On a dark and windy (but not stormy) night, just before Halloween, my book club gathered at the beautiful home of one our members, to eat and drink and talk about war. More specifically about books on World War I.
If you read my blog regularly, you’ll know that this is a particular area of interest of mine. Poetry and fiction written during and about WWI and its aftermath has always moved me. I love the stories of the men and women who lived the horror of that time and saw the death of an old world and the dawn of a new century, for the twentieth century really began in 1914 with the beginning of the war.
I did a lot of reading and rereading about WWI, and the writers who chronicled it, in June, when I wrote a blog post about the one hundredth anniversary of the events that lead to WWI, and about some of the poetry and fiction of the era. It took me three days to write the post. I kept getting bogged down in what I was reading, “mired in the mud” of the war, so to speak. You can read that post here.
The routine for a book club meeting is: drinks, nibbles, dinner and then book talk. So I’ll regale you with what we ate before I get into what we read.
Janet is an accomplished cook. And after a glass of wine and some nibbles, we feasted on fresh figs filled with marscapone and orange zest…and some other stuff that tasted divine but which I can’t remember….not being an accomplished cook myself.
Then she served us salad, warm bread and the best pasta I have ever had. Seriously. And I know my pasta; since I make my own from scratch, it is one of the few things which I do well in the kitchen. Fettucini with roasted butternut squash, crispy pancetta, wilted spinach, and a roasted garlic sauce. I would have taken a picture of the pasta course but I was too busy wielding my fork and closing my eyes in rapture. We finished with a lovely maple pecan pie and coffee.
Over dinner we talked about sex, rough sex, and the CBC… and, believe me, it’s not often that one would include rough sex in the same sentence as that venerable Canadian institution the CBC. Actually we were talking about the scandal surrounding the popular host (or former host) of the CBC arts and culture program “Q.” Lots of opinions about that situation which I won’t go into here… one of our members being a former CBC journalist and another being related to one. But enough said. Back to books.
For this meeting we diverged from our usual practice of discussing a single book that we had all read. Instead we read books of our choice about the theme, which was World War I. I love it when we do this, especially if there is a large enough variety of books.
Two of our members read non-fiction books. One was The Undertones of War, poet Edmund Blunden’s memoir of his experiences in WWI. The other was Margaret MacMillan’s The War That Ended Peace: The Road To 1914. They provided two very different takes on the war, obviously. One having been written from a very personal perspective and chronicling the author’s experiences in the trenches, the other crafted with the aid of the passage of time and MacMillan’s not inconsiderable skills as a historian.
The rest of us read fiction.
Sebastian Faulks’ brilliant Birdsong, and Pat Barker’s award winning Regeneration, the first book of her trilogy.
The last two books we talked about are both by Pat Barker as well.
Do you belong to a book club? Any suggestions for books for mine?