So Late in the Day by Claire Keegan, and other recent reads
5:35PM Oct 14, 2023
Hello, and welcome to the Book Club Review. I'm Kate.
I'm Laura. And this is the podcast about book clubs and the books that get people talking.
Irish author Claire Keegan is generally considered to be one of the finest writers working today. 'Every word is the right word in the right place, and the effect is resonant and deeply moving,' said Hilary Mantel of her work, while for Colm Toíbín 'Claire Keegan makes her moments real and then she makes them matter.' Praise indeed, but what did our brand new podcast bookclub make up So Late in the Day, her most recently published short story. We'll be reporting back.
We're also rounding up a few standouts from our recent reading piles, from jJ. L. Carr's meditative classic A Month in the Country to V. E. Schwab's latest fantasy novel, The Fragile Threads of Power.
All that coming up, here on the Book Club Review.
A quick aside, before we get started, let me just tell you about our new Patreon account. Whether you're a longtime listener, or if you've just discovered the pod, this is where you can support what we do. We want to keep the podcast ad free because we don't want to listen to ads any more than you do. But it does cost us two things to make the show, money and time. Over the years many of you have told us how much you enjoy the podcast. So for the first time, we're offering you a way that you can support us and in return, you'll get weekly book recommendations from me, and at the higher tier patrons get occasional extra episodes and membership of our monthly Zoom book club. currently reading Monsters by Claire Dederer. All the info is at the link in the show notes. We'd love for you to take a look. But for now, on with the episode
You have thunderstorms, I have rain. So Kate, some of our listeners may know but not all our listeners may know that you and I do credit you have recently launched our Patreon account. And if people become members, one of the things that they can experience is a book club. The first one was with you, but I may be a special guest here and there. Was it just last night that you had the first book club was Sunday?
Sunday night, yeah, I had been very nervous not knowing if anyone would be free, because I knew that people had signed up and I knew that people potentially could come but I didn't have a formal - ooh!
I heard that, that's the thunder!
An apocalyptic crack of thunder. Yeah, I didn't even know who was gonna come. And then I set up the zoom. And I reminded them all and then I logged on. And there a few people in the waiting room. And then I let these people in. And it was so lovely. Because these are people who I'm used to seeing, like these teeny, tiny little icons on Instagram, under the name, you know, that's all I know about them, really. And there they were in the flesh, these people that I felt like I knew because I've interacted with them – anyway, it was just lovely. It was so lovely. And we talked about – I think another key to my success with this first one was that we talked about this very short book by Claire Keegan, which is a single story So Late in the Day, which is ... What is it? For that one person who loves to know the page counts are things – 47 pages long.
Oh, that's easy. You could read that and and then come to book club, be a two hour jaunt.
So we both read Claire Keegan before hadn't we, when she was shortlisted for the Booker and we read and talked about Small Things Like These. And that is a short story. Would you call it a short story or a novella?
Did we call it a novella? Yeah, I think it's about 110 pages. So a novella
That did incredibly well. It was shortlisted for the Booker, but it felt like it had such a resonance. And it was the book. I think, also because it was quite short. Lots and lots and lots of people read it and engage with it. And I also think it was a very resonant subject. It dealt with the Magdalen laundries in Ireland where unmarried mothers were sent and then effectively became slaves in this system. And it was this awful, tragic thing that went on for a long, long time. And I think then, what Keegan was tapping into was the sense of a real reckoning with that past and acknowledgement of what had gone on and a more public sense of almost sort of atonement needing to be made. And this wonderfully written, very simple story really tapped into that. But at the same time, I remember being slightly underwhelmed by it, I think, perhaps because we read it for the Booker shortlist. And I had that kind of really super-critical mindset. I remember just thinking, 'Oh, I don't really quite see what all the fuss is about.' It wasn't that I didn't like it. I did. But you know what I mean, I was just a little bit like, oh, this story. So Late in the Day, is the story where I think the Penny has finally dropped. And I now understand why Claire Keegan is so amazing. And what it is that people love so much about her work. It's very, very, very good. It tells the story of an Irishman, Cahull, and he is recounting his day. And then he goes home and he's sitting, and he's watching TV and eating and drinking, but he's reflecting all the time, the story is his inner monologue. And what's so brilliant about it is the way it reveals itself as it goes along. And so you have this person initially, who you're not unsympathetic towards, but there's these little hints all the time just little was little phrases that catch your attention and make you think that something's going on. And gradually, as the story goes on, and on and on, and I don't want to spoil it by revealing what happens. But it's so beautifully and neatly completes itself. And at the end, you have a completely different picture of this story. And you understand his perspective, and you have your own very clear perspective on what's happened. And then what you do, then, Laura, is that you go back to the beginning, and you read it again, which Claire Keegan hopes that people will do, she actually says that there's something about these very short things that she writes. But she kind of says she hopes people will read them more than once. And it's true that when you read it again, and you're not just reading it for plot, you really then see the magic of it. You just see all these little tiny touches, and it was just great. It was really great. I was so pleased that we did it.
It occurred to me that when you chose Claire Keegan for the first book club book, that, given how critically acclaimed she is, and how beloved I think national treasure, international treasure, we don't say this anymore in our opener, but we used to always say it love it or loathe it. Was it a good book club book? Can anyone loathe a Claire Keegan story?
I mean, is that possible? I feel like I've come as close as you can by saying that I was underwhelmed by small things. That's probably the worst, you know, that anyone's ever said about her? Yeah, no, it would be hard, it would be hard to load the cleggan story, what did come up was that we were talking about other things that people have read, because I've only read small things like these. And now this one so late in the day, but a couple of the members had read Foster, which is I think the first short story of hers that was sort of properly published as a standalone, they said that's really lovely, and slightly more upbeat in tone. But there's actually a funny thing where it was published in America as a short story in The New Yorker. And so it's been out it was out in America in that magazine 2022. And it's only recently been published here in this beautiful standalone book format. But there are a few differences in the wording of the New Yorker article version, and this printed version that we have here in the UK. And it's really interesting, because she is someone who every word you feel has a weight to it. Not a heaviness, but just a kind of sense of having been so carefully considered. When you learn that things are different. It's just very, very interesting. And so we talked a little bit about some of those differences. And one other really nice thing is that the New Yorker fiction podcast is a really good show to listen to, where they have a different writer on and that writer chooses a story and they usually read it, and then they'll discuss it a little bit with Deborah Triesman who's the host, and George Saunders pick the story by Claire Keegan. But he wasn't prepared to read it aloud. And that is because in the closing sequences of this book, the main character uses the C word. And George Saunders did not feel able to say that in a recording for posterity. And so what happened was that they got Claire Keegan, to read the story herself. And then George and Deborah treatment, have a discussion about it. So if you haven't read so late in the day, and you want to hear Claire Keegan read it to you, all you have to do is dial up that podcast in your podcast player. And you will get to hear Claire Keegan, review the whole thing. And then you get to hear George Saunders telling you what he thinks. All of which is absolutely brilliant. Some of us had read it. Some of us had listened to it. But I felt like all of us wanted to go and listen to it because it does feel like having her read it to you really add something to it. But yeah, just generally, it was so lovely to finally realise that yes, I see what it is. It's that sense of these words being so crafted. It's deceptively simple when you read them, and yet actually, the complexity of what's going on underneath is so brilliant. And I feel like perhaps this is a story, almost because apparently she wrote it. As an exemplar, she wrote it because a student had asked her she teaches writing, and a student had asked her how you write tension. And she wanted to write this story that would show that you could have tension, without there being some big dramatic plot or jumpscares, or anything like that. It's all woven in. And so in this story, it's almost like the mechanism of how it's constructed is slightly on show. So then, as a reader, you see that and I'd love the way that that really helped me appreciating her with new eyes. So yeah, a really interesting one incredibly short read, you can read it in like 20 minutes. And then you read it again. It was a great one. To start off with, I think,
on the theme of short books, it's just a quick aside, but I went out to the paper hound and Vancouver, our favourite bookshop and I was looking for a sci fi novel that we'll come to in a minute that I wanted to give to a friend because she was having a tough day and tough week in the scheme of things really tough. I couldn't find this page turning sci fi novel, what I did find was the English understand wool by Helen DeWitt, love that Kate bought it from me from the paper hound when she was visiting in March. And I was like, oh, you know what, it's a beautiful addition, this friend loves beautifully designed things to I'll get that for her. And I left it on her desk as a surprise with a note and my notes said best read and one sitting with a cup of tea. Look after yourself this weekend. And then she came in the next week. And she's like, Oh, my God, it was the perfect thing. And she and I don't always love the same book. So I was a little bit nervous. She's like, I thought it was so amazing. And she's like, you know, and because the protagonist is a 17 year old girl. I gave it immediately to my 17 year old daughter. She's like, now we can talk about it. Some listeners may not know what this is. It's a novella, a modern a morality drama about a 17 year old girl the wider shores of connoisseurship and the power of false friends. And that's all you need to know. But it is delicious. And I was so pleased that you having introduced it to me as a gift, I passed it on. Well, I bought a copy she has around definitely kept mine, but passed it on to another friend. Maybe she'll do the same.
Yeah, that's a book I read and immediately and almost involuntarily turned back to the beginning and then read it again. It's so wonderful. Well, and you can know
that about short novellas, right? I feel like 10 years ago, 20 years ago, if you told me I read a novella, I wouldn't have understood the point. Is it because we're older? I don't know what it is now. I'm like, Oh, yes, please. I'd love to read a novella. And then yes, as you say, I would reread it again.
I mean, you know, short stories are the time poor readers, friend, you know what's even better than short stories, poetry. I have recently started getting into poetry and like, this is the way forward. You can read a poem about eight seconds.
Don't worry, listeners, she's not gonna be allowed to come on and talk about poetry collections. I won't stand for it. Just move
aside the poetry collections. I haven't my butt. Okay, come on. I will just
make it but I was just gonna say I would make a distinction. I actually think short stories are too short. I think the novella is the way forward like 70 to 80 pages. Because short story you can read in 20 minutes, I think you want like a 60 minute reading experience,
that whole series storybook nd I think is the name of the imprint and they are specifically designed for that experience. I think there's a lovely little note where they say they want people to be able to recapture that feeling we had as young readers where we were able to just call up and read a whole book in an afternoon. And I think that was that one. They really nailed it. The trouble is, that one was so good. I have kind of looked at other books in the storybook indie series. I'm like, will it be? I'm not sure. I basically haven't been
forthcoming and Natalia Ginzburg the road to the city. That's the Italian writer who wrote family lexicon, and she's great.
I've never read her. So that will be a really good one for me.
Well, there you go. That can be one to pick out. But yes, you were gonna ask me about my other. Yeah,
we hadn't caught up for a while. So what else have you been reading?
So many things. I got about eight stacks of different books around me. I'll walk you through the things I don't really want to talk about. I read started Tom Lake and patch it's latest now. Yeah, I got about halfway through and was like, this is getting gloomy. I don't feel like reading gloomy fiction related to climate change. Not least what was the middle of summer and forest fires were raging? Maybe I'll never go back to it who could say, but I was reminded of what a great storyteller and Patchett is touching Tom lake, but also because my Vancouver book club read Bel Canto, which I read 1015 years ago, maybe longer. She's a really strong storytelling, like great characters. Very well developed. Not necessarily a lot happens. Still think the Dutch house is probably my favourite buy her onto my comfort reading before I get to the good stuff. I slipped in Georgian hairs, the masqueraders. And then, and then this is kind of embarrassing. Well, maybe not embarrassing, however, enlightening. I got a Julia Quinn novel, who is the author behind the bridgerton series. This is from the bookshelves in my local grocery store that we have used in the past. I took this to Whistler for the night because I was heading up there with my husband just for a quick break. And I was like, I'll just take it. I picked up the secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy. Can I just tell you one, there was a lot of sex which I should have known. Yeah, because I'd be utterly unsurprised by that. But do it was the most like there was even anyway, Kate, we have been called out for being snotty in the past, but I was quite surprised by just how bad I was. Just how bad it was. Just just truly
reassures me because I actually thought for a minute that you were going to tell me it was really great and I was going to have to revise everything I thought about
it was dire, even The plot was like you could see the secret a mile off from the very beginning. So that's the reading from the summer that doesn't really warrant too much of discussion. But I want to show you this which Kim the paper hound pointed out to me. You can't see it. Listeners you can't see it Kate can't see it either. It is a Dell 50 cent edition with the green pages printed in the early 1950s. And it's Josephine taze Miss PIM disposes, murdered jealousy and hate an unusually good story. Josephine Tay writes with wit and humour, adding just enough suspense to tease the reader into believing that dire things are going to happen. And they do to listeners, we have a mutual friend named Francis who's magazine editor and huge reader. And she has a real passion I'd say for books written by women between 1920 and 1960 or so. And I messaged her right away after Kim suggested I picked this one up and was like, have you read this? She's like, Oh, yes, I wrote that last year. It's a murder mystery set in the callisthenics slash gymnastics College in 1947. And Ms. Pim is a psychology writer who goes to visit an old friend who's the head teacher there. And then she stays through the exam period. A lot of nothing happens, but it's so well written in sort of crisp, cool sardonic writing. It was a delight. Oh, I was so pleased.
I have never heard. Yeah, that sounds brilliant.
I'll come on to my other books in a minute. But what about you? What have you been reading? Well, it was rocket and
I feel like I've had a good reading summer. Even though I've been quite busy. I do feel like I'm managing to fit in the reading many because I've read quite a few things that are quite short. I want us to talk about at this really amazing experience. At the beginning of last week, I had been feeling a bit frazzled, I've been having a really stressful time at work. Normally, I have this day off. And normally on a day off, I got to do exercise, and I get a lot of stuff done. And I had this rule like No, no, no, I'm just gonna not do any of those things. And I'm not gonna go home because if I do, I'll just have to tidy up the house and do all these chores. I'm gonna go to the park. And I'm going to read a month in the country by JL car, which had been recommended to me by my friend Sean is one of his favourite books of all time. It's a book that he rereads the most. And I had never read it. It's not long, it's 127 pages or so I think I don't have it on me. I don't know what happened to it. I have put it somewhere and I keep waiting for it to turn up. And so far it hasn't. So I can't quote from it or do anything, I
need to just let listeners know that I'm looking at you over Skype. And behind Kate. There are boxes and boxes of
books. Yeah, but none of them is in most
of the boxes and also books stacked on top of the bench that I can see on the other side of her. I didn't know why anyway, it's vanished. You need some more bookshelves,
it will turn out when it wants to be found. It's a story about a world war one veteran who is traumatised by his experiences, he survived, but he has a facial twitch and he can't sleep. He has these horrible dreams that just keep him awake. He feels like he's back there. And we meet him on the train. And he's going to this small village in Yorkshire. And we learn that he is going to be restoring a mural that's been painted over in an old church. They're a mediaeval church. So then we follow him to this village, and he meets the person who's working for the vicar. And he gets working on this mural and gradually start to get to know him a bit better. He's very self contained, and really expecting to go and do this work and be isolated, I suppose. But what happens is that people start to come and visit him, people are interested in what he's doing. And you start to have these conversations. And there's also someone else there, who's also an ex soldier, who is a sort of prospecting for I think he's archaeologist, and he's been charged with trying to find the bones of this person who disappeared under some kind of scandalous circumstances sort of hundreds of years before. So they've connect up. And then it's quite descriptive about the village and the countryside. And you get these little bits of detail about the lives of the people there. But nothing much really happens. It's not really a book about things happening. It's just very simple. And then at the end, this time has passed, and his work is completed. And he leaves. And he leaves all these threads, I suppose behind him, you know, relationships that perhaps could have travelled further, but he chose not to pursue them, or the way that people felt about him. But he is now leaving and so that connection has been lost. And at the end later on in his life, he's reflecting back on this period of time, and what he experienced there and what you realise is that that time healed him. He was significantly better at the end of that time than he had been at the beginning time and this place and the community has worked a certain magic, I suppose. But what's wonderful about it, and what you really take away from it is that it's a book about experience, and it's about time and it's about the way that we go through periods in our lives where we experience certain things and we don't really even think that much of them when they're happening. You know, we're just in them. And then later on when we look back on them, we perhaps start To understand the preciousness of that experience that we have, but also with that, this understanding that you could never go back, you could never repeat it. And if you did go back, and even if you did exactly the same things, it would never be the same. So there was something really profound in there, I suppose about living, and about the way that our experiences shape us and make us who we are, and the things that we carry with us throughout our lives. It was just wonderful. It's not long, and I got to sit there in this sunny Park, that's a very special place. For me, it's a beautiful park. But it's also a place where I spent so much time with my children. And still, even now I still there quite a lot with my kids, that I was in a place that's very special to me, but also very conscious that that time, you know, then no longer little my children we've really moved on from that time. And I would recommend it to anyone and everyone I've mentioned to because I think a lot of people have read it immediately they are in the country. It's so great. It's just wonderful and really life enhancing. And the only other thing I'd say is that I took this time, and I spent probably what I didn't know two hours, maybe sitting there reading it. And then I went back into this very busy work and sort of slightly stressful and lots of going on and busy at home as well. And yet I had such a sense of calm and this almost like slight light I was carrying within me that was sustained me through that in this really tangible way. I kind of had this real moment of like, wow, you know, hey, reading, taking time out so good for you. We should all try and do it more. So yeah, that was really special. And I wanted to pass that one on.
That sounds great. And I'm surprised most that I've never heard of it and in a way that you've never read it because it sounds like a real classic.
I had seen the film. I feel like maybe a long, long time ago, but I'd never read it. So yeah, I recommend it. I bet Kim has a copy.
I bet you she does. Speaking of Kim, I popped in the other day and was looking for my latest book club book, which she didn't have. But I picked up a copy of the enchanted APR by Elizabeth von Arno. That's great. You've read that? Yeah. Did you talk at length about Elizabeth garden.
I loved Elizabeth in her German garden, which is about her terrible relationship she has with this man that she's married to but this extraordinary house she lives in and the garden she makes there and it was really good.
Well, the enchanted April is for women of different ages who have retreated to a castle near Portofino and Mrs. Wilkins, who I'm already very much in love with. She's just very, very endearing. And she's in a very unhappy relationship with the overbearing solicitor and Hampstead. And there's lots of hilarious digs at Hampsten. Lady Carolina's like they must not have much money because they live in Hampton. And I'm like, Oh, how times have changed. But it is a discreet period of time. They're there for a month and what will happen to them I don't yet know. There's lots of long slow sentences about the scenery and some great interpersonal drama between them like very low stakes, low grade tension. I'm enjoying that very much. I know exactly what you mean about how sometimes books can be a refuge from the day to day. And I always remember this being young. But when you're reading a really good book, it can create a safe, tranquil space you want to return to, or it can almost be like you're living in a parallel reality, because the events and the drama and the characters in that book with you are alive. And you know that feeling where you're like, well, great, I'm done my day, I need to go read my book. Because what have they been doing all day I need to go catch up with. Oh, I was so lucky because I had that experience. Now. I've had it with two of the books in a trilogy by a sci fi author named and lucky. I saw her recommended at Elliott Bay bookshop, and one of Kate's new favourite places in the world and my favourite bookshop in the world down in Seattle. I trust their recommendations for fantasy and sci fi authors implicitly, they always seem to get it right. And I always think for people who don't write fantasy or sci fi, you know, to each their own, but also there's a lot of garbage and it can be hard to find the good stuff. So they recommended and lucky I finally found her up here in the library and picked up this first book in a series called Ancillary Justice. And I love it so much case and you should read it. Ancillary Justice is about an AI who was once the AI in a massive battleship, up in space. And she he the culture that she's in uses she implicitly so it's actually quite well, it's not confusing. It's just that gender sort of irrelevant and just only comes up when they encounter other civilizations because they're constantly muddling whether or not it's a she or a he, because in their culture, people have different sects, but they're all she's, anyway, that's an aside. She was once a huge spaceship. And in this world, the people she serves they take over other civilizations, other planets, and for a good chunk of the local population. They turn them basically into ancillary keys, which are kind of just like not zombies, but vehicles for the AI to be plugged in. So she's a spaceship, but she's also as an AI plugged into 50 human body, which is quite fun in terms of you narrative point of view, because she's everywhere, all the time from different perspectives. But that's in the past. And when we meet her, she's alone. She's lost her ship. She's the same AI but only has one body. And she's in a cold and distant land. And she's on a mission for revenge, but we don't know why. And then it progresses from there. Really great world building really great storytelling. And I just love the characters you would think an AI might not be certainly the characters around her don't think that an AI can be like a human. But actually, she has a huge amount of heart. She's been alive for 3000 years. It did get me to mulling I was like Goodness me. I feel like I'm much wiser now and 38 than it was at 28. Can you imagine how wise we'd be paid if we lived to be 3000?
But it dies or childhood? Was it written before? You know the current? It's happened? So recently, hasn't it? But now AI is a real thing. And also, not only that, but the thing that everyone is quite worried about? Were these books written pre that, yes,
but nothing much. There's a lot of that in there, the AI is essentially benevolence, and there to serve. But there's also this sense that the AI is cold and clinical and can't love. And that proves not to be the case. And actually, the AIS can be maybe not as human as we are, but just as intricate in their personalities and psychologies. And then there's this great rip roaring plot of how she's going to get revenge. But we don't know what's happened in the past. What happened to her ship? Why is she all alone now. And it's smart enough in terms of the world building the language and the cultural differences that you feel rewarded by it, maybe not challenged, but rewarded is not quite as challenging as linguine. She's good. But she's not quite as cerebral as linguine. So that makes it easier to move from one book to the next. Because you don't need to have your palate cleanser before you can go back and really stimulate your brain in the same way again.
Oh, that sounds really interesting. It's been a long time since I've read a good sci fi novel.
I know when I don't actually read that much sci fi generally. But I think maybe I've been missing out a bit.
Well, there's absolutely no point of comparison between that. And the book I wanted to flag up which I read over the summer. And I just didn't want to miss out from talking about it on the podcast because it's so so good. Another Irish author, besides Claire, Kilroy. It's called Soldier Sailor. And it is a novel about a woman who is in the early days of motherhood funding. Yeah, I mean, also, I feel like there's a lot of this sort of stuff about, there's a mini book now, which is sort of peeling back the curtain on the early days of motherhood and how awful it all is. Or not awful. It's not awful. But it's just unexpectedly difficult. Like you think it's going to be hard, but you have no idea how hard I think that was my take on it. And so everyone has a bit aggrieved, because, you know, there's a strong part of us, like no one told me about this, anyway, that we have these books, people writing these books that are really telling the story. But what I loved about this is that this felt to me like a very fresh take that I absolutely loved. It's kind of hard to describe. So I did just want to read a little bit, which I plucked at random I could have read any of it to give you a sense that this is a little passage I thought was quite revealing. It begins it's the Narita talking, I opened my eyes. You can sleep standing up another lesson learned the hard way. I'd been back in that dream that hideous dream I used to get about you, when your father asked whether I was going to it to what I responded in mild alarm. What did I forgotten this time? And why had I come to the fridge? You were on my hip. You will always on my hip. My body had twisted to adapt to your weight like those windblown trees that grow by cliffs. My belly button still isn't Central. to that. He tapped the flyer held to the fridge door by a magnet, the primary colours of the baby and toddler group toy blocks and prints ABCs images that are patronising now that I think about it, given the target audience is not the infant but the adult who brings the infant along the invariably female adult. I thought you said you were bringing him to that. What day is it? Thursday? Oh, every Thursday morning, said the flyer. The bins have to go out you should bring into that concluded the Child Development Specialist socialise him, he added a word he had picked up from me. I had been talking about socialising you at the baby and toddler group for weeks. Although now apparently it was his idea. Problem was I couldn't get out of the house on time. It was difficult to explain the obstacles to my husband because they weren't obstacles he recognised. They weren't obstacles I'd recognise before having you the whole three steps forward two steps back racket. Since becoming mobile, you could undo faster than I could do. It wasn't yet fully bright outside. My husband was already dressed his hair damp from the shower. I was still in my pyjamas. I opened the fridge and stared at the contents hoping for a clue. They were sockets my eyes, too hot holes bored into my skull. I feel more tired than when I went to bed. Bad night. Silly question. All the nights were
bad. Her husband asked her if it was a bad and hate
your father's feels that to box room. I just don't feel able for today. I need to get some work done. Maybe when you're home, you can do his bedtime. I'm working late again. Yes, the office, his suit, his tie, my pyjamas, my postpartum body. A roll of flap for my roller flap. Engage the call. The app app exhorted me. What did that even mean? Still no idea why I'd come to the fridge, I swung the door shut again. Milk, my husband reminded me. I pulled the door open and handed him the milk. Jesus Christ. Is that all there is left? Sorry. Milk was my responsibility.
Well, her husband sounds dire.
It is her story as she's relating it to the child. The child is the sailor. And you get her monologue. And you get the sense of the husband. And yes, I mean, he is the worst he is beyond anything you're just fear is you're absolutely furious, because he's so hopeless. And she's having to deal with everything. But gradually, as the book goes on is much more subtle than that, because you start to see that, sure, it is just useless. But at the same time, her perspective is not balanced. She is hypersensitive to the inequalities between their situations, which is one that society imposes, it is not one of his making or her making. So it's tapping into the wider structural issues around the distribution of labour between men and women. When it comes to rearing children. It is absolutely wonderful. She's so lonely, finding it all so hard. And in the playground. Finally, she makes a friend she meets a done the dad who has three young children of his own, he's often there at the same time that she is and they connect. And finally she has someone she can laugh at it all with a little bit and see the funny side. And also he helps like the practical things, you know, he's gives her tips and she follows them and finds that things get a bit better. And you think then that this relationship is perhaps going to be a problem but also an escape, but it's not that you know, and I love that about it. It really dances around this novel and it keeps you on your toes. It was absolutely wonderful. And you know what, I will be astonished if any book I read that is on the booker shortlist is better than this, I thought it was really a surprise that this was not even long listed. I thought it was absolutely amazing. I would love you to read it, I think you would really enjoy it really, really great.
I think I could read it. Now. You know, my daughter is almost four, four in two weeks. So it feels long enough ago. I always look back at that period. And I don't think anyone actually told this to me. I think it was something I came to the conclusion maybe around eight months. My top advice for anyone who's having a baby, which is like, you didn't decide to have a baby, you decided to have a child. You just have to get through. Yeah, having a baby. Yeah, and then. And then it will be fun. But having a baby is not fun. No. I mean, and just you're surrounded by family and support and your husband doesn't have to work long hours, or maybe he's doing full time care. Because you know, not that mine could do that. But I know, I know fathers who do, maybe it would be different, but still just remember they will become a delightful child who will then also keep you up in the night in different ways. But they'll give back. They won't be mewling
and they grow up as my sister in law who's got much older children meet tragedy turn into the most delightful human beings who are people you want to spend time with more than anyone else. So you know, you sort of have all that to look forward to. You just have to get through. Perhaps not so much when they're babies when they're toddlers. Oh my goodness. Yeah. Anyway, I just loved it. I would urge all of you to seek it out. It's a really wonderful book.
I have one book to finish. This is a book that kept me occupied when I was avoiding reading the second half of Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. Now listeners you know that Kate loves
we're not talking about
we're not we're
not talking about because we're saving it right for our episode. special episodes come Yeah,
special episode with Phil from my book club. We're gonna talk about Lonesome Dove next. While I was avoiding Lonesome Dove on my summer holiday, I was reading a field recommendation, which is Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton, who is the author of the Booker Prize winning the luminaries, also an excellent BBC series, which I enjoyed very much. So I was quite excited about Burnham would it Phil told me that he blitz through it in like 48 hours and it is in fact florigen 20 pages so fulfil, it doesn't surprise me. I think I was more like 72 It is set in New Zealand. There's a cast of characters but at its heart are these two young women and as it says on the flaps, they have a unregulated, sometimes criminal sometimes philanthropic guerilla gardening collective that plants crops wherever no one will notice. So the founder is Mira and her very best friend is Shelly and the two of them head up this collective which is very left wing very progressive, very grassroots. And Mira has been looking around for something that can maybe help them cut through to the next level to get some funding to become a properly funded nonprofit. And she's very much driven by the fact that Shelley seems to be on the way out. Shelley's pulling back, Shelley is not engaging anymore. She thinks she's going to quit. So when mera finds this land, well, here's about this land. It's in the interior of New Zealand somewhere, I say, with authority, there has been a rock slide. And the rock side has cut off the main road into this town and the surrounding farmlands. And there's only another small road that takes the long way in. So essentially, people have emptied out of this town. And in fact, there's a sheep farmer who's just left the farm and isn't there anymore and mirror reads about it. So she decides she's gonna go down with the collective and check it out. Now, the other major character in this novel, he is basically Elon Musk, although his name is not Elon Musk is an American billionaire. Robert Lemoine, man, he's made a lot of his money in drones and other activities. And he has put about the story to anyone who would be paying attention that he has bought some land to turn into a bunker. I say he's putting out the story. That's his cover story. He's actually doing something foreign, more nefarious, which I won't get into. And so there's this crossing of these two different groups is honestly hilariously pure, evil American billionaire. And he's quite self righteous, indignant, and a little bit annoying. Left wing activists coming together in the New Zealand wilderness with dire consequences. It's quite something Phil was like, I loved it. I was like, It's ludicrous.
And not too much supply fi existential dread.
It's less about climate crisis. And more about not that this should be less depressing, but the pillaging of nature, the ruination of nature. It's very melodramatic, this billionaire is really evil. These left wing activists talk a lot to each other about capitalism and other such things in a way where you're like, Well, you know, yeah, but also, you know, I'm not 22. And even then, I think I was a bit not that I'm not left wing listeners. I am quite left wing. But perhaps I'm not as left wing as a New Zealand activist. I'm
still not quite sure. So is that a recommend or is this? I thought it was a bit ridiculous.
Oh, I think it's ridiculous.
But did you like it? No,
but it's easy to read. I think it would be a great book club. But I still haven't discussed it was filled properly. The reason why I found it problematic is towards the end, it just gets loopy. And I didn't find the motivations of this billionaire in any way convincing and I didn't find the level of conspiracy you had to believe in plausible and almost certainly that's me. Other listeners might be the same others might not. So it's a funny one. I actually think I would recommend it to people who are intrigued. I enjoyed it in the sense that I got through it really quickly. Thought it was a bit silly, and really want to discuss it with Phil at some point.
Sounds like well, maybe the earmark for the pod book club might be a good one. So much depends, does it not? I think on how an author wrap something up and they're not always good at it. But someone who is very very, very good at endings is VE Schwab Victoria Schwab. Do you like how AI works?
She's very excited.
It's the thing I really want to talk about. So pod listeners longtime will have heard me before talk about how much I loved the Schwab's darker shades of magic books, which is a trilogy, which I just love too much. I have read them more than three times I've read them so often. They really speak to something in me, which takes me back to the fantasy novels that I loved when I was a teenager. I think I read them with that almost slightly childlike enthusiasm, and I love the books in themselves. But I feel like perhaps what's going on is that they're tapping back into that for me, which I just adored. So very briefly recap. They're set in London, but it's ultimate London. It's a magic London back in sort of 18th century, the main character is a magician called Kel, who is very unusual in that he is able to command magic to the degree that he can actually traverse through into different worlds. And there are these other versions of London. That's grey London, which is actually our London in the time of King George third. And then there is white London, where everyone's a bit well depressed and deranged is how I described the white London is because life is hot, which has not very much magic, so are London grey London has no magic white London has very little and then there's black London, which is so powerful and so dangerous that it's actually been sealed off from the other London's because of the existential threat that it poses. But Kelly is able to travel between these worlds and in grey, London. He meets Lila, who is a fee for pickpocket she's a young woman who doesn't have much in the world but he's very resourceful and manages to get by and she steals something from Cal and this artefact that she takes kickstarts then a whole chain of consequences that then take you through that book, and the two books that follow in the trilogy. Each one is beautifully structured, I feel like you could read any one of them as a standalone. But together, they make a really comprehensive, very engaging story arc. And the ending is fantastic. I loved the way she wrapped it up, I felt like I was fully satisfied that the story had been resolved. But at the same time, it was very open and a sense that these characters were going to go on, and he could just travel on with them in your imagination, which is just what I always want for a book, I always want them to end like that. And they so rarely do. And then I saw on her Instagram that she was going back there, she was going to write another book. And I had these really mixed feelings about it. Because I felt so strongly about these three books. I was like, Oh, what if it's not as good this new one? What if it spoils the way I feel about the original books do I dare read it? Nonetheless, I was enthusiastic enough about the idea that I pre ordered it on the Kindle. And then suddenly, last weekend, I happened to open it up. And there it was, it was sitting right there waiting for me. And I had this crazy week, no time to read it all. But of course, inevitably, I did start reading it. And I really was just so happy to be back in this world back with these characters. But also there are some new characters that are brilliant and engaging, and you very quickly become very invested in them. And the original characters are that bit older now time has passed. It's seven or eight years on from the events of the last book in the trilogy. And they're different now from how they were when they were younger. And I thought that was handled really beautifully. And there's a lovely Interplay then between the new storyline that's going on and picking up the threads of the old story that you know very well, which I thought was done really well. And then it has everything. It has sea voyages, it has adventures, it has uncharted lands, it has the power struggle, there's a political thing going on. There's chase sequences, there's a masquerade. There's love I mean, I don't know what more do people want? I asked you, it was all in there. And it was really well done. All I would say to anyone who did love the darker shades books is Do not be afraid to read this you are in very, very safe hands. VE Schwab is brilliant writer, I think. And she puts a lot of heart into these books. I don't know her skill as a writer, but you can tell her love and care. And you sense that she loves red London and these characters as much as you do. And she's also very happy to be back there. So it was a treat. It's been one of those books, like you were saying, actually, this is the book where every spare moment I've had I've got it out and I've so happily dive back in and so narrowly avoided missing my stop on the tube so many times because I would suddenly go on some level go Capitol runoff because I've been busy reading some part of the adventure. They're great. It's great, the fragile threads of power. It's called by VE Schwab.
I don't know what I'm holding out for I will dabble in VE Schwab. At some point, I do promise that
I recommend these before. And I felt like you looked at them and just felt like they're not for you. And we talked to hadn't we about the trouble is with fantasy. Particularly it seems like it's quite a personal thing. And this, you know, just really push my buttons in a good way. And as
you said, it's often what fantasy you read as a teen? Absolutely. That affects what you want to keep reading
longtime listeners. How does she read you know me, you know, the kinds of things I like, if you like those things, then I urge you to get
I think that's it. I'm on the fence. I can't decide you and I like lots of the same things with the issue. I'm like, I don't know if that's one that will shake when maybe I don't want to take it away from you. I can remain neutral. If I haven't dabbled tree.
Gosh, I wonder how I would feel as well about I'm not sure I would want to know what someone else thought of them. So again, listeners, by all means go and read them. If you don't like especially if you don't like them, I don't want to hit that.
Oh, well. This has been so good. I'm glad we're over the summer months. And I know I haven't been around very much listeners. But we're going to be back soon to talk about loops.
Well before you disappeared. Just tell us what you're reading now. Next.
Well, I told you I'm reading the enchanted by Elizabeth von Arman ends then I'm going to read our Ys under the sea, which is when you enjoyed so very much, Julie. I got my UK book club to read. Yeah, so we'll be discussing that in a few weeks. That is a
great read. I just saw a picture on someone's Instagram the other day of the UK edition of the paperback, which has the most beautiful sponges I think I've ever seen. They're like an exquisite marble, but it almost looks like an oil slick. It's amazing. I would get it just for those alone. I am going to read the new Lauren Groff, the vaster Wilds which I just spotted in a bookshop. I was in book bar the lake and it was right there on the shelf got the last copy signed by the graph herself. So this is people will know that author of matrix which we read and absolutely loved and we on the pod it was such a good book club book
you have seen are you not that I can't remember? Yeah, I liked but you loved it.
Well interesting to see at book bar, who was not a fan of matrix has been really loving this latest one, which is it's again setting the mediaeval period, when was a mediaeval period, but you know, 1600s it's a young girl who's escaping from some settlement where you get the impression that she has not been particularly well used, and she's fleeing because there is famine, there's no food and I think it's a case of if she stayed she knew she would die and so she's escaping and so the first chapter is just about her running through the woods and you're right there with her and you feel Like, Oh my god, she knows she's going to be pursued and then snow starts to fall and cover her tracks and so you have a sense that she is going to escape. But yeah, I just felt straightaway and so happy to be reading Lauren Groff again. I think I'm gonna love it. We'll see. I will report back. But yeah, that's my next read.
I will definitely read that one too.
So we can confer and then we've got to get to these bigger books. It's hard, isn't it to knuckle down regularly to that shortlist? Anyway, we will.
Those are my non committal No, yes, yes,
yes. We'll see. We'll see how that goes.
I'm having such a good time reading books of my own choice right now.
That's the trouble. I mean, that's what Christina was saying. It's like we know we want to read the book a list and these are the books that this panel of judges has designated that most interesting worthwhile novels that they felt have come out this year and so we must then pay attention to that but it's really hard when you know, there's a new Lauren Groff novel to be read.
And it's not on the list so I mean, come on guys. Help us out here.
Anyway, we will get to it and I can't wait. That's nearly it for this episode. Bugs mentioned we're so late in the day and small things like these by Claire Keegan. The English understand wall by headland do it the road to the city by Natalia Ginzburg, Tom Lake, Bel Canto and the Dutch house by Ann Patchett. The masqueraders by Georgette hair. The secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy by Julia Quinn, Miss Kim disposers by Josephine T, a month in the country by JL car Soldier Sailor by Claire Kilroy Burnham woods by Eleanor Catton and the fragile threads of power by VE Schwab. This episode of The Book Club Review was edited and produced by me Kate sorting them here in London. Whenever you listen to this episode, if you have thoughts on it, Laura and I would love to hear them. Comment anytime on the episode page on our website, the book club review.co.uk link in the show notes, which is also the place to go for an episode transcript. comments there go straight to our inboxes so drop us a line. We always love to hear from you. As I mentioned at the beginning, you'll find the link to where you can get all the information about our patreon account and how you can support us there in the show notes. for book reviews and updates between episodes. Do follow us on Instagram or Facebook at Book Club Review podcast on x at book club RBW pod or drop us a line anytime at the book club firstname.lastname@example.org. And one free way to support us is to take a moment to rate and review the show on your podcast platform of choice which really helps other listeners find it and if you enjoy it, tell your friends but for now, thanks for listening and happy book club