There were two meetings of the Maida Vale Book Group in September, one at the beginning and one at the end of the month.
The first meeting discussed Philippa Gregory’s historical novel The other queen. It recounts three years in the life of Mary, Queen of Scots, who has fled Scotland and sought sanctuary form her cousin Elizabeth I, only to be kept as a de facto prisoner as a “guest” of George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, and his wife, Bess of Hardwick. The story is told from the respective viewpoints of Mary, Talbot and Bess, with fateful repercussions for all three.
Reaction to the book was mixed. “Interesting but dry” was one response. One reader had grown tired of the endless intrigue, while another had been fascinated by the character of Mary.
In contrast there was uniform praise for the book discussed at the late September meeting, David Mitchell’s Black Swan Green. It recounts thirteen months in the life of Jason Taylor, between his twelfth and thirteenth birthdays, told from his point of view as he traverses the strange territory between childhood and adolescence in rural Worcestershire in 1982, We follow him as he deals with the breakdown of his parents’ relationship and peer group pressure to conform, while making increasingly desperate attempts to hide his sensitive and artistic nature. A vivid and moving read – particularly if, like me, you happen to be the parent of a twelve year old boy…
The group meets for the next time on 11 November at 5.15pm, when we will be discussing Mark Haddon’s A spot of bother.