Such was the enthusiasm with which we have analysed the make up of our reading this year. Did we inadvertently pick books full of delicious descriptors, of people, time and place? Or did we immerse ourselves more fully and latch onto the beautifulness, whether apparent or layered?
Perhaps both were relevant as we kicked off the year with our long-awaited ten year bookclub reunion. Eight minds deliberating Coetzee and Plath masterpieces – what else could result but dissection of every hint of activity.
The depth and emotional pull continued through the year: Offred’s lonely plight; the lush, romantic landscapes of Bulgaria; the bewilderment of Simon and David; a looming island prison; a vulnerable conversation during a mountaintop storm; the honesty of troubled school boys.
The NZ Book Awards shortlisters also had a breadth of character development that was beguiling and the Bookers crossed every continent, imagined and real, with its focus on migration and belonging.
We loathed – but secretly loved – the characters for being vindictive and flawed; we rubbished them for being weak and ineffectual; we praised them for being perfectly and imperfectly real. We connected with the settings as if they had come to rest vividly in us, formed as if a memory.
Yes, there was much to discuss at our end of year get together, this year at Hopgood’s Restaurant on a stifling summer’s evening. Here are the highlights of our musings:
Book of the year:
Rachel: The Childhood of Jesus
Becks: The Handmaid’s Tale
Jo: Kafka On The Shore
Sonya: East Of The West
Rachel: The Handmaid’s Tale
Becks: East Of The West
Jo: The Handmaid’s Tale
Sonya: As The Earth Turns Silver
Rachel: Simon from The Childhood of Jesus
Becks: Offred from The Handmaid’s Tale
Jo: Nakata from Kafka On The Shore
Sonya: Walter from The Hut Builder
Rachel: That the story of The Childhood of Jesus can be viewed as a
harbinger for the end of the world
Becks: That all the cities in Invisible Cities are Venice and depict
architectural ideas and concepts
Jo: That Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar was autobiographical
Sonya: That the author of The Hut Builder, Laurence Fearnley, is a woman