Category Archives: Book group

November Book Group

We met on Saturday evening to discuss ‘Things Fall Apart’ by Nigerian author, Chinua Achebe. This book was published in 1958 at the time when many Nigerians and other members of the Commonwealth were arriving in Britain. It sold over eight million copies and was translated into forty seven languages.  It  became the required reading in many schools and colleges.

The story is about Ohonkwo, an important man of the Igbo tribe in Eastern Nigeria. He  came to this position through his own  considerable efforts as a farmer,  his prowess as a wrestler, and his ambition to do well in the world.  Among the nine villages of his tribe, he was both respected and feared, unlike his father who was  considered a failure.

At this time, before the arrival of the Europeans,  the tribes lived by their own religious beliefs, farming methods, and codes of justice. When the Europeans arrived, Okonkwo was found to be an unyielding man of action and pride, which led to his downfall and ignominious death.

Looking back at Okonkwo’s life from a present day perspective, he seems to have been a cruel, proud, fearful man, a  hard taskmaster to his three wives and children. We learn about their everyday lives and attitudes when the two different civilisations collide.I am not going to tell you the story but I recommend this book to everyone interested in African history.

P. S. A foot note to the score that the bookclub members gave the book, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood: the members who had previously listened to it on audio revised their scores upwards when they read the text.

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OLD BAT at the October book group

I hosted this meeting in place of another member, I lent my flat and asked the others to bring a plate of food.  This was successful as every one brought some thing different.  I made my usual fruit trifle and some soda bread. The evening was interesting because some of us actually read the book while others listened to it on tapes or some other audio system. We discussed the book ‘All the Ugly and Wonderful Things’ by Bryn Greenwood. Because we live in Cardiff in South Wales some of the readers thought that the author was a man because the name Bryn is a common christian name here. They had not looked at the photograph on the back cover.

The people who read, other than listened to, the book seemed to like it the most. The story is about two children in the USA being dragged up by their parents who are heavily into the illicit use and manufacture of heavy drugs. The young girl is neglected by both parents but from the age of eight is championed by an ex convict, Kellen, of part native Indian background who takes her to school every day, making sure that she has shoes on her feet and generally does all the things the parents should do. Of course the girl Wavy grows up and after the shocking murder of her parents, the story takes a blacker twist. The story deals with a strong bond developing between the older man Kellen, and the young Wavy, which comes up for public scrutiny. I will not tell you any more, but I thoroughly recommend this book. The readers gave it nine out of ten, while the audio listeners gave it eight.

The next book to read is ‘Things fall apart’ by Chinua Achebe’

Our book group is friendly, everyone is encouraged to give their opinion. We meet alternately in each other’s house or flat, the host having brought four or five books which we had voted on the month before. We then read the winning choice. We alway have a luscious tea afterwards provided by the host, with plenty of chat, putting the world to rights etc. Unfortunately members are moving on with their jobs, therefore our numbers are falling. We would like some new members. The group is mixed, men and women, old, middle-aged and young. We would welcome anyone interested in books.If this appeals to you please leave a message on The Old Bat’s blog.

OLD BAT at the SEPTEMBER BOOK GROUP

The GROUP met early on a Sunday evening to discuss ‘Elizabeth is Missing’ by Emma Healey. We met at this time because the autumn term started the next day and we always have a couple of children coming with their parents.

‘Elizabeth is Missing’ is a mystery novel about a lovely old lady called Maud who was in her seventies, living on her own with the help of family and paid ‘carers’ who came in every day. Maud had dementia. Her daughter, Helen, lived nearby with her granddaughter, Katey. All tried to make Maud’s life as happy as possible. This was very difficult because Maud was obsessed by the fact that her best friend, Elizabeth, was missing. She could not find her anywhere. She enquired about Elizabeth’s whereabouts of everyone she met, including Elizabeth’s son, and at frequent visits to the police station. No one gave her a believable answer, instead becoming annoyed by the continual questioning and the searching of Elizabeth’s house and garden.

When Maud was young she had a beautiful older sister called Sukey who was married to a small time criminal. One day she mysteriously disappeared, never to be seen or heard of again. I will not spoil the book by revealing the story but I will tell you that during Maud’s search for Elizabeth, she finds the truth about Sukey’.

The Group discussed the book long and hard. We talked about the plot but, most of all, we discussed the subject of dementia. All of us knew of a friend or relative who had suffered or was still suffering from this terribly frightening disease. The book describes very well the feelings of Maud, her relatives and the ‘carers’ who are paid to keep her safe. This is not easy, because Maud continually escapes to look for Elizabeth. This worries everyone. It is not all bad. All do their best to make the situation bearable. This is particularly true of Sukey who seemed to handle the situation better than anyone. I thought that this book was written from experience, not research alone, as it described the situation so well.

When discussing with the Group how dementia changes the sufferers and the lives of those around them, I became quite emotional, remembering my friend who was a victim. I had never been a patient person so the experience of living with a sufferer taught me a big lesson. My friend had been part of my family for many years when this horrible disease crept very slowly up on her without any one noticing. As in the book we had to answer the same questions time after time. We also had to supervise her whereabouts, otherwise she could get lost and have no idea of her location.

My friend was not ill in any other way. She was strong and active. The saddest part to bear was that I lost my friend, as her character completely changed. Having been a quiet person, she gradually lost all inhibitions and behaved as if she did not particularly like me.  There was nothing I could do to change the situation, which was upsetting.

The family looked after her for many years until she needed the nursing care that we could not provide. The day she left was a sad day, as I had promised to look after her in my home forever (a promise that should never have been made, because it simply could not be kept). We visited her often in different nursing homes. Because she was so active, she was difficult to place. Eventually she lived in a special mental hospital where she could walk up and down the long corridors day and night. It was not long before she did not recognise any of the family. She lived until she was well into her nineties.

I recommend this book, ‘Elizabeth is Missing’, as did most of the Book Group. We always score the books out of ten. We gave it 9 –  one of the highest scores ever.

The evening ended with tea and wonderful cakes.

Our next book is ‘ALL the UGLY and WONDERFUL THINGS’ by BRYN GREENWOOD

TAGS.   BOOK GROUP,’ELIZABETH IS MISSING, DEMENTIA, CHANGE OF CHARACTER, LOSS OF INHIBITION, NON STOP QUESTIONING,FRUSTRATING FOR BOTH SUFFERS AND CARERS, STRAIN ON RELATIONSHIPS AND FAMILIES affecting differentSUFFERS IN DIFFERENT WAYS,COMPLETE LOSS OF MEMORY,INCONTENANT,SOMETIMES VIOLENT BEHAVIOUR,AGGRESIVE,COMPLETLY CONFUSED.ACTIVE DAY AND NIGHT.

 

‘’OLD BAT hosts the BOOK GROUP’’

The Book Group have already chosen ‘Days without End’ by Sebastian Barry as the book to read and discuss this month. As I had put this book forward, among others, I am going to have to defend it; then provide a ‘high tea’ type meal to the members of the group, after our discussion.

When I first joined the Group, the host only had to provide ‘cakes’. Time has passed, some members come from work, needing a meal.. It has become a little more difficult since some have become Vegetarians, others, Vegans .

I have nothing against their beliefs, but being an old fashioned ‘country style’ cook, I find it hard to change my old recipes into Vegan ones. No ‘dairy ’products and ’no ‘eggs’, no ‘meat,’ in one case ‘no ‘sugar’

 

 

MENU

‘Tomato and red pepper soup’ suitable for all, with gluten free flat bread.

Houmous, with carrot and celery sticks, and flat bread.

A salmon and spinach quiche, with a green salad.

A raspberry and rhubarb crumble, for the Vegans, made of ground almonds, coconut flower sugar, nuts, almond butter and coconut flour. The old fashioned one made of sugar, butter and flour for the rest of us.

A big fruit trifle with custard and cream for those who dare to eat it. We are all looking after our cholesterol these days. We do allow ourselves a treat, now and again.

Tea or coffee.

When I was young, I would be able to cook this meal on the day of the meeting. Now that I am over 80 and disabled, I have to make use of my ‘freezer’ and prepare some parts of the dishes early. I have already made the crumble toppings, ready to cook.   They are in the ‘freezer’ with the prepared rhubarb. The raspberries will join them before the dish goes into the oven on the day of the meal. I will make the soup the night before, also the pastry base of the quiche. I will start making the trifle by taking a sponge base out of the ’freezer’ splitting it into two parts and spreading them with raspberry jam. I then soak this with raspberry jelly. The next day, when the jelly has set, I cover it with fruit, thick creamy custard and whipped cream.

I make crumbles regularly, but make trifles only for the friends that like them specially. Today is Thursday, two clear days before the meal on Sunday. I feel that I have taken on more than I can cope with. The mind is willing but the body has got a bit too feeble to cope. I

Give myself a stern lecture, ‘’ get cleaning the flat, and prepare for the cooking, just do the best you can.’’ I will tell you how it pans out later.

TWO DAYS LATER

 

The book group meeting has been and gone, I think that it was successful. I tried to make a good case for recommending the book ‘Day without End’ by Sebastian Barry’. Not all members agreed with me. One actually said that my brief précis was better than the actual book.

Other members liked the story about two penniless young men in the American army, fighting the War against the Indians led by ‘’Caught his Horse First’’. They then went straight into the Civil war on the Union side suffering the viciousness of ‘’ hand to hand combat ‘’ on a losing side. Eventually being taken prisoners. At this stage of the war both sides had no rations, just two pieces of corn bread a day.

No food at all for the black prisoner, he depended upon his friends to keep him alive. Eventually, Mr Lincoln agreed to an exchange of prisoners, so Thomas and John went back to the home they shared with a young Indian girl Winona, who they had adopted. Once they had gained their strength, Mr Lincoln wanted them to fight another battle against ‘‘Caught his Horse First’’ again.

This book is basically about the love between the young men and their love for the young Indian girl they adopted.

.They strived to do everything possible to protect her.

I am not going to say any more. You must read it for yourselves. Some of the battle scenes are hard to read, but they were a big part of the story which was savage the on both sides. Some things have not changed to this day.

The book is beautifully composed, fantastic descriptions of wonderful untamed countryside and the soldiers who fought their wars there.

The group discussed the book thoroughly. The one member did not like it at all.

Most did not like the war scenes but liked the rest of the book. I absolutely love this book and will read it again and again. The tenderness in the description of the relationships struck a chord with me. I even shed a few tears. I could have done without all that bloodshed, and starvation, unfortunately, that was a big part of the history of the period. The relationship between the three main characters, Handsome John Cole, wren like Thomas McNulty and Winona, the young Indian maid, is so cleverly and sympathetically drawn that they became very real to me. John and Thomas would have gladly sacrificed their lives for this young Indian girl, Winona.

After the discussion, we all enjoyed the meal that I had prepared. A good evening, shared with friends.