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.
Interested in setting up your own Book Group.  Click here to read our tips for a successful Book Group.
The following have been selected for future meetings in 2024

11th June 2024 - Mrs Orwell’s Invisible Life by Anna Funder

This is the story of the marriage behind some of the most famous literary works of the 20th century —and a probing consideration of what it means to be a wife and a writer in the modern world

At the end of summer 2017, Anna Funder found herself at a moment of peak overload. Family obligations and household responsibilities were crushing her soul and taking her away from her writing deadlines. She needed help, and George Orwell came to her rescue.

"I’ve always loved Orwell," Funder writes, "his self-deprecating humour, his laser vision about how power works, and who it works on." So after rereading and savoring books Orwell had written, she devoured six major biographies tracing his life and work. But then she read about his forgotten wife, and it was a revelation.

Eileen O’Shaughnessy married Orwell in 1936. O’Shaughnessy was a writer herself, and her literary brilliance not only shaped Orwell’s work, but her practical common sense saved his life. But why and how, Funder wondered, was she written out of their story? Using newly discovered letters from Eileen to her best friend, Funder re-creates the Orwells’ marriage, through the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War in London. As she peeks behind the curtain of Orwell’s private life she is led to question what it takes to be a writer—and what it is to be a wife.

A breathtakingly intimate view of one of the most important literary marriages of the twentieth century, Wifedom speaks to our present moment as much as it illuminates the past. Genre-bending and utterly original, it is an ode to the unsung work of women everywhere.


9th July 2024 - Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing as an average woman. But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute takes a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans; the lonely, brilliant, Nobel–prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with—of all things—her mind. True chemistry results.

But like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (“combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride”) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo.

Laugh-out-loud funny, shrewdly observant, and studded with a dazzling cast of supporting characters, Lessons in Chemistry is as original and vibrant as its protagonist.


13th August 2024 - Monkey Grip by Helen Garner

In "Monkey Grip", Helen Garner charts the lives of a generation. Her characters are exploring new ways of loving and living - and nothing is harder than learning to love lightly. Nora and Javo are trapped in a desperate relationship. Nora's addiction is romantic love; Javo's is hard drugs. The harder they pull away, the tighter the monkey grip. A lyrical, gritty, rough-edged novel that deserves its place as a classic of Australian fiction.


10th September 2024 - The Fraud by Zadie Smith

The extraordinary first historical novel from bestselling author of White Teeth Zadie Smith

It is 1873. Mrs Eliza Touchet is the Scottish housekeeper - and cousin by marriage - of a once famous novelist, now in decline, William Ainsworth, with whom she has lived for thirty years.

Mrs Touchet is a woman of many interests: literature, justice, abolitionism, class, her cousin, his wives, this life and the next. But she is also sceptical. She suspects her cousin of having no talent; his successful friend, Mr Charles Dickens, of being a bully and a moralist; and England of being a land of facades, in which nothing is quite what it seems.

Andrew Bogle meanwhile grew up enslaved on the Hope Plantation, Jamaica. He knows every lump of sugar comes at a human cost. That the rich deceive the poor. And that people are more easily manipulated than they realise. When Bogle finds himself in London, star witness in a celebrated case of imposture, he knows his future depends on telling the right story.

The 'Tichborne Trial' captivates Mrs Touchet and all of England. Is Sir Roger Tichborne really who he says he is? Or is he a fraud? Mrs Touchet is a woman of the world. Mr Bogle is no fool. But in a world of hypocrisy and self-deception, deciding what is real proves a complicated task...

Based on real historical events, The Fraud is a dazzling novel about truth and fiction, Jamaica and Britain, fraudulence and authenticity, and the mystery of 'other people.'


8th October 2024 - Lessons by Ian McEwan

When the world is still counting the cost of the Second World War and the Iron Curtain has closed, eleven-year-old Roland Baines's life is turned upside down. Two thousand miles from his mother's protective love, stranded at an unusual boarding school, his vulnerability attracts piano teacher Miss Miriam Cornell, leaving scars as well as a memory of love that will never fade.

Now, when his wife vanishes, leaving him alone with his tiny son, Roland is forced to confront the reality of his restless existence. As the radiation from Chernobyl spreads across Europe, he begins a search for answers that looks deep into his family history and will last for the rest of his life.

Haunted by lost opportunities, Roland seeks solace through every possible means—music, literature, friends, sex, politics, and, finally, love cut tragically short, then love ultimately redeemed. His journey raises important questions for us all. Can we take full charge of the course of our lives without causing damage to others? How do global events beyond our control shape our lives and our memories? And what can we really learn from the traumas of the past?

Epic, mesmerizing, and deeply humane, Lessons is a chronicle for our times—a powerful meditation on history and humanity through the prism of one man's lifetime.


12th November 2024 - At the Foot of the Cherry Tree by Alli Parker

A stirring story of love and hope, based on the incredible true story of Australia's first Japanese war bride and a love that changed a nation forever.

Gordon Parker is just an eager eighteen-year-old Australian boy desperate to fight for his country, and Nobuko 'Cherry' Sakuramoto is a sixteen-year-old girl struggling to survive in Japan in the aftermath of World War II. But when they fall in love, they change the course of history.

When Gordon arrived in Japan, he expected ruthless samurai, angry Japanese men ready to kill Australians at every corner. Instead, he found Cherry, terrified of ex-enemy soldiers, a 16-year-old survivor of the atomic bomb. Against all the rules and against all odds, they fall in love. But when Gordon discovers the White Australia Policy prevents Cherry coming home with him as his war bride, Gordon does what any 20-year-old soldier would do. He vows to fight. Leaving Cherry alone and pregnant in post-war Japan, Gordon somehow has to convinces his family to accept his marriage and wage a desperate campaign against a xenophobic and war-scarred government to allow his wife and his family to come home.

A story spanning seven years and two countries reeling from the aftermath of war, At the Foot of the Cherry Tree is a sweeping and moving novel about faith, trust, and the power of a love that alters history - written by Gordon and Cherry's granddaughter, accomplished scriptwriter, Alli Parker.