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.
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 2020
9th February 2021 - The Erratics by Vicki Laveau-Harvey
When her elderly mother is hospitalised after an accident, Vicki is summoned to her parents' isolated and run-down ranch home in Alberta, Canada, to care for her father. She has been estranged from her parents for many years (the reasons for which become quickly clear) and is horrified by what she discovers on her arrival.
For years her mother has suffered from an undiagnosed mental illness but carefully hidden her delusions and unpredictable behaviour behind a carefully guarded mask, and has successfully isolated herself and her husband from all their friends. But once in hospital her mask begins to crack and her actions leave everyone baffled and confused ... and eventually scared for their lives.
Meanwhile Vicki's father, who has been systematically starved and harangued for years, and kept virtually a prisoner in his own home, begins to realise what has happened to him and embarks upon plans of his own to combat his wife.
The ensuing power play between the two takes a dramatic turn and leaves Vicki stuck in the middle of a bizarre and ludicrously strange family dilemma. All this makes for an intensely gripping, yet black-humoured family drama which will leave you on the edge of your seat.
9th March 2021 - Lila by Marilynne Robinson
A new American classic from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Gilead and Housekeeping
Marilynne Robinson, one of the greatest novelists of our time, returns to the town of Gilead in an unforgettable story of a girlhood lived on the fringes of society in fear, awe, and wonder.
Lila, homeless and alone after years of roaming the countryside, steps inside a small-town Iowa church-the only available shelter from the rain-and ignites a romance and a debate that will reshape her life. She becomes the wife of a minister, John Ames, and begins a new existence while trying to make sense of the life that preceded her newfound security.
Neglected as a toddler, Lila was rescued by Doll, a canny young drifter, and brought up by her in a hardscrabble childhood. Together they crafted a life on the run, living hand to mouth with nothing but their sisterly bond and a ragged blade to protect them. Despite bouts of petty violence and moments of desperation, their shared life was laced with moments of joy and love. When Lila arrives in Gilead, she struggles to reconcile the life of her makeshift family and their days of hardship with the gentle Christian worldview of her husband which paradoxically judges those she loves.
Revisiting the beloved characters and setting of Robinson's Pulitzer Prize-winning Gilead and Home, a National Book Award finalist, Lila is a moving expression of the mysteries of existence that is destined to become an American classic.
13th April 2021 - Ghost Empire : A Journey to the Legend the Legendary Constantinople by Richard Fidle
GHOST EMPIRE is a rare treasure - an utterly captivating blend of the historical and the contemporary, realised by a master storyteller.
In 2014, Richard Fidler and his son Joe made a journey to Istanbul. Fired by Richard's passion for the rich history of the dazzling Byzantine Empire - centred around the legendary Constantinople - we are swept into some of the most extraordinary tales in history. The clash of civilizations, the fall of empires, the rise of Christianity, revenge, lust, murder. Turbulent stories from the past are brought vividly to life at the same time as a father navigates the unfolding changes in his relationship with his son.
GHOST EMPIRE is a revelation: a beautifully written ode to a lost civilization, and a warmly observed father-son adventure far from home.
11th May 2021 - No Friend but the Mountains by Behrouz Boochani
Winner of The Victorian Prize for Literature, and the Prize for Non-Fiction, Victorian Premier's Literary Awards 2019
Where have I come from? From the land of rivers, the land of waterfalls, the land of ancient chants, the land of mountains...
In 2013, Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochani was illegally detained on Manus Island. He has been there ever since.
People would run to the mountains to escape the warplanes and found asylum within their chestnut forests...
This book is the result. Laboriously tapped out on a mobile phone and translated from the Farsi. It is a voice of witness, an act of survival. A lyric first-hand account. A cry of resistance. A vivid portrait through five years of incarceration and exile.
Do Kurds have any friends other than the mountains?
8th June 2021 - The Dickens Boy by Tom Keneally
In the late 1800s, rather than run the risk of his under-achieving sons tarnishing his reputation at home, Charles Dickens sent two of them to Australia.
The tenth child of Charles Dickens, Edward Bulwer Lytton Dickens, known as Plorn, had consistently proved unable ‘to apply himself’ to school or life. So, aged sixteen, he is sent, as his brother Alfred was before him, to Australia.
Plorn arrives in Melbourne in late 1868 carrying a terrible secret. He has never read a word of his father’s work. He is sent out to a 2000-square-mile station in remotest New South Wales to learn to become a man, and a gentleman stockman, from the most diverse and toughest of companions. In the outback he becomes enmeshed with Paakantji, colonists, colonial-born, ex-convicts, ex-soldiers, and very few women.
Plorn, unexpectedly, encounters the same veneration of his father and familiarity with Dickens’ work in Australia as was rampant in England. Against this backdrop, and featuring cricket tournaments, horse-racing, bushrangers, sheep droving, shifty stock and station agents, frontier wars and first encounters with Australian women, Plorn meets extraordinary people and enjoys wonderful adventures as he works to prove himself.
This is Tom Keneally in his most familiar terrain. Taking historical figures and events and reimagining them with verve, compassion and humour. It is a triumph.
13th July 2021 - Olive Again by Elizabeth Strout
Olive, Again follows the blunt, contradictory yet deeply loveable Olive Kitteridge as she grows older, navigating the second half of her life as she comes to terms with the changes - sometimes welcome, sometimes not - in her own existence and in those around her. Olive adjusts to her new life with her second husband, challenges her estranged son and his family to accept him, experiences loss and loneliness, witnesses the triumphs and heartbreaks of her friends and neighbours in the small coastal town of Crosby, Maine - and, finally, opens herself to new lessons about life.
10th August 2021 - A Room made of Leaves by Kate Grenville
What if Elizabeth Macarthur—wife of the notorious John Macarthur, wool baron in the earliest days of Sydney—had written a shockingly frank secret memoir? And what if novelist Kate Grenville had miraculously found and published it? That’s the starting point for A Room Made of Leaves, a playful dance of possibilities between the real and the invented.
Marriage to a ruthless bully, the impulses of her heart, the search for power in a society that gave women none: this Elizabeth Macarthur manages her complicated life with spirit and passion, cunning and sly wit. Her memoir lets us hear—at last!—what one of those seemingly demure women from history might really have thought.
At the centre of A Room Made of Leaves is one of the most toxic issues of our own age: the seductive appeal of false stories. This book may be set in the past, but it’s just as much about the present, where secrets and lies have the dangerous power to shape reality.
Kate Grenville’s return to the territory of The Secret River is historical fiction turned inside out, a stunning sleight of hand by one of our most original writers.