It's occurred to me to put links to my reading group discussions on this blog - I'm not really sure why it hasn't occurred to me before: maybe the fact that they seem so personal has meant that they seemed most suitable for my more personal, author blog, where I have been posting them in the last year or so (they've appeared on my website all along). But they are of course an interesting insight into the nature of reading and something of the cultural context into which we write and publish books.
We're a mixed sex group - quite often the men outnumber the women - and not a particularly overtly literary group: my partner John Ashbrook and I are writers (and earlier on we had another couple of writers), but the rest are a retired lecturer in criminal justice, a patent officer, a textile conservator, a furniture maker who once dropped out of an Engineering degree, a pharmacist, a counsellor and an accountant. (At one time we had a hospital doctor.) An eleventh member, who was originally a crew member for BA, left the group temporarily to study for a literature degree, and so he's jumped the divide. But it's not a divide, after all, I find: this mixed-sex group of people with non-literary professions is quite passionate about novels. As a writer, I've found this very heartening, but also very educative: while the group may not be exactly a representative demographic, one or two of the members are avid readers of populist fiction as well as the so-called 'literary', and to this writer it's a valuable lesson in reader-expectation and taste.
Our latest discussion was on J G Ballard's The Kindness of Women, which is on my other blog here, and recent discussions have included Henry James's The Turn of the Screw (John's take on it took us all aback) and very divided opinions about The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. All of our discussions for the past seven-plus years can be found on my website: a list of the books we've discussed (with links to the discussions) is here, and if you want to see how our discussions have developed, a chronological archive is here.