Open Book Group
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.
The following have been selected for future meetings in 2019
12th March 2019 - The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose
Winner of the 2017 Stella Prize. A mesmerising literary novel about a lost man in search of connection - a meditation on love, art and commitment, set against the backdrop of one of the greatest art events in modern history, Marina Abramovic's The Artist is Present.
Winner of the 2017 Stella Prize.
'This is a weirdly beautiful book.' David Walsh founder and curator, MONA
'Life beats down and crushes the soul, and art reminds you that you have one.' Stella Adler
'Art will wake you up. Art will break your heart. There will be glorious days. If you want eternity you must be fearless.' From The Museum of Modern Love
She watched as the final hours of The Artist is Present passed by, sitter after sitter in a gaze with the woman across the table. Jane felt she had witnessed a thing of inexplicable beauty among humans who had been drawn to this art and had found the reflection of a great mystery. What are we? How should we live?
If this was a dream, then he wanted to know when it would end. Maybe it would end if he went to see Lydia. But it was the one thing he was not allowed to do.
Arky Levin is a film composer in New York separated from his wife, who has asked him to keep one devastating promise. One day he finds his way to The Atrium at MOMA and sees Marina Abramovic in The Artist is Present. The performance continues for seventy-five days and, as it unfolds, so does Arky. As he watches and meets other people drawn to the exhibit, he slowly starts to understand what might be missing in his life and what he must do.
This dazzlingly original novel asks beguiling questions about the nature of art, life and love and finds a way to answer them.
9th April 2019 - Daring To Drive by Manal Al-Sharif
“A vital, inspiring book” (O, The Oprah Magazine): a ferociously intimate memoir by a devout woman from a modest family in Saudi Arabia who became the unexpected leader of the courageous movement that won Saudi women the right to drive.
Manal al-Sharif grew up in Mecca the second daughter of a taxi driver, born the year strict fundamentalism took hold. In her adolescence, she was a religious radical, melting her brother’s boy band cassettes in the oven because music was haram: forbidden by Islamic law. But what a difference an education can make. By her twenties Manal was a computer security engineer, one of few women working in a desert compound built to resemble suburban America. That’s when the Saudi kingdom’s contradictions became too much to bear: she was labeled a slut for chatting with male colleagues, her school-age brother chaperoned her on a business trip, and while she kept a car in the garage, she was forbidden from driving on Saudi streets.
Manal al-Sharif’s memoir is an “eye-opening” (The Christian Science Monitor) account of the making of an accidental activist, a vivid story of a young Muslim woman who stood up to a kingdom of men—and won. Daring to Drive is “a brave, extraordinary, heartbreakingly personal” (Associated Press) celebration of resilience in the face of tyranny and “a testament to how women in Muslim countries are helping change their culture, one step at a time” (New York Journal of Books).
14th May 2019 - Autumn by Ali Smith
MAN BOOKER PRIZE FINALIST
A New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, Financial Times, Southern Living, The Guardian, and Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year
Long-listed for the Gordon Burn Prize
Autumn. Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. That's what it felt like for Keats in 1819. How about Autumn 2016? Daniel is a century old. Elisabeth, born in 1984, has her eye on the future. The United Kingdom is in pieces, divided by a historic, once-in-a-generation summer. Love is won, love is lost. Hope is hand-in-hand with hopelessness. The seasons roll round, as ever.
Ali Smith's new novel is a meditation on a world growing ever more bordered and exclusive, on what richness and worth are, on what harvest means. It is the first installment of her Seasonal quartet—four stand-alone books, separate yet interconnected and cyclical (as the seasons are)—and it casts an eye over our own time. Who are we? What are we made of? Shakespearean jeu d’esprit, Keatsian melancholy, the sheer bright energy of 1960s pop art: the centuries cast their eyes over our own history making.
Here’s where we’re living. Here’s time at its most contemporaneous and its most cyclic.
From the imagination of the peerless Ali Smith comes a shape-shifting series, wide-ranging in time-scale and light-footed through histories, a story about aging and time and love and stories themselves.
11th June 2019 - Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
WINNER OF THE WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2018
SHORTLISTED FOR THE COSTA NOVEL AWARD 2017
SHORTLISTED FOR THE DSC PRIZE FOR SOUTH ASIAN LITERATURE 2018
LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2017
A GUARDIAN BOOK OF THE YEAR 2017
AN OBSERVER BOOK OF THE YEAR 2017
A TELEGRAPH BOOK OF THE YEAR 2017
A NEW STATESMAN BOOK OF THE YEAR 2017
AN EVENING STANDARD BOOK OF THE YEAR 2017
A NEW YORK TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR 2017
'The book for our times' Judges of the Women's Prize
'Elegant and evocative ... A powerful exploration of the clash between society, family and faith in the modern world' Guardian
Isma is free. After years spent raising her twin siblings in the wake of their mother's death, she is finally studying in America, resuming a dream long deferred. But she can't stop worrying about Aneeka, her beautiful, headstrong sister back in London – or their brother, Parvaiz, who's disappeared in pursuit of his own dream: to prove himself to the dark legacy of the jihadist father he never knew.
Then Eamonn enters the sisters' lives. Handsome and privileged, he inhabits a London worlds away from theirs. As the son of a powerful British Muslim politician, Eamonn has his own birthright to live up to – or defy. Is he to be a chance at love? The means of Parvaiz's salvation? Two families' fates are inextricably, devastatingly entwined in this searing novel that asks: what sacrifices will we make in the name of love?
A contemporary reimagining of Sophocles' Antigone, Home Fire is an urgent, fiercely compelling story of loyalties torn apart when love and politics collide – confirming Kamila Shamsie as a master storyteller of our times.
9th July 2019 - Red Notice by Bill Browden
“[Red Notice] does for investing in Russia and the former Soviet Union what Liar’s Poker did for our understanding of Salomon Brothers, Wall Street, and the mortgage-backed securities business in the 1980s. Browder’s business saga meshes well with the story of corruption and murder in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, making Red Notice an early candidate for any list of the year’s best books” (Fortune).
This is a story about an accidental activist. Bill Browder started out his adult life as the Wall Street maverick whose instincts led him to Russia just after the breakup of the Soviet Union, where he made his fortune.
Along the way he exposed corruption, and when he did, he barely escaped with his life. His Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky wasn’t so lucky: he ended up in jail, where he was tortured to death. That changed Browder forever. He saw the murderous heart of the Putin regime and has spent the last half decade on a campaign to expose it. Because of that, he became Putin’s number one enemy, especially after Browder succeeded in having a law passed in the United States—The Magnitsky Act—that punishes a list of Russians implicated in the lawyer’s murder. Putin famously retaliated with a law that bans Americans from adopting Russian orphans.
A financial caper, a crime thriller, and a political crusade, Red Notice is the story of one man taking on overpowering odds to change the world, and also the story of how, without intending to, he found meaning in his life.
13th August 2019 - The Green Road by Anne Enright
From internationally acclaimed author Anne Enright comes a shattering novel set in a small town on Ireland's Atlantic coast. The Green Road is a tale of family and fracture, compassion and selfishness—a book about the gaps in the human heart and how we strive to fill them.
Spanning thirty years, The Green Road tells the story of Rosaleen, matriarch of the Madigans, a family on the cusp of either coming together or falling irreparably apart. As they grow up, Rosaleen's four children leave the west of Ireland for lives they could have never imagined in Dublin, New York, and Mali, West Africa. In her early old age their difficult, wonderful mother announces that she’s decided to sell the house and divide the proceeds. Her adult children come back for a last Christmas, with the feeling that their childhoods are being erased, their personal history bought and sold.
A profoundly moving work about a family's desperate attempt to recover the relationships they've lost and forge the ones they never had, The Green Road is Enright's most mature, accomplished, and unforgettable novel to date.
10th September 2019 - Mirror, Shoulder, Signal by Dorthe Nors
A smart, witty novel of driving lessons and vertigo, short-listed for the Man Booker International Prize
Sonja is ready to get on with her life. She’s over forty now, and the Swedish crime novels she translates are losing their fascination. She sees a masseuse, tries to reconnect with her sister, and is finally learning to drive. But under the overbearing gaze of her driving instructor, Sonja is unable to shift gears for herself. And her vertigo, which she has always carefully hidden, has begun to manifest at the worst possible moments.
Sonja hoped her move to Copenhagen years ago would have left rural Jutland in the rearview mirror. Yet she keeps remembering the dramatic landscapes of her childhood―the endless sky, the whooper swans, the rye fields―and longs to go back. But how can she return to a place that she no longer recognizes? And how can she escape the alienating streets of Copenhagen?
In Mirror, Shoulder, Signal, Dorthe Nors brings her distinctive blend of style, humor, and insight to a poignant journey of one woman in search of herself when there’s no one to ask for directions
8th October 2019 - Do no Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh
An astonishingly candid insight into the life and work of a modern neurosurgeon - its triumphs and disasters. A SUNDAY TIMES bestseller, and shortlisted for the GUARDIAN FIRST BOOK AWARD and the COSTA BIOGRAPHY AWARD, as well as longlisted for the SAMUEL JOHNSON PRIZE FOR NON-FICTION.
Winner of the PEN Ackerley Prize and the South Bank Sky Arts Award for Literature
Shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award; Duff Cooper Prize; Wellcome Book Prize; Guardian First Book Award; and Slightly Foxed Best First Biography PrizeLonglisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction
What is it like to be a brain surgeon?
How does it feel to hold someone's life in your hands, to cut through the stuff that creates thought, feeling and reason?
How do you live with the consequences when it all goes wrong?
DO NO HARM offers an unforgettable insight into the highs and lows of a life dedicated to operating on the human brain, in all its exquisite complexity. With astonishing candour and compassion, Henry Marsh reveals the exhilarating drama of surgery, the chaos and confusion of a busy modern hospital, and above all the need for hope when faced with life's most agonising decisions.
12th November 2019 - The Power by Naomi Alderman
In The Power the world is a recognisable place: there's a rich Nigerian kid who lounges around the family pool; a foster girl whose religious parents hide their true nature; a local American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But something vital has changed, causing their lives to converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls now have immense physical power - they can cause agonising pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world changes utterly.
This extraordinary novel by Naomi Alderman, a Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year and Granta Best of British writer, is not only a gripping story of how the world would change if power was in the hands of women but also exposes, with breath-taking daring, our contemporary world.
10th December 2019 - Eleanor Olephant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live.
Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.
Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.
One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.
Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?
‘Funny, touching and unpredictable’ Jojo Moyes
‘Heartwrenching and wonderful’ Nina Stibbe
‘Deft, compassionate and moving’ Paula McLain
‘I adored it. Skilled, perceptive, Eleanor’s world will feel familiar to you from the very first page. An outstanding debut!’ Joanna Cannon
11th February 2020 - Small Island by Andrea Levy
Small Island is an international bestseller. It won the Orange Prize for Fiction, The Orange Prize for Fiction: Best of the Best, The Whitbread Novel Award, The Whitbread Book of the Year Award, and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. It has now been adapted for the screen as a coproduction of the BBC and Masterpiece/WGBH Boston.
Hortense Joseph arrives in London from Jamaica in 1948 with her life in her suitcase, her heart broken, her resolve intact. Her husband, Gilbert Joseph, returns from the war expecting to be received as a hero, but finds his status as a black man in Britain to be second class. His white landlady, Queenie, raised as a farmer's daughter, befriends Gilbert, and later Hortense, with innocence and courage, until the unexpected arrival of her husband, Bernard, who returns from combat with issues of his own to resolve.
Told in these four voices, Small Island is a courageous novel of tender emotion and sparkling wit, of crossings taken and passages lost, of shattering compassion and of reckless optimism in the face of insurmountable barriers---in short, an encapsulation of that most American of experiences: the immigrant's life.
11th March 2020 - The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border by Francisco Cantu
NAMED A TOP 10 BOOK OF 2018 BY NPR and THE WASHINGTON POST
FINALIST FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE NONFICTION AWARD
FINALIST FOR THE LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK PRIZE IN CURRENT INTEREST
The instant New York Times bestseller, "A must-read for anyone who thinks 'build a wall' is the answer to anything." --Esquire
For Francisco Cantú, the border is in the blood: his mother, a park ranger and daughter of a Mexican immigrant, raised him in the scrublands of the Southwest. Driven to understand the hard realities of the landscape he loves, Cantú joins the Border Patrol. He and his partners learn to track other humans under blistering sun and through frigid nights. They haul in the dead and deliver to detention those they find alive. Plagued by a growing awareness of his complicity in a dehumanizing enterprise, he abandons the Patrol for civilian life. But when an immigrant friend travels to Mexico to visit his dying mother and does not return, Cantú discovers that the border has migrated with him, and now he must know the full extent of the violence it wreaks, on both sides of the line.