Reading Room at Insole Court House.

Kelly

insole court book club – december

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
We had been a bit ambitious with only 3 weeks between meetings to try and get through this book, so understandably, there were a few members who hadn’t managed to finish it. With that in mind, the rest of us really tested ourselves by discussing themes AND avoiding spoilers. We agreed that the twists in this novel need to be experienced, so despite how very laid-back everyone was about it all, we committed to a spoiler-free meeting.
Again, it was lovely to have a cup of luke-warm mulled wine (my fault) in the beautiful Reading Room of the Insole Court House. As always, see below for some discussion points and thoughts on Fingersmith and some suggested further reading/watching.
Some of the Victorian language a bit irritating as its unexplained.
Story is good.
Discussed the theme of human trafficking, comparing it to today.
The idea of being out of your depth and totally isolated.
Who do you trust?
How innocent are people really?
Initial thoughts of Gentleman, a love-able rogue.
Loved the book jacket review ‘pea souper Gothic’.
Men play pivotal roles but plot devices only.
Liked the descriptions of the paths that people taken around the Briar.
Lant Street offers a weird stability.
The Uncle compared to Poirot but more of a bully.
Sue’s brother and sister in the Borough provide a contrast, they represent Borough-life.
Mrs Sucksby is considered a benign motherly figure. She has a lot of power as a working
class woman.
We compared her to the little power that Maud had as a more privileged woman.
  • Sarah Waters on Radio 4, chatting about Fingersmith, through BBC iplayer
  • Tipping the Velvet and The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

 

Have you got any <spoiler-free> thoughts on Fingersmith? Feel free to share below.

Our next book club book is The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende, meeting on Tuesday 29th January, 7 – 8.30/9pm, in the Reading Room of Insole Court House.

Kelly

 

 

insole court book club – november

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Pretty excited to be in the beautiful Reading Room of Insole Court House for Novembers book club meeting. The room really lends itself perfectly to a group discussion over a cuppa on a dark night. This month, we were discussing Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, so keep scrolling for thoughts, discussion points and suggested further reading from the group.

Great title.

Recognised ourselves in it.

Recognised the dominant people in our families.

Everyone in the novel is carrying baggage and secrets.

Very compelling to some members of the group, left others a bit cold.

We discussed ‘The American Dream’ and what life was like in America at that time from lived experience.

We talked about the lack of trickle down of the civil rights movement at that time. Progression not reaching the small towns.

We talked about WASPS (white, anglo-saxon and protestant) and about the fact that former President JFK was Catholic and therefore an outsider to some.

 

  • Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  • The Women’s Room by Marilyn French
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama

 

Please feel free to share your own thoughts and comments below, we’d love to continue the chats.

Our next book club book is Fingersmith by Sarah Waters , meeting on Tuesday 18th December,  7 – 9pm, in the Reading Room at Insole Court House.

 

Insole Court Book Club – October

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I was so delighted to run the very first Insole Court Book Club meeting on Tuesday and grateful to all of those who braved the cold and dark to join us for a chat. We discussed Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, our first book club book, which stimulated a lot of interesting discussions. As promised, I wanted to share some of the comments, thoughts and further reading/viewing that was suggested by the group.

Noting the star-crossed lovers…I didn’t care.

They’re not always right (In reference to the other characters).

Scene where Ifemelu gets her hair done, very entertaining and engaging.

How class plays out in it is very interesting.

The conversation around depression and mental health, something that isn’t acknowledged in Nigeria.

(In reference to Obinzi) he was a bit golder than gold. Too perfect.

Oh shit, I’m not Kimberley am I?

The grass is always greener.

Its a privilege to hear a female writer talk about these issues.

The book will date due to Trump’s America.

  • Roots by Alex Haley
  • Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
  • Hamilton the Musical
  • Black Earth Rising on BBC
  • The Dock of the Bay on ITV

 

Please feel free to comment below and continue the discussion!

Our next book club book is Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, and the meeting is on Tuesday 27th November, 7 – 9pm.

October Update

No Review-ish this week as I’m still reading my current library book… but thought I’d do a quick, unsponsored post about a new discovery.

Now that I am not living in a city and not regularly going to proper shopping centres, I rely a lot on online shopping. And I buy a lot of books online, often as gifts for others, because I am that aunt/sister/friend. One day my sisters will forgive me for years of receiving overtly feminist, girl-power books, as if I could brain-wash them through literature. So for years I have guiltily utilised Amazon Prime, knowing full-well that Amazon doesn’t offer the best deal for authors, or look after its staff or pay taxes, and know that I am not supporting local book shops.

Side note, on local bookshops. There are so few around where I live. Which I know is because so few people used them that they had to close. But for me to go to an actual physical book shop involves a commute or between 25 and 75 minutes depending on traffic. Therefore, using fuel. Find and paying for parking. Getting stroppy at ALL OF THE PEOPLE. Having heart palpitations over the smell of books in a book store. Feeling guilty that I can’t give all of the books a lovely home. Realising that I haven’t bought a tote-bag with me and am therefore DESTROYING the planet by getting a bag. Leaving empty-handed because of all of the stress.

BUT when I do have access to a good, independent book store, I go to town. Like when I went to Hay. And when I bought a huge, beautiful, hard bound John Irving at a shop in New Zealand (without thinking about the cost in getting it home again). Further side note, shops in NZ are never busy so the shop assistant, as well as being informative and giving great chat, HAND-WRAPPED my books in brown paper. Sigh.

So forgive me reader, when I say that I resort to online shopping a lot. But the fact is, I am usually organised enough with gift-buying that I am not buying things at the last minute. So with this in mind, and Christmas looming (yes, I am one of those people that starts buying Christmas gifts in October. Yes, I have an extensive spreadsheet. No, I am in no-way ashamed of myself, or smug about this) I took to the inter-webs to look for a more ethical alternative.

I have used ethical directories in the past when looking at different brands, especially with clothing and shows and I have trusted them implicitly. Which means I could be talking out of my arse here, but they seem genuine and seem to have done their homework. A Google search took me to Ethical Revolution. If you scroll down, you can clearly see how the organisations were graded and rated, and it clearly states those that don’t avoid tax. Win. So I went straight to Wordery.

Despite all of the information given about Wordery, I still assumed that they wouldn’t have the range that Amazon offers but they absolutely do AND I think that’s the books are categorised much better. I was able to search by age range and it wasn’t gendered (!!! Double Win) I ordered three books and they arrived within a couple of days, with free delivery. The packaging wasn’t excessive which was quite the breath of fresh air.

Apparently, they ship world wide so I will try this feature out at some point and will report back. Has anyone else tried other sites for ethical reasons? Really interested to hear about your experiences.

In other news, the first Insole Court Book Club meeting is just under two weeks away (eep!) so please let me know if you want to come along on offbeatbookclub@gmail.com or read along and join in the conversation here. There’s still time to read Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. So excited to get started and meet some fellow readers!

Enjoy your weekend.

Kelly