One of the best features of belonging to a book group (or in my, perhaps extravagant, case, three book groups) is that just occasionally you are taken completely by surprise by someone else’s selection of a book that, left to your own devises, you would never have chosen to read. This has just happened to me in respect of my Wednesday Morning group where the choice for March is Nevil Shute’s 1949 novel A Town Like Alice.
For no really good reason (i.e. I know nothing about his work and therefore don’t really have a right to have an opinion) I have always consigned Shute’s work to the internal shelf marked ‘romantic novels, not for me’. Consequently, when this turned up on the group list I can’t say I was particularly looking forward to reading it. How wrong can you be? It is, as one member of the group said, quite simply a good old fashioned read. Shute doesn’t try to do anything clever with his narrative; he simply sets out to tell a first-class story about characters with whom the reader will be able to empathise. I have spent the weekend laughing and crying my way first around the Malay peninsula during the Japanese occupation, then followed by the Australian outback in the years immediately after the Second World War and I can honestly say that I haven’t enjoyed a book so much for a long time.
This set me thinking about other books that have similarly taken me by surprise. Watership Down was one. I mean, Rabbits? And One Day (another book group choice) had much more substance to it than I was expecting. So, with apologies for a very short post today, it having been an unexpectedly difficult weekend, I thought I would ask you to share with me your own surprise reads. After all, it might just be that you recommend another of those books that I am sure simply isn’t the one for me and start me down a whole new path of enlightenment.