Book Addiction

Seductive merchants of the mind

Reading Group Newsletter No 2 (May ’15)

May’s Read: The Distance by Helen Giltrow (Orion Books, May 2014)

Helen Giltrow The Distance Hardback coverHelen Giltrow’s impressive debut novel, The Distance, was thoroughly chewed over as we munched our way through always delicious food served up by Light on the Common at May’s meet up of Wimbledon Village Reading Group. By general consensus, it was held to be a thoroughly enjoyable read, more thought-provoking and offering more of substance than the average thriller (which is good because sometimes thrillers offer great entertainment but little to talk over). Conversation prompted by The Distance ranged widely, from the blurred lines of right and wrong and how different people come to difference judgements in the same scenarios depending on their own moral code; and the scary aspects of the novel presented by its clever subtlety in juxtaposing a (hopefully) incredible, horrific institution against the safe and comforting, but very real, background of London life. There was a sense that the book would work well, perhaps even better, as a film and that the various unresolved tensions between characters begged a sequel. Helen Giltrow has kindly since confirmed that there will indeed be a Charlotte Alton 2 and I’m guessing, from the response last night, that many members of the group will be eager to get their hands on it when it arrives.

A full review of The Distance by Helen Giltrow, reflecting our discussion last night.

A few events that members may be interested in going to…

Crime in the CourtCrime in the Court, Goldsboro Books, Cecil Court, 25 June 2015
Helen Giltrow is among a host of leading crime writers slated to take part in “Crime in the Court” (the court in question being Cecil Court, just off Charing Cross Road) which is being hosted by Goldsboro Books on 25 June 2015, part of a series of events to mark ‘independent booksellers week’. Crime in the Court, now in its fourth year, is an informal event enabling crime fiction fans to meet the authors who entertain and intrigue them most. Other crime writers expected to take part include Elizabeth Hayes, Susan Wilkens, William Shaw, Elena Forbes, Robin Blake, and Sabine Durrant, with others expected to be added. The event runs from 6.00pm to 9.00pm and costs £5.00. Tickets and further details can be found on Goldsboro Books.
If you decide to go, leave a comment here or on the Book Group’s website, so that you can hook up with other members who may be going.

Man Booker International Prize Readings, British Library

Man Booker International Prize Shortlisted Authors 2015On Sunday 17 May, the British Library is bringing together six of the 10 writers shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize for an afternoon of readings and interviews, hosted by Guardian Books editor, Claire Armistead. The writers attending are Hoda Barakat, Maryse Conde, Mia Couto, Fanny Howe, Laslo Krasznahorkai and Marlene van Niekerk.

The event runs from 2.30pm for 90 minutes, tickets £15pp, bookable on line via the British Library here.

If you decide to go, leave a comment here or on the Book Group’s website, so that you can hook up with other members who may be going.
Amnesia and Other Stories – Peter Carey in conversation with Hermione Lee
19 May, 7.00pm, Bloomsbury Theatre

Peter CareyWe also talked about Peter Carey last night. By chance, I saw this event being advertising when I got home and thought others may be interested: In conversation with biographer and critic Hermione Lee, Carey reflects on how Australia has forfeited democracy by ‘brown-nosing’ the CIA, why privacy should be an inalienable right, and what it is like to write about Australian politics while living in New York. He also considers Amnesia, his latest novel, in the context of one of the most acclaimed bodies of work in contemporary fiction, including Booker winners Oscar and Lucinda and True History of the Kelly Gang.

Tickets are £10, £8/£7 (concessions) and can be booked via

This event is hosted by the Royal Society of Literature, the Australia / New Zealand Festival of Literature and the Arts, and Intelligent Life magazine.

Forthcoming Book Group Meet Ups

Nine Lives by William DalrympleThe book to read for our May meeting is Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India by William Dalrymple. We’ll be meeting, as usual, at 7.30pm on the last Thursday of the month, 28th May, at Light on the Common in Wimbledon Village. All members, new and old, always welcome.

We also choose the book to read for the June meeting last night – it is The Incarnations by Susan Barker which, according to the synopsis provided by the publisher, is “a thrilling journey through a thousand years of obsession and betrayal” and a “most extraordinary work of imagination…a hallucinatory ride”. Set in a Beijing holding it’s breathe for the start of the 2008 Olympics, taxi-driving Wang navigates the city’s streets feeling barely alive. That is until he finds a letter in his cab, a letter which interrupts the daily round. He’s being watched. The Incarnations Susan BarkerBy someone who claims to have known him for 1000 years. Other letters follow, whisking Wang away from modern Beijing and into a time before, to spirit-bride in the Tang Dynasty, to slaves of the Mongol invasion, to concubines plotting regicide, to the Opium wars and the Red Guard of the Cultural Revolution.

A strong plug was also made for Kevin Wark’s Brought to Justice to take the slot of June; but the balance of opinion was that we didn’t want to read another thriller quite so soon.

The June meeting (25 June, 7.30 pm) will, unusually, be held in the garden on 36 Lingfield Road, Wimbledon Village in part in the hopes of enjoying some summer sunshine but also because it’s almost impossible to get a table in the Village in the run up to Wimbledon Fortnight and, even if you can, you certainly can’t make yourself heard in a restaurant or café!

Recommended Reading

Bookclub discussions are always littered with recommendations and references to other intriguing sounding books: however tempting they might be, there’s only a limited number of bookclub reading slots each year. But we decided last night that it would be a good idea to try to capture these ideas, so here goes.

1. Brought to Justice by Kevin Wark
2. Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
3. The Establishment and How They Get Away With It by Owen Jones
4. The Bhuddia, Jeff and Me: A Modern Story by Edward Canfor-Dumas
5. The Bees by Laline Paul
If you have a moment, could those who made these suggestions add a few words (by means of the comments below) about why they think others may enjoy the book and I’ll try to collate over time (or get better at taking notes at the time!).

The Fine Print

Buying Books and Book Group fees

Wimbledon Village Reading Group is free for all. Unlike many other book clubs, there is no fee to join and no fee for coming to meetings.

Wimbledon Village Book Group Meetings

Wimbledon Village Book Group always meets on the last Thursday in the month, at 7.30pm, at Light on the Common (formerly known as Light Café), 48 High Street, Wimbledon Village, London, SW19 5AX (other than in June when Wimbledon Fortnight forces other arrangements). The restaurant is very relaxed and informal. It serves delicious, often locally-sourced food, does remarkably good smoothies and is fully licensed with a decent wine list, but there is absolutely no requirement for you to eat or drink if you don’t want to.

New members and guests always welcome. Come along – just look out for the table with books on the table, or ask the staff who know who we are! You can join the book group here, but you don’t have to join on line to participate. It is helpful though if you can let me know if you are planning on coming to a meeting so that I can forewarn Light on the Common about number.


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