Summer School ~ August 2014

tumblr_m28hunkihb1rqmm3jo1_1280I’m conscious that I haven’t been around much this week and for that my apologies.  I’ve had quite a bit of teaching, with all the preparation that is associated with postgraduate work and I’ve also been finalising the details for this year’s Summer School.

As some of you know, every year I run a Summer School for a group of friends who, like me,  can’t afford to attend any of the more formal literary gatherings.  About this time of year I offer them five sets of books, each set being linked by a different theme, and ask them to choose the one they would most like to spend a week discussing.  There are three books in each set so when the Summer School comes round we meet three times during the week, each time the meeting being hosted by a different member of the group and the discussion being led by a different participant.  That way there is no real burden of preparation other than reading the books on anyone and the only cost that we incur is 50p a day for tea and biscuits.  It works extremely well.  This will be the fifth year we’ve run it.

The forms for book selection will go out next week and this year participants will be asked to choose from amongst the following:

Musical Interlude

The Travelling Hornplayer ~ Barbara Trapido
Bel Canto ~ Ann Patchett
An Equal Music ~ Vikram Seth

The Perfect Spy

Sweet Tooth ~ Ian McEwan
Spies ~ Michael Frayn
Restless ~ William Boyd

On Flanders Field

Restoration ~ Pat Barker
The Eye in the Door ~ Pat Barker
The Ghost Road ~ Pat Barker

Resurrecting the Past

Remarkable Creatures ~ Tracy Chevalier
A Month in the Country ~ J L Carr
The Dig ~ John Preston

Breaking New Ground

The Tenderness of Wolves ~ Stef Penney
The Lieutenant ~ Kate Grenville
The Last Runaway ~ Tracy Chevalier

I’m always glad that I don’t get a vote as to which of the groups we’re going to read because of course I never offer books that I don’t want to spend my summer with and I would be very hard put to choose between these sets.  However, I’m sure you’ve got thoughts as to which would top your list if you were joining us and I would love to hear what those are.  It would be fascinating to see if your overall choice matches up to those who will actually be coming to the Summer School.

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32 thoughts on “Summer School ~ August 2014

  1. What a great idea! I love the groupings, which make me very curious about the connections…and I love connections! I loved Bel Canto and enjoyed both Remarkable Creatures and The Last Runaway (but Remarkable Creatures is my favorite.) Hope to hear more about your Summer School.

    1. Oh you will, Jenclair. Once August comes round it really keeps me occupied. The thing I really like about the two Chevalier novels is that they show that she is really back on form after a couple of really poor books.

  2. A difficult choice indeed! The Spies one appeals but I’ve already read and enjoyed both the Boyd and the McEwan and I’m wary of Frayn after Headlong. I loved The Tenderness of Wolves and haven’t read either of the other authors in that group at all so I think I’d probably vote for that one. But then The Musical Interlude Collection looks interesting too…

    1. I think secretly that’s the one I would most like to win Fiction Fan. I would love an excuse to re-read the Vikram Seth – although the same is true of the Pat Barker trilogy.

  3. I like the idea of how you organize ‘summer school’, Alex. The Pat Barker books look interesting – I need to read them, and so does A Month in the Country. I confess to not having read any of the others on the list. Obviously I need to join your book group! 😀 Wish I could…..I’d go with The Dig, An Equal Music, A Month in the Country, and the rest just go with the group. If I had to pick a theme, it would be Resurrecting the Past.

  4. What a great idea! And what lovely choices of books, though I’d find it really hard to know which to vote for.

    1. It is difficult, Harriet. Every year I think I should try and put together at least a couple of sets of books that I wouldn’t normally choose to read myself but then how would I know in advance if they were worth recommending.

  5. What a great idea, Alex. It’s very diffiuclt to choose one from these – all of the groups contain at least one book that I’ve read, enjoyed and would like to discuss – but I think I’d plump for Muscial Interlude in the hope that my fellow summer schoolers would know more about music than I do and would teach me something. I hope you all enjoy yourselves.

    1. I think that’s my favourite, Susan, although I never allow myself a vote for fear of influencing what others would thereby choose.

  6. Fabulous idea and some great lists – they all appeal to me for different reasons. However I would go for The Regeneration Trilogy – it’s a few years now since I read it – and if my tbr wasn’t as ridiculous as it is this would be the year to re-read it. They are each powerful and memorable works (at times almost unbearably so) and seem written with remarkable understanding and honesty.

    1. I read the Barker as they were published, Ali, and one of the reasons that I’ve put them on the list is that I would really like to read them in a single sweep just to see how they reflect on each other. I’m sure I would get even more from them that way.

  7. I think I’d go for the spy novels this summer, since it seems like it might be fun to compare others in the genre to Sweet Tooth, the only one of the three you propose that I’ve read.

    1. Sweet Tooth is the one I haven’t read, Jeanne, which is really why I put that grouping in, to give me a reason to get round to it.

  8. I love your summer school lists! I’ve meant to read Pat Barker for ages so I’d chose her set. But the spy books are so very tempting… 🙂

  9. Remarkable Creatures is the only book you’ve listed that I’ve read, but there’s at least one that appeals to me in each of the other sets. I would be tempted to pick the Pat Barker books as I’ve wanted to read them for a long time, but I think I would probably go for the Musical Interlude.

    1. I think I would follow your choices, Helen. I would really like to read the Barker trilogy again, this time as a trilogy rather than as individual books, which how I read them before, each one on publication. But, it’s the musical ones that I’m really drawn to. It’s probably a good job I don’t get to choose.

  10. If it weren’t for Vikram Seth, I’d pick the musical interludes ones – I’m just afraid of the big books! But they all look like fabulous choices to me. I’m so curious as to which one your summer school will pick. I’ve watched you do this for several years now and think that it’s a fabulous idea.

  11. This was so hard I needed a day to think about it! The music theme would give me an excuse to re- read Seth and push me I to reading Patchett for the first time. But after much internal debate I’m plumping for the Barker trilogy. I’ve read only the first one so this would be a good opportunity to see how she manages to sustain the power of that across two more novels. Plus of course the theme is very topical.

    1. I put it on the list for that very reason, Karen, but I have to say that topical or not I really want the chance to read these as a trilogy and see how they interact. I originally read each one as they were published and so have never seen them in close enough proximity to explore that.

  12. I’d be torn between the spies and resurrecting the past. Amazingly, as a fan of spy novels, I’ve not read any of those three (been meaning to but that’s a different thing!). I adored Beautiful Creatures and The Dig though – both were wonderful.

    1. I loved ‘The Dig’ Annabel, but have come across very few people who have read it. One of the reasons it’s there is to try and introduce it to a wider readership.

  13. I’ll definitely take a musical interlude. I’ve listened to the audiobook of An Equal Music and what an experience. They have classical music to enhance the reading, classy but also gives one the feeling of reading a ‘romance novel’. I vaguely remember the piece they chose but it was exactly the Bach contrapuntal piece mentioned in the book. Anyway, it’s a little different from my expectation of Vikram Seth, but, for a summer course, this is a perfect ‘beach read’.

    1. I haven’t heard the audio version, Arti, but will definitely now be looking out for it. If that is the group that’s chosen I may well take that format as my way of reacquainting myself with it.

  14. I’ve just read the Barbara Trapido… They are all themes and full of books I’d like to read or reread, I wouldn’t be able to choose. Your friends are very lucky!

  15. I wish I could attend summer school! I’m working on some knitting projects for a WWI film and have been thinking of re-reading Pat Barker as accompaniment. That trilogy is so so good. I just finished Return of the Soldier for theme reading. Other suggestions? (Sorry, didn’t mean to go off topic, I’m adding the books above that I haven’t read to my list.)

    1. If you’re looking for other World War One literature, Megan, there have been a number of books published this year not so much about the war itself, but the aftermath. You could try Helen Dunmore’s The Lie or Anna Hope’s Wake. Also very fine is a detective novel set in the present day but exploring the killing of those who deserted by William Brodrick called A Whispered Name.

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