First Thursday Book Club

Our First Thursday Book Club meets at 7:30 pm on the first Thursday of every month to discuss the latest literary prizewinner. All are welcome and no RSVP is necessary. Download the program here, or see below for upcoming meetings.

 

August 3rd 2017: The Dry – Jane Harper (Winner of the Indie Debut Fiction Award 2017)

It hasn’t rained in Kiewarra for two years. Tensions in the farming community become unbearable when three members of the Hadler family are discovered shot to death on their property. Everyone assumes Luke Hadler committed suicide after slaughtering his wife and six-year-old son.

Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk returns to his hometown for the funerals and is unwillingly drawn into the investigation. As suspicion spreads through the town, Falk is forced to confront the community that rejected him twenty years earlier. Because Falk and his childhood friend Luke Hadler shared a secret, one which Luke’s death threatens to unearth …

September 7th 2017: The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead (Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2017)

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. All the slaves lead a hellish existence, but Cora has it worse than most; she is an outcast even among her fellow Africans and she is approaching womanhood, where it is clear even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a slave recently arrived from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they take the perilous decision to escape to the North.

In Whitehead’s razor-sharp imagining of the antebellum South, the Underground Railroad has assumed a physical form: a dilapidated box car pulled along subterranean tracks by a steam locomotive, picking up fugitives wherever it can. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But its placid surface masks an infernal scheme designed for its unknowing black inhabitants. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher sent to find Cora, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

At each stop on her journey, Cora encounters a different world. As Whitehead brilliantly recreates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America, from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once the story of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shatteringly powerful meditation on history.

October 5th 2017: The Lost Pages – Marija Peričić (Winner of the Vogel Literary Award 2017)

A stunning novel of friendship, fraud and betrayal within a compelling literary rivalry.

‘To frame The Lost Pages as being about Brod is clever and interesting. The Kafka we meet here is almost the opposite of the one we have come to expect.’ Stephen Romei, Literary Editor, The Australian

It is 1908, and Max Brod is the rising star of Prague’s literary world. Everything he desires-fame, respect, love – is finally within his reach. But when a rival appears on the scene, Max discovers how quickly he can lose everything he has worked so hard to attain. He knows that the newcomer, Franz Kafka, has the power to eclipse him for good, and he must decide to what lengths he will go to hold onto his success. But there is more to Franz than meets the eye, and Max, too, has secrets that are darker than even he knows, secrets that may in the end destroy both of them.

The Lost Pages is a richly reimagined story of Max Brod’s life filtered through his relationship with Franz Kafka. In this inspired novel of friendship, fraud, madness and betrayal, Marija Pericic writes vividly and compellingly of an extraordinary literary rivalry.

 

November 2nd 2017: The Power – Naomi Alderman (Winner of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2017)

It starts with teenage girls. At 14 or 15, the age when in our present world girls are waking to an awareness of their own sexuality tangled up in all the ways society will seek to stifle or exploit it, Alderman has them come alive to the thrill of pure power: the ability to hurt or even kill by releasing electrical jolts from their fingertips. “Something’s happening. The blood is pounding in her ears. A prickling feeling is spreading along her back, over her shoulders, along her collarbone. It’s saying: you can do it. It’s saying: you’re strong.”

Footage of girls electrocuting men floods the internet; uncontrolled individual outbursts swell into the knowledge of collective power as more girls learn how to harness this strange new ability, and show older women how to awaken it too. Men start to give teenage girls a wide berth on the street; boys are segregated into single-sex schools for their own safety. The phenomenon is blamed on nerve gas, witchcraft, an anti-male conspiracy, a mystery virus; it’s assumed that an antidote will be found and the “normal” balance of power restored.

But every individual exercise of power contributes to power relations as a whole, and change is unstoppable. With this single twist, the four lives at the heart of Naomi Alderman’s extraordinary, visceral novel are utterly transformed.

— The Guardian

December 7th 2017: A General Theory of Oblivion – José Eduardo Agualusa (Winner of the Dublin IMPAC Award 2017)

“Some biologists argue that a single bee, a single ant, is nothing more than the mobile cells of one individual. The true organisms are the beehive and the ant nest.” In A General Theory of Oblivion, José Eduardo Agualusa presents us with the beehive of Luanda and its recent history. Beginning with the extraordinary premise of a Portuguese woman who bricks herself into her apartment on the eve of Angolan independence, the novel gradually introduces character after character, their stories tessellating in unexpected ways.

Embedded within a convincing fiction of its own, the novel basks in the joy of slow storytelling. Poets are swallowed up by the earth, lovers separated and reunited, men killed and resurrected, the rich become poor and the poor become millionaires. The author enjoys teasing us with revelations we could never have seen coming, and as he does so his characters flesh out and take on unforeseen dimensions.

Even while A General Theory of Oblivion details starvation, torture and killings and revolves around our need to forget, its tone and message are concerned with love. The writer gives his readers both understanding and hope, taking Angolan stories and making them universally applicable. No one is truly alone in José Eduardo Agualusa’s Luanda beehive, and his characters make us, too, feel deeply connected to the world.

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