Report on The Page Turners Meeting - Meeting, Thursday, 7 June 2018

We were on a bit of a catch up at our meeting on the 7th June. Due to an earlier postponed get together we had two books to talk about. Two very different books from different genres, but with death and dying at their centre.
One story had a huge body count with a fast moving bish bash bosh account of trained killers wreaking havoc. At first glance, David Baldacci’s No Man’s Land may seem a highly improbable concept of a man whose brain and body had been altered and customised to deal with the American army’s idea of a super soldier. It gives the writer a great excuse to heap super power upon super power with no blame attached to the man doing the killing. David Baldacci’s hero in this book, John Puller, appears in other stories and it is possible to follow his life themes throughout the series. Though I understand that Baldacci has written many books outside of this persona too.
No Man’s Land is a fast read. Not a short book, but, the rapid actions that heap one on top of another seem to make the readers eyes move faster to reach the next cliff hanger. It is an American setting that is no longer that unfamiliar to most English readers now, though the Army references might cause some bewilderment. The scores from the group members bobbed along the mid-range, with the average coming out at 6.1.
Margaret Drabble’s The Dark Flood Rises also has dying as its theme. Though dying here is at a slower pace and focuses on the lives and thoughts of those who have/ about to reach their three score years and ten. This is a more contemplative view of dying with the characters being observed and observing themselves as they advance in years. As one of our group remarked it’s a book where nothing much seems to happen. It’s a meandering story without the structure of chapters. But does real life have chapters? Do we not tend to wander between incidents in our lives?
As we reach older age how are we going to react? We don’t have the super human powers - feel no pain and the ability to climb walls without handholds – of the protagonist in Baldacci’s novel. Will we adopt the “Keep Calm and Carry On” approach to life?
The story covers a large geographical area – West Midlands, London, the lowlands of Cambridge and the Canary Islands. The real flood in Norfolk is mirrored by a potential flood in Lanzarote and this highlights that lives intertwine across continents and that dying happens everywhere. The characters are not your average small town people, since novels have to have interesting stories to build around less than ordinary people. Some of thought the characters were believable and when massaged by the intelligent writing of Margaret Drabble, lifted dour subject matter to one of reflective thought.
The scores highlighted the mixed feelings that this book evoked. More rated the book as a 4 than the one member who rated it as a 9. Overall an average of 5.6 was achieved. The final comment from one member being that the sequel could be called The Undertakers Handbook!
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