Saturday, December 12, 2009

Book Club

Girl Reading---Franz Eybl I’m getting the most interesting reader perspectives from my new book club.

At first, I had no intention of joining this club. As a rule, I don’t join clubs. I’m not really sure how I ended up joining this one. This, actually, was the book club that I based the disastrous club in Pretty is as Pretty Dies on. The club disbanded around the time that I described it (I’m sure those things are not connected.) It was resurrected a couple of months ago and I (feeling a little bit guilty about my portrayal of the club, maybe?), joined up, at a friend’s invitation.

The first book we discussed was Those That Save Us. I’ll just say right off the bat that this was a dry clean only book for sure. It was set during World War II and its immediate aftermath. It’s not one of those books that I really enjoyed reading. But it engendered some interesting discussion.

The oddest thing to me was that there were two completely different interpretations of this book. I mean radically different. One group looked at it as a love story. The rest (including myself) looked at it as a tragedy. The discussion got very passionate as each group defended its position.

I really just wanted to listen in, but I did think that the author should have done one thing different in the plot. She made a particular event happen to one character when it should have happened to another character. The way she wrote it didn’t ring true—but was a plot device.

Thursday night we had our second meeting and read While I Was Gone, which was a bit more of a machine washable read.

No one liked the protagonist. Not a single person in the group.

This interested me very much because I have a crusty, crotchety protagonist. My agent recently advised me to soften her up in two scenes before we submit to Midnight Ink. I’m going to take her advice. For those two scenes. :)

I noticed that out of the probably 14 or 15 people there, only 3 of us liked the book (myself included.) I thought the ending was weak, but overall thought the book was interesting (not fantastic, but interesting.) The rest of the group did not like the book because they didn’t care about the protagonist. She could live or die as far as they were concerned.

The author, Sue Miller, also had a couple of plot devices in her book. Those parts didn’t ring true for the book club members.

What am I taking away from my book club experience so far? Be really careful about coincidences and other plot devices in my book. Be careful about unlikeable protagonists. Different interpretations of the same book make for lively discussions—it may be okay to keep your theme a little vague if you’re writing literary fiction.

And be careful when writing about book clubs. You might end up joining the club you were making fun of.