Florence’s Book Club

This month’s book club is particularly well timed for me with a ski-ing holiday looming during which I usually can’t summon up the energy to do much more than relax with a good book after a hard day on the slopes. I’m looking forward to catching up with some reading and all three of Rachel’s suggestions appeal this month – thank you Rachel!

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

For part of my job I’m on a course and have to read well recommended and reviewed fiction for secondary aged pupils. This term it was The Boy in Striped Pajamas. I’d already seen the film, but remembered very little about it. It explores friendship between two boys during World War II, one in a concentration camp and one on the other side, telling the truth about what friendship means. It is in some ways a simple book, but reminded me never to forget the horrors of World War II and the concentration camps and has challenged me to read more fiction, or non-fiction, about world events so I don’t forget how fortunate I am.

Alys, Always by Harriet Lane

As a great friend would say ‘ the best thing about being in a book club is reading books you wouldn’t usually read, and the worst thing about being in a book club is reading books you wouldn’t normally read.’ I decided to broaden my reading a little for this month and read a book I wouldn’t normally choose. Set in modern affluent London, it tells the story of a creative woman subtly, but in a calculated way, and all through a chance encounter, manoeuvring her way into a family’s life. A good read that isn’t hard, but with a good story that gripped me in a slightly ‘peep through fingers, Joey in Friends put the book in the freezer’ way, but then I am a wimp. The book also tackles are bigger thoughts about who we are, identity and how others treat us, but I don’t want to give too much away.

‘…and I think, We’re all pretending. The room is full of constructs and inventions. People are experimenting, trying out lines… I watch the way they draw closer to and turn away from each other. I hear the things that they say and the things that they leave unsaid.’

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

I like to keep an eye on the winners of the major literary prizes and this book won the Orange Prize in 2012. I should start by saying I have a bit of a soft spot for the ancient Greeks. This story is of Achilles but told from the perspective of his friend, confidante and lover Patroclus, from when they meet as boys to them going into battle to fight the Trojan War for Helen of Troy. There are lots of ancient references to Gods and ancient families but you don’t need to know anything about them to enjoy the story. My thoughts on finishing were that I’d read a lovely, and very unusual love story. It has made me want to re-read The Iliad but only when I have the luxury of lazing on a sandy beach in Greece.

What are you reading this month?


PS you can read more from Rachel at her blog Flowers and Stripes, or find her on Twitter @MrsHunterDunn.

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12 thoughts on “Florence’s Book Club

  1. Alys, Always and The Song of Achilles left me intrigued. I read the boy in the striped pajamas when it first came out, and I was not really impressed, I thought it was too plain and predictable, but then again it is a book for children. Which does not mean anything really, many of my favorite books were intended for children, and I still found them full of depth.

  2. I’m looking forward to picking up the last two. I’ve got a couple of friends who want to start a book club so I may get the ball rolling with one of these.

    Have read the BWSPs as well. I think it’s a great children’s book as it deals with the topic of concentration camps really well and I think it’s definitely one I’ll try to get children in my school reading. However as Amanda says it was a bit predictable for me as an adult.

    I’m reading Pillars of the Earth at the moment. It’s been on my shelf for ages and I’ve finally picked it up (it’s very heavy!). Am getting into it though and making steady progess!

  3. I haven’t read the book but remember stumbling across the film the boy in the striped pyjamas when it was on TV, having no idea really what it was about. Wow, one of the most moving films I have ever seen – absolutely incredible. I bet reading the book is even better as you have your own imagination to expand on things.

  4. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas had such a huge effect on me. I hadn’t heard of it when I read it and I must say I didn’t find it predictable at all, but can see how maybe others would. If I ever have children they will certainly be reading it, but in the meantime I have all the adults I know reading it too. I sent it to a friend when she was in the middle of a particularly stressed out part of her Masters, that perhaps wasn’t the best timing!

  5. I stayed up until 3 in the morning reading the boy in the striped pajamas, and then couldn’t sleep. I love that Amanda didn’t enjoy it so much though (well not that she didn’t enjoy it!) because it’s great to have a big discussion about books… it’s great! I found it the opposite of plain – I thought it was deceptively simple and that its air of menace was all the more powerful because it was built up subtly. Very keen to try Alys always and Song of Achilles now!

  6. oh! The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas had me sobbing on the tube. Of course we all know the background, but it’s the way it’s told that really choked me. I also love a book written in the POV character’s voice – like Trainspotting and Forest Gump.

    I too love the ancient Greeks so I’ll check out The Song of Achilles. Thanks for the recommendation. If you’re looking for a super easy/silly/low brain engagement read and know your Greek gods, check out Gods Behaving Badly. Not high-end literature by any means, but a good quick beach read! Think it’s being made in to a film as well.


  7. Thanks for the recommendations, can’t wait to read The Song of Achilles, did classics for my degree so this is right up my street. 🙂

  8. I’m more of an Ancient Rome person than an Ancient Greece person but I might just give Song of Achilles a go.

    This month things I’ve read which stick out are Gone Girl – a gripping read with a twist and the House of Silk – the ‘new’ Sherlock Holmes in which Anthony Horowitz really does channel Conan Doyle.

    I picked up a lot of recommendations from the last book post – I have read Daughter of the Forest and have A Song of Ice and Fire and The Eye of the World waiting – so keen to read what others have enjoyed.

  9. Another fan of Boy With The Striped Pyjamas here, maybe fan isn’t the right word but I thought it was a great book. Will definitely check these others out.
    I’ve just finished In Cold Blood which gave me nightmares. I started a book last night called In The Woods which is another crime/murder/detective story so I’ll be looking for something a bit more upbeat after that!

  10. Having read two other award winning books for this course, The other side of truth & The Garbage King, that I did find predictable, reading The boy in striped pyjamas felt a much deeper less predictable plot. Interesting thinking about what we’re comparing books to and how that changes/develops our thoughts. Thank you Amanda for sparking off a good discussion.

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