Sunday, 17 April 2011
Summer School ~ 2011
Well, last year, I decided to do something about it. It seemed to me that if I felt this way there must be others with the same desires and the same problems meeting them. I began by canvasing members of my U3A group to see what interest I could gather there and before I knew it I had a group of a dozen other avid readers who were all keen to see if we couldn't put something together for a little less in the way of financial layout.
What I eventually devised was a week in which we met on three afternoons, the Monday, Wednesday and Friday, to discuss three separate, but linked, books. We met in a different person's house on each occasion and someone different led each discussion. That way no one was asked to take on too much of the burden of hosting or of preparation. We all dropped 50p into a saucer on the way out every time we meet to cover the cost of tea and biscuits and as a consequence the week set us back by the grand sum of £1.50 a head. It was a roaring success. We started on the Monday with Kate Summerscale's The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, moved on to Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone and finished up the week with Andrew Taylor's The American Boy. By the Friday meeting we were so involved with the books and with our comparison of the treatment of crime in the nineteenth century that I had to force people to leave so that Jen could have her home back.
Needless to say, we are repeating the experience this year and running a music equivalent as well and the time has come for me to put together lists of possible literary trios so that this year's group can decide what they would like to read. I'm going to follow the same pattern as last summer when I offered five sets of three books and asked people to rank them one to five in order of preference. I then totalled the marks for each set and the one with the lowest score was chosen. In fact, it was a very close run thing last year and four of the trios pushed each other hard. That makes it easier this time round because I can retain the three losers on the list. There was one set that no one was interested in, so that will have to be replaced and I need a final group to fill in for those we actually read last year.
Choosing the books is more than half the fun. There are some criteria I have to abide by. Everything has to be easily and cheaply available and we don't want anything too heavyweight. This is supposed to be fun, after all. Other than that, the literary world is my oyster. This is where I've got to.
Groves of Academe
The Secret History ~ Donna Tart
Gaudy Night ~ Dorothy L Sayers
Nice Work ~ David Lodge
Then and Now
Ghostwalk ~ Rebecca Stott
A Secret Alchemy ~ Emma Darwin
The House on the Strand ~ Daphne du Maurier
The Regeneration Trilogy
Regeneration ~ Pat Barker
The Eye in the Door ~ Pat Barker
The Ghost Road ~ Pat Barker
221B Baker Street and Beyond
The Hound of the Baskervilles ~ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Final Solution ~ Michael Chabon
Arthur and George ~ Julian Barnes
The Master ~ Colm Toibin
The Hours ~ Michael Cunningham
Girl in a Blue Dress ~ Gaynor Arnold
The first three are the runners up from last year. The first and third speak for themselves. The second comprises three books that all work in two different time periods. The first new group is one I've put together from books that have something to do with either Sherlock Holmes or his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the second (for which I desperately need to find a better title!) is made up of books that fictionalise aspects of a writer's life.
Now, here's where you come in. Are there any obvious contenders for those last two groups that I've missed? I don't want to put one of the Mary Russell books into the Sherlock Holmes set. I know the people who will be participating and I don't think it would work. But, are there other re-imaginings of Holmes' adventures? And what about other books that fictionalise authors? I would have loved to include the new David Lodge, A Man of Parts, which is about H G Wells, but it's still only in hardback. Any suggestions will be gratefully received before I have to finalise the list at the end of the week.