I met my lovely book club friends this evening, and after exchanging news and catching up with each other we eventually – after delicious snacks, began to discuss the book we have been reading this month.It was The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. It was along and very detailed book and there must have been a huge amount of research undertaken by the author. It was complex and wove in and out of the lives of a family called the Convoys who live in the Dutch House, absent mother, father who owned many properties, older daughter who has diabetes and the narrator who is the son. There lives change when the father marries for the second time, a woman who has two young daughters of her own. I didn’t like the book, and it was a chore reading it – but I could see that it was a well-written book with believable characters. I found it flat somehow, and could not engage, even though there was plenty of detail and description as the characters
It’s always difficult for some reason to choose the next book, our minds seem to go blank even though we have had a whole month to prepare for our get togethers! We did manage to choose, not just one, but two books – Treasure island by Robert Louis Stephenson for March, and The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy for April. Now I have to say although I have read many of Hardy’s books, I do struggle with them. not because of their length, density or complex story-lines, but because so often they are just so tragic and sad. I remember thinking to myself after I’d read one that I wouldn’t read any more, too depressing!
However, tonight, I found myself suggesting we read The Return of the Native. I think it was because although I had struggled my way through The Dutch House, and hadn’t enjoyed it, I did gain something from it, and there were aspects of it and things about it which did make an impression. So maybe challenging myself to read hardy again I would find I feel pleased with myself for the effort, and maybe get over the sadness of the stories by the power of the writing, the characters and the narrative.
I read Return of the Native for A-levels, so did study it in some depth, and certainly over the years there have been scenes from it which have stayed in my mind – the man cutting the furze (gorse), the fall-out between the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law which accidentally led to a tragedy, and of course the country characters who are somewhat caricatured. I know one of my own weaknesses in writing is descriptions of place and location, and Hardy is a master of that aspect, so maybe I can pay particular attention to how he not only describes but evokes landscape. We have two months to read it so long though it is i should finish it in time for our next jolly get-together!
My featured image is of an actual Dutch house in the Netherlands – the one in Ann Pratchett’s book is virtually made of glass, so not a bit like it!