Rivers of London
Ten of us met up to discuss Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. The book was introduced by Mark who stuck two fingers up at convention and did away with the usual Wikiduction (ok, his printer was broken). There then followed quite a lively discussion of the book. Most people enjoyed the characterisation of the various Rivers and generally thought the book chugged along pretty nicely. A number of people thought that the author tried to cram all of his ideas into the book resulting in a bit of a disjointed story and what seemed like a lot of pointless episodes and loose ends. Keith and Steve Beck, who have both read further into the book series, revealed that these issues turn out to be setting the scene for later books. We had a bit of discussion about the author's attempts to explain the science behind the magic and generally thought that he made a fairly decent fist of it. There was a little less praise for the believability of Peter Grant's ethnicity which many people didn't feel was very convincing. Overall though, the book didn't seem to manage to annoy anyone and the vote was 7 thumbs ups and 5 sideways
Last week on Monday we met to discuss New Finnish Grammar by Diego Marani. Unfortunately I neglected to read the book but here is a lovely introduction from the Guardian. It wasn't a great turn out this week, early on there were only four of us, none of whom had read/finished the book. Thankfully after a few minutes panic more people turned up and even better, they had finished the book and had some intelligent things to say (especially Mark who gave us a potted modern history of Finland). Opinion among those that had attempted to read the book was divided, some found the topic and surrounding history very interesting, others thought it was utter tripe (direct quote). I think there was a general agreement that the quality of storytelling was not excellent. Having said that, it did ok when the votes came in - 3 thumbs up, 1 sideways and 3 down.A country doctor's notebook
Last Thursday we met to discuss 'A country doctor's notebook' by Mikhail Bulgakov. As it's intro week I have a brilliant excuse for keeping this brief (actually 230 reasons), so here we go: It was good and got an unprecedented thumbs up from all voters (8 in total). Well done Mikhail Bulgakov. Good, now that's done. NB There were different versions of this book: some of them were missing the last, rather special, story.the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
We had an extremely lively debate/discussion at our book club meeting last Thursday. The epistolic book by Mary Ann Shaffer and her niece Annie Barrows follows the story of an author and her discovery of post-occupation Guernsey (yes I learnt a new word). It was a very gentle read and I think most people enjoyed it. I say 'I think' because the dissenters were shouting more loudly than the supporters, mentioning no names, Stephen Beck J (he wasn't really shouting - ). Complaints against the book included the fact that all of the letters seemed to be in same voice, questions over whether it was well written or not, on whether or not the characters were convincing/stereotypes, and accusations of overt Americanism (shocking + unfounded). Can't have been all bad because the votes came in at 3 thumbs down, 1 sideways and 7 thumbs up.If on a winter's night a traveller
I must admit that I didn't read it, but from the discussion I could glean that it was a book made up of the first chapters of lots of different stories. Unfortunately most people found this quite frustrating, even if it was the intent of the author to make the reader feel like that. A few people found the book a little pretentious, while others had simply lost interest after a few chapters. In the interest of fairness at least one person (Stephen) loved it as you will see from the votes. Claudia, who had suggested the book, was disappointed that we didn't get to read some of Calvino's early work which is very different from this offering. The message is don't write Calvino off just yet! Now to the results of the vote (yes there was definitely lots of very intelligent discussion that went on that I should be reporting on, but in fairness to me Claudia's bike nearly got nicked and it was very distracting...) - votes came in at 1 thumb up, 1 sideways, 4 down.The Elegance of the Hedgehog
Oops, our last book club (discussion of 'The Elegance of the Hedgehog' by Muriel Barbery) was a long time ago apologies time has escaped me. Poor memory necessitates that I keep this brief: The gist of the discussion was that the book was hugely pretentious and no one liked it very much. I think that just about covers it. Votes came in at 1 thumb up, 5 sideways, 2 down.The Magic Toyshop
In the meeting last week we discussed The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter (well, we sort of did). No one really had too much to say about it, although to be fair I was demob happy and did nothing to regulate the conversation. Here are some nice words from Steve Joseph about the book:
Melanie is entirely surrounded by characters that are infantile, withdrawn, absent, dead, old, fat, ugly, smelly, monolithically silent, dumb, violent, or several of these things. If this is the way a 15 year old girl saw her life in 1955, it is a triumph of self awareness. If not, not.
Votes came in at 4 thumbs up, 3 sideways.
Benny's peerless introduction led to a spirited discussion about novellas, brothels, Jiffy bags, Peking Man and black presidents. Interestingly enough, some of these things also appeared in the book so that all seemed to hang together nicely.
On balance, the book was fairly well received. There was a feeling that it read like a short story that had been beefed up by the addition of a few too many ideas and characters that were then dropped, often never to reappear. We were heartened that it didn't take until 2080 to get a black president in the U.S., and the list of people thought suitable to dispose of through a dimensional rift or consign to a state of suspended animation was both hotly contended and worryingly comprehensive.
The book received 4 thumbs up, three sideways, and achieved a rare zero downward digits.
A moderately fictionalised account of the story of the trial and retrial of Alfred Dreyfus and the military cover-up associated with it. The Wikipedia entry for the Dreyfus affair is almost as long as the novel, so Stephen Joseph spared us the traditional introduction, instead opting for a potted biography accompanied by rousing cheers and boos.
The unanimous thumbs up declared it worth ploughing through the 600 pages, even though you already knew whether he did it or not. The diamond geezer even managed to give it a positive endorsement despite concerns over the technological progress erroneously attributed to the French railway system and to the inflated estimation of Parisian traffic density in the early 1900's (which, according to his peerless research, constituted only 5 cars).
There was a feeling that not too many liberties had been taken with the historical facts, and the somewhat shaky characterisations were made up for by the driving plot. The novel was careful to couch the anti-Semitism of the military as a means to an end rather than the driving force it was portrayed through the media at the time, whether this was a true reflection or not wasn't known, but it would have made it harder to cast Picquart as the hero of the piece had it been more overt.
Other useful lessons learnt were: 1) Nottingham is neither in the north nor the south but is still an acceptable birthplace; 2) Attendances at 3D showings of Avatar will likely follow an exponential decay until they reach one man stroking an expensive white cat; and 3) Horse riding at the age of 59 is a high risk activity.
We took some time to identify what we liked about the book. In the end, we agreed the book was compiled using adequate words in an understandable order.
The story concerns Douglas, a 54 year old biochemist; his wife Connie, an artist turned curator; and Albie, their teenage son.
At the start of the book, Connie wakes Douglas to tell him that she thinks when Albie leaves home to go to university that autumn, she will 'probably' leave too.
Before all this though, they resolve to complete the 'grand tour' of European galleries they have planned during the summer. Connie says she still loves Douglas, but feels their marriage is at an end.
Douglas takes this as personal challenge to prove how much better all their lives would be if only everyone did as they were told and followed the schedule. Heartbreak, hope and hilarity ensue.
(Lovers of the book who were unable to attend, should probably look away now. - oh and there are spoilers)
Its fair to say, opinions of the book were mixed. On the one hand, some people genuinely seemed to like it; whilst on the other, some people had taste.
Depending on your preference it was either a heartfelt study of staggering emotional articulacy with a bright message of hope for life after divorce, or it was a depressing story about hateful people engaged in mutual abuse with the added nausea of a cloyingly saccharine finish.
No-one went along with any of the characters. Whilst its ok to have unpleasant people in books, we thought you should, at least, be able to believe in them. In this case, although many of the character traits were well rendered and convincing, they didn't add up to a whole person, and in some cases clashed to the point of DID. All the relationships were poisonous and bordering on abusive with the possible exception of that between Albie and his mother, which was sketchy and confused. The comic set pieces will do well in a Mr Bean meets Hugh Grant rom-com [perhaps that is the author's aim], but felt somewhat airlifted in to lighten the crushing experience of the 'grand tour' storyline.
Mystified as to why so many positive reports of this book exist, a couple of people took to reading five star reviews to find a unifying theme. It seems that people who liked the book largely sympathised with Douglas, disregarded the unreliable narrator premise and were happy to see him finally escape the flighty and pernicious Connie to find a woman who appreciated his more conservative and structured lifestyle. They were also heartened to see the rosy outcome of an amicable divorce.
To everyone else it was a tale of three horrible people who were entirely lacking in empathy. A woman who only valued her relationship when she needed the support it offered , a man who's joyless inflexibility blighted the lives of his family, and a manipulative selfish teenager with communication issues. Given that, it became hard to care what happened, but it might have been nice if they could have stayed together forever, if only to save anyone else from the misfortune of encountering them. It was the most depressing thing I have ever read - and I once picked up the Daily Mail in a doctor's surgery.
When the votes were counted it scored: 1 thumbs up, 3 thumbs sideways, 4 thumbs down.
A massive seven and a half people (the half being Tom, who showed briefly but left before the book-talk) showed up last night to talk about 'Walking Home'. Discussions didn't take long given that only three people had actually read the book and had fairly similar opinions.
Amy, having recently walked the Penine Way, found it difficult to read the book objectively, and found herself quite irritated with Armitage for being 'a bit of a wimp' about it all and not seeming to appreciate what he was doing and the beauty of where he was. On the positive side he had good attention to detail throughout the book, and was good at being self-deprecating and not taking himself too seriously.
Everyone agreed it was disappointing that he gave up so close to the end, with Steve J feeling this just reinforced his feeling that Armitage wasn't fully committed to it.
Pause for laughter as Steve points out the somewhat 'rambling' narrative throughout... The good Professor Beck also found it all a bit samey - not knowing the route in detail meant that to him every day was pretty much the same and became a bit boring. There were also some grumbling about the journey being presented as a wandering troubadour adventure and then turning out to be extremely well-organised in terms of where to stay and being ferried there and back.
The final result - a staggering 3 sideways thumbs...
We met last week to discuss 'The Brutal Art' by Jessie Kellerman.
The story revolves around a New York art dealer who is alerted to hoard of drawings at an abandoned flat in building owned by his somewhat estranged father.
The drawings turn out to be a brilliantly disturbing work comprising of thousands of sheets which can joined up into an almost impossibly large single piece. Things get more complicated when a retired detective makes a connection between figures in the artwork and a series of murdered young men. Who was the artist, what was his involvement in the murders? How does this all connect?
In deference to Anne there will be no spoilers here, and seeing that both Steve Joseph AND Matt Carré finished it its obviously worth persevering with.
We thought the book was a well-paced and compelling read and gave what we hoped was an accurate depiction of the venal New York art world.
It also ranks as Lizzy's Dad's favourite book due to the intertwined past & present storylines and their neat resolution. Lizzy was less convinced of its uniqueness, but will at least be able to argue this from a position of knowledge in future. With the exception of a couple of clunky plot devices, we thought it hung together well and certainly tied up all the loose ends by the finish, thereby avoiding the spectre of a sequel and an increasingly diluted series of lacklustre movies.
The book achieved an impressive six thumbs up with only a single sideways digit.
The novel concerns the 18 year old Petronella (Nellie) Brandt, nee Oortman, as she arrives in Amsterdam following her arranged marriage to Johannes, a wealthy merchant.
Johannes is very busy, often making trips overseas, and seems to pay very little attention to Nellie. The household has, thus far been run by Johannes' sister, the stern Marin and his two domestic staff, manservant Otto and maid Cornelia. Nellie begins to feel isolated and powerless. This isn't helped when Johannes presents her with a wedding gift of a miniature version of their Amsterdam house for her to decorate as she sees fit.
The hidden story of these characters begins to emerge when magical items for the dolls house begin to arrive from the mysterious miniaturist.
We thought that there was probably more than one interesting novel struggling to escape from this book. It was well paced and built nicely to a finale that we all felt let us down a little, the revelations being delivered with only minor drama and happening to people who we had not fully engaged with. It would have been interesting to compare the extreme wealth inequalities promoted by the new economic system of the Dutch East India company, the Amsterdam Bourse to the 'modern' attitudes towards money, gender, sex and race displayed by several of the characters. It would also have been nice to hear more about the miniaturist's uncanny abilities and their effects.
At the end of the voting, and after a somewhat laboured joke about dikes from Reginald*, the scores came in at 3 thumbs up, two thumbs down and one abstention.
* Names have been changed to protect the comedically challengedHived off
As far as I remember from our meeting about "The bees" by Laline Paull, no-one found it as objectionable as Stephen Beck, which is usually a good omen. In general, some of the facts were fascinating, some were debated, and some of the anthropomorphism was roundly derided.
It got 5 thumbs up, 1 sideways and 2 thumbs down.
A month ago, we met to talk about Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. The book made such an impression, that its slipped my mind to post out the review. We seemed to think that on the occasions when he wasn't being either incorrect or polemical, Mr Harari had a few interesting anecdotes and covered 'Human History 101' with a fair degree of competence, if not too much insight or dynamism. The subject matter resulted in one of the most prolonged book discussions for recent months, but the book seemed to provide a start point for a number of threads (rants) rather than any answers. When the book moved from historical review to futurism there was a hope that things might improve. The author did attempt to limit expectations by arguing that the prediction of the future by analysing past trends was likely to be futile. It didn't, unfortunately, stop him from having a go. This most eagerly anticipated section of the book therefore turned out to be the most disappointing for most of us.
In the final analysis, it got 4 thumbs up, 4 sideways and 2 thumbs down.
We met on Thursday night to discuss petty jealousy and snobbery in academia and the merits of giving lectures whilst drunk.
We then went on to talk about 'Lucky Jim' by Kingsley Amis which has garnered much acclaim being included in TIME magazine's 100 best English language novels, and if you are minded to believe Toby Young, is the best comic novel of the 20th century (thanks to Wikipedia via Matt)
The book is the story of Jim Dixon, a probationary lecturer in an unnamed minor University (not far from Swansea). He has had an uninspiring start to his academic career and is intent in ingratiating himself with the head of department whilst trying to get his first paper published. He also has to navigate a couple of on-off relationships and conduct a losing battle with alcohol which we decided was so unremarkable for the time that it wasn't handled the way it would have been in a contemporary work.
The comparison of academia in the 50's to the present day was interesting. It was agreed that snobbery is still alive and well, but there were no clear conclusions as to how many sub-divisions of it were now required to maintain a sense of proportion. Similarly the 'track to tenure' which was then a proxy for a cushy job for life, seems more of a remote concept.
We enjoyed the comic set pieces, however inevitable, and since only heedless men had read the book, the sexual politics left us with a vague sense of unease, but largely passed us by.
The (male) thumbs came to rest with two up and two sideways votes.
The story concerns a fiercely intelligent and idealistic teenager who attempts to live by a simple code of questionable moral standing despite being handed a fairly rough deal in life. A significant proportion of the people who completed it (Stephen) were not enamoured of the central character and her jarring mixture of naivety and world weariness, or the somewhat haphazard writing style. The remainder of the readers (Amy & I) liked the character and her precocious ways and didn't feel the writing detracted from the narrative. Ball's method of working is apparently to prepare research ahead of time and to then quickly write a single draft in a matter of days to avoid getting bogged down in rewrites (and presumably grammar and facts - seems awfully popular these days). Anyway the book scored a healthy 67% approval rating with no abstentions.1984
Here are the belated musings from our discussion on 1984 by George Orwell. You will be glad to read that, owing to our lack of political influence, our generally liberal outlook and the presence of Stephen, we weren't able form an oligarchical collective or oppress the masses, and we didn't need to invent a dangerous bogeyman. Joining the anti sex league was also ruled out, certainly in theory even if not in practice.
It was difficult to decide whether this book should be required reading for world leaders or whether it should be hidden from them.
The dangers posed by totalitarian regimes to personal freedom, the resulting social stratification and the entrenchment of abusive ideologies were agreed to be generally 'a bad thing'.
However - using an unending far away conflict to justify domestic privations; the deployment of sheer bluster to overcome impartial reporting; and the systematic oppression of liberalism do seem to be difficult to resist once you get into power.
There was a fair debate about the relevance of this novel to post-war Britain as written, compared to its relevance today, and I think we decided that it was still relevant, but in a different way. In some ways, its tempting to draw parallels with the UK, the US, and China but the rise of the consumer society is a notable exclusion from Orwell's future. Whilst its easy to Identify Winston's class of party members with a 'metropolitan elite' that needs to be suppressed so that the 'inner party' can continue to hold power, the indifference and acceptance of the Proles will be unfamiliar to anyone who reads below the line comments on the internet. We also thought that seeing as the only advantage of being a party member seemed to be the availability of gin, it was hard to understand why Winston didn't just decide to hide amongst the proles. Although Matt did put up a spirited defence in favour of gin.
The votes were probably 4 thumbs up and one sideways, but fortunately the mutability of the past means that I can declare it and huge success with fifteen thumbs up.
After a hard won battle, fought over a selection of printed summaries and therefore without the benefit of heft to guide us, our next choice is "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Attwood. - We obviously haven't had our fill of dystopian fiction. This novel imagines a future New England overtaken by a totalitarian theocracy and the resulting subjugation of women and their struggle for independence. The extent to which this represents fiction will, I'm sure, be debated once the male majority of book club attendees and male chair have decided on a manly pub, time and date that suits them - am I right sisters?The Handmaid's Tail
Our recent discussions took on an al-fresco motif as we decamped from the Bath Hotel to the beer garden of the University Arms. From this idyllic oasis we contemplated the dystopian conjurings of Margaret Attwood in The Handmaid’s Tale.
This novel portrays a future where declining birth rate, declining global influence and civil unrest leads to a theocratic revolution in the US which results in a fundamentalist regime where women are forbidden to hold property, vote or even read and the limited number of fertile women are ‘requisitioned’ as breeding stock for the ruling class. Other classes of women (and some men) are reduced to servitude of varying degrees. The story revolves around the testament of a handmaid plucked from ‘ordinary life’ during the transition of power, and examines the new society, the mechanism by which it arose and motivations of the main characters. The story then introduces her to a resistance movement and the hope of being re-united with her husband and daughter. The book ends at an academic conference, many years in the future, suggesting that the tale is of little historical value because it does not contain enough information to reliably identify the characters, and cautioning the reader not to judge the society by ‘modern’ standards.
We found it difficult to determine just how grim this book was. It certainly takes some commitment to get through. Attwood is at pains to point out that, in isolation, all of the terrible things portrayed in the book have happened in the world, and that the ‘trigger ideologies’ exist, or have existed in many cultures.
The novel was written whilst Attwood was living in West Berlin at the time of the Iranian revolution and the rise of Reagan and Thatcher and their conservative agenda. It can be seen as being aimed at American dismissal of the dangers of fundamentalism in the western world.
The neat ‘forwards, looking backwards’ final chapter is a good way of completing the circle for the incredulous reader who may have been struggling with extreme plot line to that point. The question of whether and how a ‘progressive’ society can be overturned into one where a strict ideology is maintained by subjugation is often viewed through a modern prism of “It couldn’t happen to us, we’ve come too far”. The explicit warning in the novel is that it doesn’t take long for that which exists now, to become ‘normal’. ...Having said that, popular uprisings do have to be popular at the time, and it is difficult to see what the vast majority of citizens would hope to gain from the structure offered by the land of Gilead.
The debate as to whether this is a feminist call to arms, a warning against the Christian right or a piece of indirect dodgy male wish fulfilment came to the conclusion that making people slaves was, on the whole, a bad thing not to be encouraged and that treating people as anything other than people was the mark of a despot.
The votes were 5 thumbs up and 2 thumbs sideways.Rise again
Once assembled we leapt at the chance to discuss Graeme's offering of To Rise Again At A Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris. Decency forbids me to faithfully relate Prof Beck's opinion, suffice it to say, he isn’t looking forward to a sequel. There was general disbelief that this work had made it on to the Booker shortlist, unless it was a cunning plan to make sure that the newly allowed US authors wouldn't win.
We thought the sheer unlikeability of the main character really made it difficult to care what happened to him. His cynical use of those around him and lack of any redeeming features meant that the plot twists, such as there were, failed to spark any interest.
Perhaps it was written with a target audience in mind, but there can’t be many Judeo-curious, dysfunctional, baseball mad dentists out there desperate to be bored witless.
There was a constant theme of faith and belief through the book, which leaves it lacking only in narrative, truthfulness and purpose.
In all it garnered 6 thumbs down and one sideways from Matt, who is too nice to damn a book he managed to finish.The Axeman’s Jazz
We met last week to discuss The Axeman's Jazz by Ray Celestin. This a fictional novel 'inspired by real events' as they say. The real events in question were a series of apparently unconnected victims were murderd in 1918 and 1919. The assailant generally killed the victims in their own homes, with their own axes and was never caught. The New Orleans Picayune printed a letter purportedly from “The Axeman” in 1918 claiming he would spare anyone who listened to Jazz music. Ray Celestin took the bare bones of this story and created a novel to 'explain' the links between the victims and threw in a good deal of New Orleans culture, society and a young Jazz legend for good measure.
We thought the evocation of New Orleans was well done and represented a very believable environment for the action to unfold within. Even Stephen Beck struggled to find glaring anachronisms, and we all thought it avoided the inappropriate transplanting of modern attitudes into a historical setting, instead creating seemingly genuine realism for a number of sub-cultures. (Even the New Orleans Italian and Irish sections that we were previously unaware of)
A couple of contrived coincidences aside, the story was well plotted and zipped along at a good pace despite the many characters and plot lines. The book received a unanimous four thumbs up, and would have had six if Matt and Greame hadn't waited until later to arrive for fear of spoilers.
I had originally proposed the next book in this series, but OCD got the better of us and we chose this one. Having read both, I think the second book set during prohibition in chicago, is a little stronger, but similar in style and tone. It continues the story of Michael and Ida, and Louis Armstrong, and also throws in Al Capone.The Maze of Cadiz
Discussion got off to a brisk start owing to Steve setting us the homework of reading an interview with the author and some further details available from her website. Turns out she worked as a Spanish translator, which explains the many instances in the novel where Spanish words or phrases were immediately followed by a helpful (or annoying) translation. This reading may also explain why the character of Peter Cotton was fairly well formed. Monroe claims she had started writing about the decline of the British Empire from the perspective of a 25 year old spy in 1944, and then by chance, met a woman whose father was such a person. Monroe conducted a series of interviews and used them as a basis for the character. She claims to have only got bold enough to relate real events in her later books, and Steve confirmed that that seemed to happen as the series of novels progressed.
We liked the depiction of the newly minted spy despatched to an unpleasant feeling Cadiz in the aftermath of the civil war and standing (slightly) apart from the world war, although it didn't make any of us want to book a trip to southern Spain. The intrigue of spies, money, affairs and people smuggling was good, although I thought the crucially interesting tungsten angle was disgracefully underplayed. The supporting cast were a little cartoonish, even if we enjoyed the brief interlude of the drunken ex-pats, and there was a general consensus that not a lot happened. When things did happen, We quite liked the combination of institutional incompetence and grubby practicality that may well have been the hallmark of the end of the Empire, and how that was resolved by the inexperienced spy. It was this inexperience that made it more believable that he could be nudged along by the local inspector who despite being lifted straight from Casablanca, failed to start a beautiful friendship with our hero at the end.
The book received 4 sideways thumbs and 3 thumbs up.The Power
We met last week to discuss ‘The Power’ by Naomi Alderman. This described as either a cautionary dystopian tale, or the natural culmination of the Weinstein outrages. It is of course neither. The novel is based in a far future where gender roles are reversed by virtue of women being physically dominant through the evolution of an organ that allows them to administer powerful electric shocks. A male writer uses a historical fiction (set in the assumed present day) to advance a theory that the emergence of this previously dormant shocking ability in a hitherto patriarchal society would bring about a cataclysm that would lead to the development of a society where men became subservient. Fast forward 5000 years and it is unsurprising that men find it difficult to be taken seriously, suffer from conscious and unconscious bias, an have to protect their own modesty from lascivious attention. (...do you see what she did there?)
Our discussion ranged from general approval of the writing (Apart from Steve who thought it disappointing after her earlier work) – through to more general agreement that some (and perhaps all) men have behaved, and continue to behave badly. The extent to which some (and perhaps all) women are yearning for the opportunity to behave just as badly was one of the more interesting questions posed by the book. It became an interesting exercise do decide whether this book is a strike against misogyny, a rallying call for feminism, or a surrender to misanthropy. Whether it says more about the differences between men and women or those between the weak and the strong depends largely on the context you bring to it.
It received 5 thumbs up, one sideways, and one thumb down.
After a close vote, the next book was elected to be The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein. A compelling read about the response of financial markets to extreme events, and the extent to which profit from them makes it increasingly likely that they will continue to happen.The Shock Doctrine
Last Thursday, Bev, Benny, Mark, Steve J, Stephen B and I met up to discuss "The Shock Doctrine" by Naomi Klein.
Despite many of us still being in the course of reading the book everyone agreed that Klein made a good fist of arguing that neoliberal free market policies have risen to prominence in some developed countries because of a deliberate strategy of "shock therapy" (see Wikipedia), essentially the nasty elite making profit from disaster. The discussions occasionally wandered away from the book and more to ireful comparisons with Brexit and the evil doings of BoJo, Rees-Mogg et al., at least until Stephen B took a trip to the bar and we got back to the agenda. Benny felt that she repeated her central premise a bit too often whereas others thought that's what a good polemic should do. Prize for best analogy goes to Mark who compared the book to a fine whisky - good for occasional sipping but hard to swallow if downed in one go.
The result of the vote was much more decisive that the local elections - 5 thumbs up, 1 sideways and 0 down