Seaside Book Club –
It was great to see some new faces out at our October meeting, alongside many regulars; in fact it was our best attended meeting so far! We were discussing Anosh Irani’s The Cripple and his Talismans, a strange and darkly comic story set in Bombay. Irani is a Canadian writer who grew up in India and it was obvious that he knew his setting very well. The city and its inhabitants are boldly drawn with many evocative (some deeply unpleasant) images that will stay with our group of readers.
We discussed how Irani’s storytelling was inaccessible to some: not all of the group made it through to the end of the book. It’s a challenging novel to summarise, too, as the magical realism style means that strange and fantastical things happen around every corner as the protagonist’s literal quest to find his lost arm becomes a figurative search for meaning, redemption and acceptance against a grotesque fairytale backdrop.
Those book group members who have travelled to India certainly felt the book resonated with some of their own experiences. The layers of India are well represented from extreme poverty to great wealth, and they felt there was some truth to the graphic representations of Bombay. It is a very visual book. Irani’s great skill in capturing a scene must stem in part from his experience as a playwright; when there was dialogue between characters the book seemed to especially come alive. There are some really funny passages if you don’t mind taking your laughs from bleak extremity. One member brought the suggestion that the story may have engaged readers more had it been presented as a graphic novel: we were intrigued by the idea.
The Cripple and his Talismans wasn’t a stand-out success as some of our 2017 reads have been, but there was lots to discuss which made it a good book club selection. It was perhaps inevitable that we ended up on the path of discussing other books that had clearly influenced Irani, books which covered some of the same themes such as Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance. One of the things that excites me about our reading community is when one person will mention a book and I see several others note it down. We take inspiration and ideas from each other’s reading; the book selection for the month is just a jumping-off point.
Book Club Q & A
Q How do you choose the books?
A The book selection is a little down to luck – each month the Sidney/North Saanich Library tries to get hold of a book club set for us to use. Availability is based on demand. So far we have had a choice between several titles each month, and have voted which one to use. Generally this will mean that people can leave the meeting with a copy of next month’s read. Book Club members can suggest titles they would be interested in reading from the VIRL book club sets list:
Q How do you structure the meeting?
A Members bring questions or discussion points with them, written down. These are put in a “hat” and drawn from to keep the discussion going. It leads to diverse questions and no need for anyone to feel self-conscious. The meeting is facilitated by Seaside Magazine’s Deborah and Sidney/North Saanich Library’s Virginia.
Q How do I stay up to date with Book Club happenings?
A Sign up for our mailing list and you’ll get meeting reminders by email. And follow us on Facebook to see everything that’s happening at Seaside Magazine!
Our last meeting of the year will be Wednesday November 15 at the Sidney/North Saanich library’s Nell Horth room, 6:30 to 8 p.m. We will discuss Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett. We’ll take a break in December then start up again in January!