If you’re in need of a good read this summer, one to test those mental faculties, look no further than The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht.
I think it’s her debut novel. As an aspiring novelist I always try to buy a debut and a guaranteed good read when I’m faced with one of those buy-one, get-one-half-price groaning tables of books inside bookshop doors.
Apparently publishers pay through the nose to get their books in those offers, and I like to do my bit for advancing all those new authors trying to make their mark in the literary world.
But I digress. The Tiger’s Wife is a great read, just as long as you ignore the reading club’s questions in the back which filled me with something akin to soul-destroying dread when I realised that I had missed some of the crucial points of the book.
Does anyone actually sit around and use questions like those as a basis for debate? They’re there, I believe, to ignite discussion about character and plot and to keep book groups on track.
This I applaud as the book group which I dip in and out of with alarming irregularity tends to focus on local goings-on, a variety of things to eat and more than our fair share of alcohol – great if you ask me.
The questions in the back of Tea’s book led me straight back to my O-level English Lit exam, the one where you’re faced with the fact that you loved the book, read it umpteen times and still didn’t get any closer to the examiner’s interpretation of it.
We’re all supposed to keep our mental faculties up and running but honestly, questions like: Do you need to see to know? just dissolve any feeling of satisfaction at the end of a good book.
At least with O-levels you had vague concepts about what something could relate to, planted there by an enthusiastic teacher.
The difficulty with book clubs is that reading is taken from the solitary pursuit I love so much to one of abject terror. If I admit I’ve read a certain book, people might ask me a philosophical question to which I have no answer. Just a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and then a swift and subtle change of conversation, such as is there any more Pinot Grigio in that empty-looking bottle?