The Inaugural Curtis Brown Book Group – my first six months as a #CBBookGroupie

1 Jul

My first six months with the Curtis Brown Book Group are up, the six books allotted to me all read (some of them twice!). This is the first book group I’ve belonged to but I’m sure it won’t be the last. Aside from the delights of getting the chance to read some of these books before their general release, and of discussing the books (and tartan, tea and any number of other things) with the group members, there was the chance to chat online with the author of each book.

Reading is so often a solitary practice so one real benefit of these discussions was the opportunity to look back over what I’d so recently read with fresh eyes, to pick up on nuances that I hadn’t fully focused on first time around. Questions ranged from prose techniques, tense choices and approaches to plotting all the way through to whether we (and indeed the author) liked a particular character or not, and why. The discussions were quite infectious, one point spinning off into any number of others, with fascinating insights coming to light (like the ‘actually happened’ part of the story in The Rocks, or the cup of tea that was the birth of The Museum Of Things Left Behind – yes, Seni, I’m still waiting to hear that story!).

Having the writers along for these talks was a genuine pleasure and they certainly seemed to enjoy them as much as we did. So I’d like to express my thanks to Antonia Honeywell, Stuart Prebble, Tim Glencross, Seni Glaister, Peter Nichols and Anthony Trevelyan for being so enthused, open and honest about their inspiration, their work and their words. And of course for their books too!

Without Richard and Emma it wouldn’t have happened at all. They have been hosts supreme, providing books of the highest quality, guiding our monthly discussions with the gentlest of hands and filling those days between reading and discussing with tweets and blog-posts to keep us going. Thank you both for all your efforts.

Here are links to my reviews of the books we read.

The Ship by Antonia Honeywell

Published by W & N in Feb 2015 ISBN 9780297871521

You can find Antonia on twitter @antonia_writes and at her blog www.antoniahoneywell.com

The Insect Farm by Stuart Prebble

Published by Alma Books in March 2015 ISBN 9781846883545

You can find Stuart on twitter @stuartprebble and at his website http://www.stuartprebble.com

Barbarians by Tim Glencross

Published by John Murray in May 2014 ISBN 9781444788525

You can find Tim on twitter @ and at his website timglencross.com

The Museum Of Things Left Behind by Seni Glaister

Published by 4th Estate in May 2015 ISBN 9780008118952

You can find Seni on twitter @BookPeopleSeni

The Rocks by Peter Nichols

Published by Heron Books in Jan 2015 ISBN 9781848666368

You can find Peter on twitter @NicholsRocks

The Weightless World by Anthony Trevelyan

Published by Galley Beggar Press in June 2015 ISBN 9781910296417

You can find Anthony on twitter @agmtrevelyan

Just because they’re those kind of people, as if being invited to join the Curtis Brown Book Group wasn’t enough, they also sent me three books as a welcome present.

Alice And The Fly by James Rice

Published by Hodder & Stoughton in Jan 2015 ISBN 9781444790108

You can find James on twitter @James_D_Rice

The Love Song Of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce

Published by Transworld in Oct 2014 ISBN 9780857522450

You can find Rachel on twitter @QueenieHennessy and at her website www.rachel-joyce.co.uk

The Last Days Of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin

Published by Black Swan in Jan 2015 ISBN 9780552773744

You can find Anna on twitter @Annamcpartlin and at her website www.annamcpartlin.com

And then there were those books also came my way through the good offices of the CB Book Group and the kindness of other members (thanks, Jo!)

Letters To The Lost by Iona Grey

Published by Simon & Schuster in Apr 2015 ISBN 9781471139826

You can find Iona on twitter @Iona_Grey

The A to Z Of You And Me by James Hannah

Published by Doubleday in Mar 2015 ISBN 9780857522641

You can find James on twitter @Jameshannah and on his website www.jameshannah.com

I did have a mind to come to the end of the six months and tell you which book was my favourite. How naïve! Instead I’m going to wrestle it down to a top three. Before I do that, I will hand on heart tell you that I don’t believe there’s a bad one among them. This is akin to picking a best-in-show from a bunch of Chelsea Golds.

But here we go. My top three, in the order I read them:

The Ship by Antonia Honeywell

It’s such a great read, compelling enough to be with me six months on (I recently ditched a short I was writing when I realised where I’d nicked the plot from). Lalla is a fantastic protagonist, a teenager all the way so you really do want to shake her and give her a hug at the same time. And the world Antonia Honeywell has built around her is minutely thought-out, all the more unsettling for how convincing it is, how possible.

The A To Z Of You And Me by James Hannah

This one’s a beautiful read. Of the three I think the most emotional. Also the funniest, which is what lends it that surprisingly uplifting edge. I particularly love that the premise of the book, the a to z game, is superbly unobtrusive, lending the story structure rather than shaping it. Ivo is messy and complicated and bitter too, but also kind and thoughtful and aware that it’s a bed of his own making he’s lying in. It’s what gets us rooting for him despite the odds.

The Weightless World by Anthony Trevelyan

One of the very few books that I started reading again shortly after finishing it. It’s possible there is some kind of wormhole going on between the pages as it doesn’t seem possible there can be so much in there. Again, the characters are fantastic, superbly drawn and very distinct. The provision of back story is I think among the best I’ve read – no hint of a judder anywhere – and the unfolding story keeps you guessing all the way. This is another book that’s going to be with me for a good while after the last page is read.

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