WHAT MAKES A GOOD BOOK CLUB READ?


I was thrilled to see The Flight of Cornelia Blackwood on this list of best book club reads which appears in today’s Woman and Home magazine. There are some cracking books on this list – I’ve read 12 of them. Oddly enough, only two of were for my book club, although there are others on the list that we’ve all read independently and so we’ve talked about them anyway.

So what makes a good book club read? This is what Woman and Home has to say:  ‘A great book club book is one That you don’t simply read and then place back on your shelf to gather dust, but thrust into the hands of your friends and family, urging them that they must read it, too, because you are absolutely desperate to talk about it with someone. These are the stories that lend themselves perfectly to being the very best book club books.’

I would agree with most of that, and I certainly hope that it’s the reason The Flight of Cornelia Blackwood often comes up as a great book club read. But I think another important factor is that  there needs to be something a little unusual, possibly even controversial about the book; something that’s going to spark a good discussion.

In my opinion, great book club book is not necessarily one that everyone has loved. It’s great to read a book that everyone loves, but it’s no good if you then just have another glass of wine,and says, ‘Cheers, great book, we’re all agreed.’

The discussions

There are seven of us in our book club, and while there certainly have been books we’ve all loved and have had great discussions about – Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus springs to mind, also, The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller. There have also been books that we’ve felt to be deeply flawed but which we’ve still enjoyed reading, and which have sparked long and interesting discussions.  Then there are the books we disagreed on, the ‘I loved it’ versus the ‘I couldn’t even finish it’ books.  It is perhaps these books that have sparked some of the longest and most stimulating discussions!

Once, we even had reasonably interesting (though obviously fairly short) discussion about a book we all hated so much we actually sacked it off before we even met for book club!  The very fact that we broke the ‘no discussion before the meeting’ rule is an indication of how much we hated this book. And no,  I’m not going to name it, because why would you?

our book club

A few other details about our book club: we usually meet in pubs so that no-one Feels they have to ‘host’ the meeting. Although we do meeting each other’s houses from time to time – if it’s tricky for someone to get out, for example, or special occasions such as Christmas or someone’s birthday. At the moment, of course, we are meeting virtually, through Skype. It’s still fun, and we still drink wine ( of course) but it’s not quite the same.

We take it in turns to choose the books, and we always supply a choice of three or four. Then everyone votes, and we go for the favorite.

I am enormously flattered that all of my books have been considered good ‘bookclub books’,  with  The Flight of Cornelia Blackwood perhaps being the most discussed, and The Things We Never Said  coming a close second.

I love hearing from book clubs who discussed my books – especially if they really liked them! I’ve also loved being invited To come along to book clubs and give a talk/answer questions about my books. Obviously, this was back in the days when we didn’t have to socially distance – let’s hope those days return very soon!

In the meantime, I’d love to know what you think makes a great book club book!

If you’d like to know more about me and my work, Please have a good look around my website

 

THE WRITING LIFE – new website, new novel, new ideas…

Hello! This is the first blog post via my brand-new website. I’m pleased to have a ‘proper’ website at last, and I’m enormously indebted to my clever son for building it for me, and for being patient with my dithering over how it should look and work in terms of links, pages etc. I think I’m finally getting to grips with how to update it and add content now, so hopefully it’ll have stuff to interest both readers and writers.

So, the first thing to report is that the e-book version of my debut novel, The Things We Never Said has been picked for the Kindle summer sale promotion, which means that for a few weeks only, it’s just 99p!

 click here to buy

The Things We Never Said will always have a special place in my heart, partly because it was my first novel, but also because it brought me so many lovely emails and loyal readers. And I still totally love that cover!

It’s been a busy time for me recently, because not only have I been working on this website as well as promoting my third novel, What She Lost, I’ve also been finishing my fourth book, as yet untitled. I’m very excited about this new novel, because for the first time, I’ve felt confident about the story, almost from the word go.

I wrote the first draft in four months, and I’ve spent several more months redrafting. I submitted the new version to my agent and editor a few weeks ago, and I’m delighted to report that they loved it. There were a few points that still needed addressing, but these only took a couple of weeks, and now it’s off to the copy editor. There will be more tweaks and twiddles – I’m sure the copy editor will find plenty of typos,  repetitions, inconsistencies, and other problems I haven’t spotted, but after that, it’s done and dusted. Apart from coming up with the right title, of course.

Titles. Oh dear. Is anyone else as rubbish at titles as I am? I’ve come up with a few for this book, as has my agent, but nothing feels quite right yet. Sometimes, something jumps into my head and I think, ‘that’s it!’ and then the next day, I think ‘that’s awful – what was I thinking of?’

But apart from the title, there’s not much more for me to do, so I’m now trying to come up with an idea for my next novel.  I gathered together some of my notebooks from the last couple of years, together with a folder full of random notes scribbled on scraps of paper, and I spent several hours reading through them.

It’s amazing how the same things seem to crop up over and over again – the same themes, same situations. Thing is, a theme and a situation  does not a story make! And not only that, but I need to decide which theme, which situation I’m going to go with, and then I need to develop it. My love of cooking means I’m always using  food analogies, so here’s  one about finding a new idea for a novel: I have a few basic ingredients, but not enough to know what I’m going to cook. I need to decide what dish I want to make, then I need to gather the rest of the ingredients, and most importantly of all, I need to work out a recipe.  I suppose I’m also wondering whether to stick with the sort of dish I usually cook, or whether to make something a little different.

I envy writers who are constantly bubbling with ideas and can’t wait to finish one book in order to get on the next. I have no trouble coming up with situations and characters, but as to what actually happens and how it will all end is a huge struggle. It seems that every promising storyline quickly hits a wall on which the words THAT WON’T WORK  are written in six foot high letters. Any tips or advice gratefully received!

Right, back to the notebooks…