Friday, 6 October 2006

book club

I have joined a book club. I found it through the Canada Network after I went to the Canada Day celebrations in Trafalgar Square. I joined the mailing list and found out when the next meeting was. Then I went out and bought the book they were reading for the October meeting: Two Lives by Vikram Seth. I managed to read 400 of the 500 pages before the meeting this Wednesday.

We met at a little wine bar and restaurant called the Cork and Bottle in Leiscester Square. I knew the street it was on, but couldn't see it anywhere. I even asked a kebab vendor on the street about it but he didn't recognise the name. After a few more minutes of seaching, I located its tiny shop front--right next door to the kebab shop! I don't know how the vendor didn't know it and I'm surprised I missed it too when I asked him.

The group was quite small, and I'm told it usually averages around 8 people. We ordered a bottle of wine and I got a plateful of salads (yum; mozzarella, tomato, and basil; Greek with huge feta pieces; and chickpea and roast vegetables). The discussion ranged over numerous topics, using the book as a jumping off point several times.

The memoir focuses on Vikram's Uncle Shanti and Aunt Henny. They met in Berlin in the early thirties after Shanti moved there to study. He boarded at Henny's mother's house. Henny emigrated to England before the war, and Shanti, now qualified as a dentist, joined the British army. They met again when Shanti settled down in London and started a practice, even though he had lost an arm in the war. They didn't marry until they were forty.

We talked about whether their marriage was based on companionship more than passionate love. We sympathised with Shanti who lived a heart-broken nine years after Henny died. We were intrigued by the way both of them cut ties with their home country. To a group of Canadian women in London that seemed especially poignant.

Our next book is Booker prize-winning The Sea by John Banville. So I'll be out this weekend picking up my copy.

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