I am glad everyone liked Garp -
Here are my 3 suggestions for this month:
Samarkand: Amin Maalouf
Accused of mocking the inviolate codes of Islam, the Persian poet and sage Omar Khayyam fortuitously finds sympathy with the very man who is to judge his alleged crimes. Recognising genius, the judge decides to spare him and gives him instead a small, blank book, encouraging him to confine his thoughts to it alone.
Thus beginds the seamless blend of fact and fiction that is Samarkand. Vividly re-creating the history of the manuscript of the Rubaiyaat of Omar Khayyam, Amin Maalouf spans continents and centuries with breathtaking vision: the dusky exoticism of 11th-century Persia, with its poetesses and assassins; the same country's struggles nine hundred years later, seen through the eyes of an American academic obsessed with finding the original manuscript ; and the fated maiden voyage of the Titanic, whose tragedy led to the Rubaiyaat's final resting place - all are brought to life with keen assurance by this gifted and award-winning writer.
The Lodger, a novel: Louisa Treger
Dorothy Richardson is existing just above the poverty line, doing secretarial work at a dentist's office and living in a seedy boarding house in Bloomsbury, when she is invited to spend the weekend with a childhood friend. Jane has recently married a writer who is hovering on the brink of fame. His name is H.G. Wells, or Bertie, as they call him.
Bertie appears unremarkable at first. But then Dorothy notices his grey-blue eyes taking her in, openly signaling approval. He tells her he and Jane have an agreement which allows them the freedom to take lovers, although Dorothy can tell her friend would not be happy with that arrangement.
Not wanting to betray Jane, yet unable to draw back, Dorothy free-falls into an affair with Bertie. Then a new boarder arrives at the house—beautiful Veronica Leslie-Jones—and Dorothy finds herself caught between Veronica and Bertie. Amidst the personal dramas and wreckage of a militant suffragette march, Dorothy finds her voice as a writer.
His Bloody Project: Graeme Macrae Burnet
The year is 1869. A brutal triple murder in a remote community in the Scottish Highlands leads to the arrest of a young man by the name of Roderick Macrae. A memoir written by the accused makes it clear that he is guilty, but it falls to the country s finest legal and psychiatric minds to uncover what drove him to commit such merciless acts of violence. Was he mad? Only the persuasive powers of his advocate stand between Macrae and the gallows.
just the four of us tonight - including new member Stu, welcome!
Not an awful lot of enthusiasm for Don't look now, which didn't quite grab anyone's imagination - lukewarm marks from 3 to 6. Comments along the lines of too formulaic and predictable, somewhat dated (although must have been thrilling when it came out).
Our vote for the May book went to His bloody project, by Graeme Macrae Burnet.
As for April, when we will talk about Philip Roth's Operation Shylock: a confession, the third Monday of April happens to be Easter Monday and most of us are likely to be away then. We have booked a table for the fourth Monday of April, exceptionally, that's Monday 24th April. Feel free to change that booking to another day in the third week if that's more convenient. We just made the booking to ensure we had one sorted.
Sorry I missed it, I was all set to get there and then got distracted. Anyhow, agree with the general observation of it being formulaic, once you read one story the others are quite predictable. It was a very good movie though!
Me Cheetah - The Autobiography
The incredible, moving and hilarious story of Cheeta the Chimp, simian star of the big screen, on a behind-the-scenes romp through the golden years of Hollywood.
The greatest Hollywood Tarzan, Johnny Weissmuller, died in 1984. Maureen O'Sullivan, his Jane, died in 1998. Weissmuller's son, who first played Boy in the 1939 film ‘Tarzan Finds a Mate’, has gone too. But Cheeta the Chimp, who starred with them all, is alive and well, retired in Palm Springs as an abstract painter. At the incredible age of seventy-six, he is by far the oldest living chimpanzee ever recorded.
Now, in this extraordinary debut novel, James Lever uncovers the astonishing tale of Cheeta…
Cheeta was just a baby when snatched from the Liberian jungle in 1932, by the great animal importer Henry Trefflich, who went on to supply NASA with its 'Monkeys for Space' programme. That same year, Cheeta appeared in ‘Tarzan the Ape Man’, and in 1934 ‘Tarzan and His Mate’, in which he famously stole the clothes from a naked O'Sullivan, dripping wet from an underwater swimming scene with Weissmuller.
Full of humour, wit and emotion, James Lever’s novel tells the truly unique tale of a monkey stolen from deepest Africa and forced to make a living among the fake jungles and outrageous stars of Hollywood’s golden age. Cheeta’s tinseltown journey extends beyond the screen, to his struggle with drink and addiction to cigars, his breakthrough with a radical new form of abstract painting, 'Apeism', his touching relationship with his retired nightclub-performing grandson Jeeta, now a considerable artist in his own right, his fondness for hamburgers and his battle in later life with diabetes, and, through thick and thin, carer Dan Westfall, his loving companion who has helped this magnificent monkey come to terms with his peculiar past.
Funny, moving – and so searingly honest, you know it has to be fiction – ‘Me Cheeta’ transports us back to a lost Hollywood. Cheeta is a real star, and this is the greatest celebrity non-memoir of recent times…
The Complete Short Stories
The buttoned-up world of the British upper classes is exploded by the brilliance, wit and audacity of Saki's bomb-like stories. In 'The Open Window' an imaginative teenager gives a visitor the fright of his life. In 'The Unrest Cure' the ordered home of a respectable country gent is rocked to its core. And 'Laura' expresses the hope of revenge via reincarnation. For punchlines, twists, satire and pure mirth, Saki's stories are second-to-none.
Henry Wilt, tied to a daft job and a domineering wife, has just been passed over for promotion yet again. Ahead of him at the Polytechnic stretch years of trying to thump literature into the heads of plasterers, joiners, butchers and the like. And things are no better at home where his massive wife, Eva, is given to boundless and unpredictable fits of enthusiasm - for transcendental meditation, yoga or the trampoline.
But if Wilt can do nothing about his job, he realises he can do something about his wife - and as each day passes, his fantasies grow more murderous and more rea
sorry I couldn't make it to the chat on Operation Shylock. I thoroughly enjoyed the book (mischievous and superbly witty I thought) but there was just too much work to catch up on after my trip for me to be able to join you all. How did it go? Did you like it?
As for the book for June, my vote goes to Me Cheeta - the autobiography as well.
See you in May.