Readers Gather Around the Country as Book Clubs Flourish in France

Keen readers gather around France for regular book readings and reviews, usually over a cup of tea or a glass of wine.

Books, books, books

The Aveyron Book Group in collaboration with French News Online, here introduces a regular book lovers’ page.

The Aveyron Book Group was set up in 2003 with just 5 members and now (December 2012) with a full house at 14, it meets regularly in the afternoons for refreshments visiting each members homes on a rota basis.


Why not give your book a pair of wings once you’ve read it? Here’s how. 
Book Crossing free labels



The January 2012 chosen book was The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles

Anne Dyson, at the time one of the members of the Aveyron Book Group writes:

The Sheltering Sky

There were only 4 members present at the meeting in December though 3 other members sent their views via email.
The lowest score was 2 from a member who found the book difficult to read, very negative and had no sympathy with the characters.
Another member also commented that it was not an easy read but she praised its clever descriptions.
Positive comments noted how finely crafted the novel was with good descriptions and very good atmosphere, a member noted it was a drifting, misty story.
One of our members commented that it was “a bleak post war novel exploring through its characters the dislocation of individuals in an alien world, confused and uncomprehending.” At first the novel is difficult to get into but it repays effort.
The atmosphere of the all encompassing desert and its effect on the characters is very powerful.
The shifting sands seem to echo the shifting moods of the characters, the reader is drawn into these subtle shifts and the overall sense of despair and confusion and impending doom leaves the reader feeling uncomfortable, ill at ease, drawn into the lives of the characters without ever feeling that confusion will be resolved.
An unusual and intelligent read. The Sheltering Sky has been made into a powerful yet enigmatic film, well worth seeing after you have read the book but not before! The final score was 61%.

Format : Paperback ISBN: 9780141187778. Size : 129 x 198mm
Pages : 368 Published : 29 Jan 2004 Publisher : Penguin Classics

Review by: Anne Dyson, Aveyron Book Group



A Morocco Meeting with Paul Bowles, a writer in exile

Paul Bowles

Ken Pottinger met Paul Bowles (who died in Tangier on 18 November 1999) at a summer university writing course in 1982 in Morocco, where he had lived in exile since 1947.
His role was to be critic in chief of the drafts presented by budding US writers and poets attending the course. But he later confessed to me that he did not much enjoy the task and only tagged along because: “I need the money”.
He had a reputation as a composer of incidental music and happily played visiting students — which included me — some of his atonal Moroccan-inspired works, on a small and unimpressive cassette tape recorder wholly incapable of doing the music any justice at all, even if the listeners had been in a mood to appreciate his avante gardism. Before heading to Tangier, Bowles sought out Paris as “a congenial place of exile in Europe”, as did many other American expatriates.
“Everyone wanted to come to Europe in those days”, Bowles notes in his autobiography, “It was the intellectual and artistic center. Paris specifically seemed to be the center, not just Europe…”
Here is an account of one of the last interviews with Bowles then aged 82, and done after the film mentioned by Anne Dyson, was released.
Another Paul Bowle link with some of his story is here.
Here is a potted biography and some interesting background about his composing and musical career.

Story by: Ken Pottinger


More Book reviews by the Aveyron Book Group

Members reviewed 3 books for French News Online:
Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge, Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith and Frankie and Stankie by Barbara Trapido.


January’s chosen book was The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

The Little White Horse
– to read a Synopsis, click the image above –

Anne Dyson, a member of the Aveyron Book Group writes:

Our book choice for January was The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge, chosen by a member who had very much enjoyed it as a chid and thought others might enjoy it too.

It has been cited as one of E.J.Rowling’s favourite books. It was not well liked!

There were some positive comments but not many, Most members felt it was just too sickly sweet and couldn’t get beyond that and the over-use of several adjectives – notably “silver” which infuriated one member so much she took to counting the times it was used then gave up at 30 because as she said ‘it just didn’t matter any more’.

Although it was described as a fantasy story and won the 1946 Carnegie Medal for children’s literature it was felt to be very dated and had not stood the test of time. Another member wanted to put the book in its historical context – a time immediately after the 2nd World War when life was hard and depressing for many, including children. Some of us felt that we would have hated it even as children when compared with Arthur Ransome, Malcolm Saville, Noel Streatfield, Lorna Hill and even Enid Blyton (do these bring back memories too?) Two members have passed the book on to 8/9 year old grand daughters for their comments.

The low scores for the book reflected the comments. The highest individual scores were 2 x 6, the total was 41%. The member who chose the book was thanked for making us read something totally different.

Selected Edition: Paperback. ISBN 9780745945781
Published 3rd July 2000

February’s chosen book was Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith

Child 44
– to read a Synopsis, click the image above-

Anne Dyson, a member of the Aveyron Book Group writes:

February saw another very different book – Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith. What a dark, chilling book that is. It is compelling reading with some horrific descriptions, a good first book by this young author.

The story is based on fact which makes it all the more disturbing. The descriptions of life in Russia under Stalin were well researched and the notes at the end of the book give credence to the background. It is the sort of book not many of our members would choose to read but were glad of the opportunity to broaden their horizons even at the expense of being horrified and disturbed by the book. Negative comments ranged from the characters not being sufficiently well drawn to the very contrived ending but some members pointed out that that is the nature of the genre.

The score was a very reasonable 70%

Format : Mass Market Paperback, 512 pages
ISBN-10: 0857204084. ISBN-13: 9780857204080
Published : April 2011 Publisher : Simon & Schuster UK

March’s chosen book was Frankie and Stankie by Barbara Trapido

The Sheltering Sky
– to read a Synopsis, click the image above –

Anne Dyson, a member of the Aveyron Book Group writes:

March saw us reading Barbara Trapido’s Frankie and Stankie. As usual the views on the book were very varied, part of the strength of our group I feel, together with the fact that every members comment is valued.

On the whole the book was well received, many members particularly enjoying the laugh aloud sections and the hilarious accounts of childhood and adolescence in the 50’s and 60’s – most of us being of a similar age and could relate well to the ‘goings on’.

Those who gave the book a high score loved the style, found it atmospheric, beautifully written and analytically good. The 1950’s were very well portrayed and the story of South Africa and the developing menace of racial tensions were well told. The story was largely autobiographical which strengthened the detail and added to the pleasure of the read. Those members who rated it lower were disappointed in the mass of detail and found that intrusive.

The book scored 73%

Format : Paperback ISBN: 9780747599593.
Size: 198x129mm. Pages : 336 Published : May 2009 Publisher : Bloomsbury Publishing

The Aveyron Book Group’s readers also enjoyed the books shown below.

Book Review

A Thousand Acres, by Jane Smiley. Review, by the Aveyron Book Group

Book Review

Little Black Book of Stories, by A.S. Byatt. Review, by the Aveyron Book

Book Review

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer. Review, by the Aveyron Book Group

Blindness – Review

Blindness by Jose Saramago. Nine members met mid-May to discuss this book. There were a wide variety of comments from three members who actively hated the book, to two who thought it was a work of genius.

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