Book Club: 16th January 2013 – The Greatcoat and The Snow Child

We had a great turn out for Wednesday’s Book Club. Thank you to Sue M for leading the group and the insightful summary of the evening:

The cold didn’t put us off – after all, we had just read all about Alaska, so it felt almost tropical as we settled down to discuss our choices:

The Greatcoatby Helen Dunmore

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

First we launched into The Greatcoat. The concensus was that it was a good read but hardly groundbreaking. It was a ghost story, but not at all creepy. Most thought the idea of snuggling up to an itchy, smelly greatcoat a bit far fetched! Some elements were more believable though, especially the realistic presentation of post-war society. Terms from the war were used effectively and sparked a curiosity leading to an unexpected bonus for one member who had the opportunity to discuss National Service with a relative who had rarely spoken of this period in his life. There were contrasts in the interpretation of the ending too – always interesting to discuss.

Our ratings:

An interesting and easy read. Not very scary for a ghost story but left you wanting to get to the end to see the outcome. 3/5 – Mary

Didn’t have enough depth to keep me interested. I struggled to get tot know or like the characters and thought more work could have been done on developing the characters to allow some emotional connection for the reader.
2/5 – Sarah

An unusual take on a ‘ghost’ story. Quite a short fast paced read, but great descriptions of World War II airfields and night raids. Enjoyed it!
4/5 – Kath

Couldn’t really get to know the characters or care about them. The coat felt creepy to me. A quick read but not one that I would particularly recommend.
2/5 – Helen

A good tale of 1950′s and wartime life but a poor ghost story – not scary or creepy at all!
2.5/5 – Morven

I think I was in the minority within the group in finding this quite a pleasant read. I thought the Greatcoat was used as a great device to access another time and place. The atmosphere of the air field, the fear and anticipation of the raids was very well portrayed. I agree that further characterisation would have made it a more well rounded read, but the novel also benefitted from the fast paced nature of not being padded out with too much unnecessary detail.
4/5 – Cara

Could have been much more satisfying but I felt the characterisation lacked depth. I wanted to care more about them.
3/5 – Sue

The Snow Child had a more unanimous response. Everyone had thoroughly enjoyed it. The Alaskan landscape was drawn to perfection – its hardships and its beauty in equal portions. Interestingly, there were more parallels: the description of Jack and Mabel’s fresh start in a remote homestead with all its despair and hope rang true for one member whose parents had experienced a similar move to the wilds of Wales. The magical, fairy tale quality of the book was always balanced by the harsh reality and humanity as well as the veracity of the environment. Again, the ending sparked a lively debate – what really happened? No fairy tale ending perhaps, but isn’t that the point? A recommended read!

Fabulous book! A fairy tale set in Alaska. The landscape was the biggest character giving a backdrop to a lovely heartwarming story.
5/5 – Sue

Beautiful story full of hope and I become obsessed with the glimpses of happiness and laughter that developed as the story unfolded. Very descriptive and great characterisations. Highly recommended.
4/5 – Sarah

Breathtakingly beautiful setting. I fell in love with Alaska along with all the characters. A wonderful first novel. I’d highly recommend it.
5/5 – Kath

A lovely read, felt very magical. Really got to know Mabel. Fabulous descriptions of the extreme cold and the desperation that the couple felt.
4/5 – Helen

A book to get lost in! It transported me to a time and a place I knew nothing about beforehand, and I totally fell in love with it all. The characters were brought to life so brilliantly, that I felt as if I was living with them whilst reading it. I’ll be making my own snow child at the first opportunity.
5/5 – Cara

Brilliant fairytale
5/5 – Rhona

The choices for the next discussion are:

The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fryby Rachel Joyce and/or The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: or the Murder at Road Hill Houseby Kate Summerscale.

We will meet at 7.30pm on Wednesday 20th March – Pavilion Bar, Ruskin, Ruskin Drive, St Helens, WA10 6RP.

We have so many great books suggested each meeting, but obviously can’t choose them all. Here are some that you may wish to take a look at independently.

A Street Cat Named Bob

Go Ask the River

The Sense of an Ending

The Bell Jar (50th Anniversary Edition)

Tiny Sunbirds Far Away

The Red Tent

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