Group report

We are up to full complement again. Our latest recruit, Eileen, joined us in August for our last meeting in my garden. In September it became a bit chilly and we moved indoors with doors and windows open where we have been since.

We have continued to read a variety of books. In August we read ‘Milkman’ by Anna Burns, a book set in Northern Ireland while The Troubles raged in the 70s. It was the winner of the Man Booker Prize in 2018 and shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2019. However, the majority of us failed to gain enjoyment from it and found it a rather depressing read.

September gave us ‘The Romanov Ransome' by Clive Cussler. This was one of Cussler’s ‘Fargo’ adventures and enjoyed by the majority of us, though some more so than others. When a kidnapping captures the attention of treasure-hunting team, Sam and Remi Fargo, they find themselves on the trail of the legendary Romanov Ransom - a Russian fortune stolen by the Nazis during World War II. Hunting a neo-Nazi faction across Europe, North Africa and South America is their greatest quest yet. They must prevent the rise of a Fourth Reich, or witness the resurgence of the greatest evil of the modern world.

In October it was the turn of ‘A History of Wolves’ by Emily Fridlund. Fourteen-year-old Linda lives with her parents in an ex-commune beside a lake in the beautiful, austere backwoods of Northern Minnesota. The other girls at school call Linda 'Freak' or 'Commie'. Her parents mostly leave her to her own devices whilst the other inhabitants have grown up and moved on. So when the perfect family - mother, father and their little boy, Paul - move into the cabin across the lake, Linda insinuates her way into the family's orbit. She begins to babysit Paul and feels that she finally has a place to belong. But something isn't right. Drawn into secrets she doesn't understand, Linda must make a choice. But how can a girl with no real knowledge of the world understand what the consequences will be? This was another short-listed for 2017’s Man Booker Prize for Fiction and although we all agreed the descriptive phraseology was excellent, most of us felt it wasn’t a title we would wish to read again nor any other books by this author.

Now in November we are reading ‘In the Full Light of the Sun’ by Clare Clark. This follows the fortunes of three Berliners caught up in a devastating scandal of 1930s Germany. It tells the story of Emmeline, a wayward young art student; Julius, an anxious middle-aged art expert; and a mysterious art dealer named Rachmann, who are at the heart of Weimar Berlin at its hedonistic, politically turbulent apogee and are whipped up into excitement over the surprising discovery of 32 previously unknown paintings by Vincent van Gogh. Based on a true story, unfolding through the subsequent rise of Hitler and the Nazis, this gripping tale is about beauty and justice and the truth that may be found when our most treasured beliefs are revealed as illusions. Brilliant on authenticity, vanity and self-delusion, it is a novel for our times. It remains to be seen at our group meeting in December whether we all agree.

At the u3a Open Day in September, Thelma Cook and I, who formed the very first Reading Group, or rather Literature Group as it then was back in 2006, ‘manned’ the ‘Reading Groups’ table. There was much interest and by the end of the day an A4 sheet of paper was filled with names of people wishing to join such a Group. Since this day one new group has been started - we all wish it well.

Pauline Brice