dlr Libraries Online Book Club, guest blog post by Mary Burnham

23 February 2023 / News
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Guest blog post by online book club facilitator and avid reader, Mary Burnham

It was quite a challenge to set up and run a book club on Zoom but in May 2020 in the height of the first Covid pandemic lockdown we did just that and nearly three years later the online book club is still going strong. At first we were all mostly confined to our homes so this was a marvellous way to connect with our readers. Now even post pandemic restrictions have lifted, it has become almost preferable to attending a book club in person! Instead of braving theelements in winter, or  missing the family barbecue in summer, members can slip away to another room or the upstairs bedroom for one hour of intense discussion before resuming their usual day to day activities.

Our meetings are usually well attended but there are always evenings that some members
can’t be there because of various commitments but whether there are six or sixteen
members present, the discussion is always lively and to the point. What appeals to one
reader may not even interest another so opinions can go from: “I wouldn’t give that book
to my worst enemy”, to “loved it, have recommended it to all my friends’ - and this is
about the same book! Sometimes readers will admit they didn’t fancy reading the book of
the month, “ … but now that I’ve heard what everyone has to say I’m going to start it
straight away!” We really can’t please all of the people all of the time but we endeavour to select a broad range of books that appeal most of the time. Looking back over the years we have read some superb novels by accomplished writers who gave us plenty to talk about and much to enjoy. Marilynne Robinson is a Pulitzer prize winner who looks at the lives of ordinary folk with searing honesty and empathy. Pat Barker has written so many wonderful novels about the First World War and is a worthy Booker prize winner. Eric Vuillard’s astounding short novel, for which he was awarded the Prix Goncourt, informs the reader about the role big business played in funding the Nazi Party. Hilary Fannin very generously joined us as we discussed her powerful novel set in London and Ireland while Gabriel Byrne’s striking memoir took us through his early years growing up in Ireland. Every one of Kent Haruf’s novels is a masterclass in uncluttered writing that gets to the heart of the matter without fireworks and Aminatta Forna brings the reader to Croatia on holiday while in the background there are echoes of the country’s troubled past. Booker Prize winner Damon Galgut takes us to South Africa through the lives of various family members and sets the story over four decades of unbelievable change. Bernhard Schlink walks us through the life of a seeming ordinary woman who was born in Prussia and lived to see Germany at odds with itself finishing with a masterful twist near the end. Multi award winner Rose Tremaine describes boyhood friends growing up in Switzerland against the backdrop of a war that does not impinge on this neutral country and yet intrudes in so many ways. Tessa Hadley has a light touch with her novels that are usually an exploration of families, how they work and live, and what happens when things go awry. Booker Prize winner Graham Swift looks at the life of a woman over the span of her life during huge changes in the British class system after the Second World War. A short story collection by Mary Lavin, was discussed in detail during an in-person event at dlr LexIcon courtesy of The Arts Council with Colm Tóbín, Laureate for Irish Fiction leading the discussion. Before the event kicked off we were treated to light refreshments, an ideal opportunity for book club members to meet and get to know each other a little better "in-person." What ensued was a fascinating lecture on the art of the short story, and the methods employed by one of Ireland’s most gifted writer of the genre. More recently we explored Claire Keegan's Small Things like these whihc was unanimoulsy well received and left many unanswered questions for the reader to ponder.

Below are the books read to date, we hope you try one or all and enjoy where they bring you and the world viewpoints each of them offer!

dlr Lexicon has multiple copies of all of these books, as well as many more in their Book Set collection something that local book clubs might find useful when choosing for themselves. If you are interested in reading along with us, and perhaps joining in the discussion on the last Wednesday of ever month, email libraryculture@dlrcoco.ie to join the mailing list.

Happy Ireland Reads Day 2023!

May:Staring at Lakes by Michael Harding
June:Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
July: Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement
August: The Salt Path Raynor Wynn
September: Eight Months on Ghazzah Street by Hilary Mantel
October: The Cow Book by John Connell
November: This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff
December: The Paper Lovers by Gerard Woodward

January: The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue
February: Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
March: Strange Flowers by Donal Ryan
April: Confession with Blue Horses by Sophie Hardach
May: The Tie that Binds by Kent Haruf
June: Home by Marilynne Robinson
July: Regeneration by Pat Barker
August: The Order of the Day by Eric Vuillard

Sept: The Weight of Love by Hilary Fannin 

Oct: Walking with Ghosts, by Gabriel Byrne
Nov: The Hired Man, by Aminatta Forna
December: The Promise Damon Galgut
Jan: Olga by Bernard Schlink
February: The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain
March: The Master Bedroom, by Tessa Hadley
April: Mothering Sunday, by Graham Swift 
May: In the middle of the fields, and other stories by Mary Lavin
**The Art of Reading Book Club with Laureate for Irish Fiction Colm Tóibín event took place onsite Thurs 26 May, dlr LexIcon 
June: Unsettled Ground Clare Fuller
July : Nora by Nuala O'Connor
August: This is Happiness by Niall Williams
Sept: Grey Bees by Andrey Kurkov, Translated from the Russian by Boris Dralyuk
October: Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
Nov: A Change of Climate by Hilary Mantel
Dec: Small things like these by Claire Keegan      
Jan: I am, I am, I am by Maggie O'Farrell                   
Feb: All the Broken Places by John Boyne 
Mar: The Offing by Benjamin Myers
April: Midwinter Break by Bernard McLaverty
May: The Light of Amsterdam and A Run in the Park by David Park **In person meeting with author David Park and Mary Burnham, dlr LexIcon, Wed 31 May. Bookings via Eventbrite.

Mary Burnham, dlr Libraries Online book club facilitator

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