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

11th October 2022 - Booth by Karen Joy Fowler

Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2022

From the author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – OBG November 2017 – comes an epic novel about the infamous, ill-fated Booth family.

Junius is the patriarch, a celebrated Shakespearean actor who fled bigamy charges in England, both a mesmerising talent and a man of terrifying instability. As his six children grow up in a remote farmstead in 1830s rural Baltimore, the country draws ever closer to the boiling point of secession and civil war.Of the six Booth siblings who survive to adulthood, each has their dreams they must fight to realise - but it is Johnny who makes the terrible decision that will change the course of history - the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.'In its stretch and imaginative depth, Booth has an utterly seductive authority' Guardian'Brilliantly recounts the story of the American theatrical dynasty that produced Lincoln's assassin' Sunday Times Book of the Month


8th November 2022 - The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles

Bursting with life, charm, richly imagined settings and unforgettable characters. An extraordinary journey through 1950s America from the pen of a master storyteller.

Two brothers venture across 1950s America to New York in the absorbing new novel by the author of the bestselling A Gentleman in Moscow.

In June, 1954, eighteen-year-old Emmett Watson is driven home to Nebraska by the warden of the juvenile work farm where he has just served fifteen months for involuntary manslaughter.

With his mother long gone, his father recently deceased, and the family farm foreclosed upon by the bank, Emmett plans to pick up his eight-year-old brother Billy and head to California to start a new life.

But when the warden drives away, Emmett discovers that two friends from the work farm have stowed away in the trunk of the warden's car. They have a very different plan for Emmett's future, one that will take the four of them on a fateful journey in the opposite direction - to New York City.


13th December 2022 -  The Lovers by Paolo Cognetti

From the author of the international bestseller, The Eight Mountains, comes a story of love and community in the wild beauty of the Italian AlpsThe remote alpine village of Fontana Fredda lives by the seasons. These quiet, complex rhythms appeal to Fausto, who has left the city of Milan behind and with it his relationship. He takes a job as a chef in a little restaurant and entrusts himself to new beginnings. Silvia is also seeking change: her sights are on the glaciers where she has read, climbing a thousand metres towards the sky is equivalent to travelling ten times the same distance to the north.When Fausto and Silvia meet one night, their story begins as a tender story of love and renewal; of the community that sustains them; and of lives humbled by the implacable strength and beauty of the mountains.

As intimate in focus as it is epic in scope, The Lovers is a luminous meditation on our quest to understand our place in one another's lives, and the magnificence of the world around us


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.


Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

A novel of breathtaking sweep and emotional power that traces three hundred years in Ghana and along the way also becomes a truly great American novel. Extraordinary for its exquisite language, its implacable sorrow, its soaring beauty, and for its monumental portrait of the forces that shape families and nations, Homegoing heralds the arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction.

Two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle's dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast's booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia's descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.

Generation after generation, Yaa Gyasi's magisterial first novel sets the fate of the individual against the obliterating movements of time, delivering unforgettable characters whose lives were shaped by historical forces beyond their control. Homegoing is a tremendous reading experience, not to be missed, by an astonishingly gifted young writer.


The Anarchy by William Dalrymple

The book deals with the history of the East India Company in the Indian subcontinent, beginning with the humble origins of the East India Company, founded in 1599 to 1803, they have gained control over the entire subcontinent and command a large private army.

The story of how the East India Company took over large swaths of Asia, and the devastating results of the corporation running a country.

In August 1765, the East India Company defeated the young Mughal emperor and set up, in his place, a government run by English traders who collected taxes through means of a private army.

The creation of this new government marked the moment that the East India Company ceased to be a conventional company and became something much more unusual: an international corporation transformed into an aggressive colonial power. Over the course of the next 47 years, the company's reach grew until almost all of India south of Delhi was effectively ruled from a boardroom in the city of London.


Grey Souls by Philippe Claudel

Ostensibly a detective story, about a crime that is committed in 1917. The location is a small town in Northern France. Twenty years later, the narrator, a local policeman, puts together what actually happened. He believes that justice was not done and wants to set the record straight.
But the death of the child was not the only crime committed in the town during those weeks. More than one record has to be set straight.
Beautiful, this novel has an hypnotic quality.

This is ostensibly a detective story, about a crime that is committed in 1917, and solved 20 years later. The location is a small town in Northern France, near V., in the dead of the freezing winter. The war is still being fought in the trenches, within sight and sound of the town, but the men of the town have been spared the slaughter because they are needed in the local factory. One morning a beautiful ten year old girl, one of the three daughters of the innkeeper, is found strangled and dumped in the canal. Suspicion falls on two deserters who are picked up near the town. Their interrogation and sentencing is brutal and swift. Twenty years later, the narrator, a local policeman, puts together what actually happened. On the night the deserters were arrested and interrogated, he was sitting by the beside of his dying wife. He believes that justice was not done and wants to set the record straight. But the death of the child was not the only crime committed in the town during those weeks. More than one record has to be set straight. Beautiful, like a fairy story almost, frozen in time, this novel has an hypnotic quality.


You’re doing it wrong.  A History of Bad and Bonkers Advice to Women by Kaz Cooke

Kaz's own 30-year history of interest and experience in advice - from her newspaper etiquette column to best-selling books, including Up the Duff and the Girl Stuff series - and years of archives and research has culminated in an exuberant shout of a book with hundreds of wacky and sobering historical photos of objects and instructions.

You're Doing it Wrong is an outrageous tour through the centuries of bonkers and bad advice handed down and foisted upon women, told as only Kaz Cooke can - with humour and rage, intelligence and wit.

Come with Kaz on a laugh-out-loud frolic through centuries of terrible advice, from 14th-century clergy to the Kardashians (wear a dress made of arsenic, do some day-drinking, have sex with a billionaire biker, worry about your vagina wrinkles). It's also a roar against injustice, a rallying cry for sisterhood and a way to free ourselves from ludicrous expectations and imposed perfectionism.
Kaz's own 30-year history of interest and experience in advice - from her newspaper etiquette column to best-selling books, including Up the Duff and the Girl Stuff series - and years of archives and research have culminated in a full-colour, exuberant shout of a book with hundreds of wacky and sobering historical photos of objects and instructions.