Open Book Group

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Friends of Balmain Library Open Book Group read from a wide variety of literature and regularly meets for an enjoyable discussion and debate about the book chosen for the month. We are always open to new members.

WHEN:  The second Tuesday of the month
WHERE:  Balmain Library Meeting Room
TIME:1pm – 3pm
COST:FREE
‘Open’ is the operative word in the format of this group. Members are welcome to come to any meeting they wish and so can balance work, family and other commitments without that guilty feeling.
Books are chosen after suggestions from members and there is no charge. There is a Moderator for each meeting and once the book has been reviewed there is a chance to socialise over some light refreshments.  We gather in the Meeting Room situated immediately on your left as you enter Balmain Library.
Past Books read by the Open Book Group together with summaries by Gillian O’Mulloy (FOBL Committee member) of the Group’s discussions are on the News page.

OBG meetings are being run by Zoom until further notice. For further details and Zoom link please contact Jan Atkin by email at Ambrosia@bigpond.com

The following have been selected for future meetings in 2021

14th February 2023 - The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich

Set in the 1950s inspired by the life of Erdrich's grandfather who motivated and inspired other members of the Turtle Mountain Reservation to resist the Indian termination policies of the 1940s-1960s.

Based on the extraordinary life of National Book Award-winner Louise Erdrich's grandfather who worked as a night watchman and carried the fight against Native dispossession from rural North Dakota all the way to Washington DC.

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE IN FICTION 2021

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

It is 1953. Thomas Wazhushk is the night watchman at the first factory to open near the Turtle Mountain Reservation in rural North Dakota. He is also a prominent Chippewa Council member, trying to understand a new bill that is soon to be put before Congress. The US Government calls it an 'emancipation' bill; but it isn't about freedom - it threatens the rights of Native Americans to their land, their very identity. How can he fight this betrayal?

Unlike most of the girls on the reservation, Pixie - 'Patrice' - Paranteau has no desire to wear herself down on a husband and kids. She works at the factory, earning barely enough to support her mother and brother, let alone her alcoholic father who sometimes returns home to bully her for money. But Patrice needs every penny to get if she's ever going to get to Minnesota to find her missing sister Vera.

In The Night Watchman multi-award winning author Louise Erdrich weaves together a story of past and future generations, of preservation and progress. She grapples with the worst and best impulses of human nature, illuminating the loves and lives, desires and ambitions of her characters with compassion, wit and intelligence.


14th March 2023 - Educated by Tara Westover

Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her "head-for-the-hills bag". In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father's junkyard.

Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara's older brothers became violent.

Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she'd traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one's life through new eyes and the will to change it.


11th April 2023 - All that is Left Unsaid by Tracey Lien

For fans of Everything I Never Told You and The Mothers, a deeply moving and unflinching debut following a young Vietnamese-Australian woman who returns home to her family in the wake of her brother's shocking murder, determined to discover what happened--a dramatic exploration of the intricate bonds and obligations of friendship, family, and community.


Just let him go. These are the words Ky Tran will forever regret. The words she spoke when her parents called to ask if they should let her younger brother Denny out to celebrate his high school graduation with friends. That night, Denny--optimistic, guileless, brilliant Denny--is brutally murdered inside a busy restaurant in the Sydney suburb of Cabramatta, a refugee enclave facing violent crime, an indifferent police force, and the worst heroin epidemic in Australian history.

Returning home to Cabramatta for the funeral, Ky learns that the police are stumped by Denny's case: a dozen people were at Lucky 8 restaurant when Denny died, but each of the bystanders claim to have seen nothing.

Desperately hoping that understanding what happened might ease her suffocating guilt, Ky sets aside her grief and determines to track down the witnesses herself. With each encounter, she peels back another layer of the place that shaped her and Denny, exposing the seeds of violence that were planted well before that fateful celebration dinner: by colonialism, by the war in Vietnam, and by the choices they've all made to survive.

Alternating between Ky's voice and the perspectives of the witnesses, Tracey Lien's extraordinary debut is at once heart-pounding and heart-rending as it probes the intricate bonds of friendship, family, and community through an unforgettable cast of characters, all connected by a devastating crime. Combining evocative family drama and gripping suspense, All That's Left Unsaid is a profound and moving page turner, perfect for readers of Liz Moore, Brit Bennett, and Celeste Ng.


9th May 2023 - Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance

THE#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER IS NOW A MAJOR-MOTION PICTURE DIRECTED BY RON HOWARD AND STARRING AMY ADAMS, GLENN CLOSE, AND GABRIEL BASSO

"You will not read a more important book about America this year."--The Economist

"A riveting book."--The Wall Street Journal

"Essential reading."--David Brooks, New York Times

From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a powerful account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America's white working class

Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis--that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.

The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.'s grandparents were "dirt poor and in love," and moved north from Kentucky's Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually their grandchild (the author) would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving generational upward mobility.

But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that this is only the short, superficial version. Vance's grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother, struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, and were never able to fully escape the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. Vance piercingly shows how he himself still carries around the demons of their chaotic family history.

A deeply moving memoir with its share of humour and vividly colourful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country.


13th June 2023  - Lanny by Max Porter

The Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller and Booker Prize Longlisted novel Lanny by the author of Grief Is the Thing with Feathers.

There’s a village sixty miles outside London. It’s no different from many other villages in England: one pub, one church, red-brick cottages, council cottages and a few bigger houses dotted about. Voices rise up, as they might do anywhere, speaking of loving and needing and working and dying and walking the dogs.

This village belongs to the people who live in it and to the people who lived in it hundreds of years ago. It belongs to England’s mysterious past and its confounding present. But it also belongs to Dead Papa Toothwort, a figure school children used to draw green and leafy, choked by tendrils growing out of his mouth.

Dead Papa Toothwort is awake. He is listening to this twenty-first-century village, to his English symphony. He is listening, intently, for a mischievous, enchanting boy whose parents have recently made the village their home. Lanny.


11th July 2023 - Cold Coast by Robyn Mundy

In 1932, Wanny Woldstad, a young widow, travels to Svalbard, daring to enter the Norwegian trappers’ fiercely guarded male domain. She must prove to Anders Sæterdal, her trapping partner who makes no secret of his disdain, that a woman is fit for the task. Over the course of a Svalbard winter, Wanny and Sæterdal will confront polar bears, traverse glaciers, withstand blizzards and the dangers of sea ice, and hike miles to trap Arctic fox, all in the frigid darkness of the four-month polar night. For Wanny, the darkness hides her own deceptions that, if exposed, speak to the untenable sacrifice of a 1930s woman longing to fulfil a dream.

Alongside the raw, confronting nature of the trappers’ work, is the story of a young blue Arctic fox, itself a hunter, who must eke out a living and navigate the trappers’ world if it is to survive its first Arctic winter.