Report on The Page Turners Meeting - Meeting, Thursday, 5 July 2018

It is said that everyone has a novel in them. In fact there are many variations on that idea; some listed as inspirational quotes! Unfortunately the idea of everyone being able to a)write a novel b) write it well and c) write something that others want to read rather narrows down the universal claim to only the select few that can pull it off.
We may all have a story in us, usually family related and often embellished. Characters grow out of an uncle/aunt grandparent/sister /mother etc. But rarely does ones family provide all the characters, the setting, the chronology or the suspense that keeps a reader fully engaged. If this was the case we would all write an autobiography because our lives would be so compelling that publishers would be queuing up to tempt us to put fingers to keyboard. But, not even high profile figures have the necessary charisma to carry off a story, I recently started reading the biography of a well-known TV presenter, to find that his life was not so well lived as to make me give up my time to read about it. I abandoned the book part way in.
Why such a long preamble? It’s by way of a lead in to the books we reviewed at our July meeting; two books with the solidity of place and background that should have given them a head start; strong foundations from which to launch a story.
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry draws on a well-known fable, news of which is housed in the British Library http://access.bl.uk/item/viewer/ark:/81055/vdc_100026733834.0x000001?&_ga=2.69753046.759863858.1531927838-1139620170.1531927838#ark:/81055/vdc_100026733842.0x0000080 Hyperlink inserted if you wish to follow this up.
Unfortunately Sarah Perry decided to throw science, religion, socialism, feminism and medicine into the mix. All huge subjects in their own right and in this story all largely underdeveloped and meandering. Did I say that there was a love story too? Actually at least four love stories were included. No wonder that one of our group commented that he book was like a packet of Dolly Mixtures.
Perhaps the reader should be content with just being introduced to these issues or perhaps the writer did not or could not advance the story of the Essex Serpent because there was not enough material available and the reader had to be led along by other half stories.
This book received an average score of 6 from us. Caveat: There is a huge 4/5 star following for this book. Just read the reviews on line.
News from Nowhere by Jane Austin was the second book under consideration. This was an insufficiently formed book about a North Wales family living before and during the First World War. If Sarah Perry scattered her story with too much, then Jane Austin did not have enough yeast to raise her story above the procedural. Build around family letters and poems written from The Front, the family back home were fictionalised in their lives and reactions to the news they received. Many of the characters and situations were underdeveloped with one group member feeling that the book was an immature way of dealing with a serious subject.
There was recognition that the book was easy to read, as it was quite light despite the topic under scrutiny. Another group member added to this view when she said that she could not put the book down.
The final insightful comment likened the story to a Sunday teatime drama, nice to curl up with on a wet afternoon but ….
A fair 7 was awarded by the group.
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