Stand by...three....two....one... *IN THE ETHER*
A very warm welcome to the first in the series of Not the TV Book Group.
I'm Lynne and I scribble here at dovegreyreader... sitting next to me here on the virtual sofa it's my pleasure to introduce Kirsty from Other Stories...then Kim who lives at Reading Matters and on the end Simon who resides at Savidge Reads.
And there you have it, four UK book bloggers who decided the blogosphere was the perfect place to have a book group of our own, and that's not just us, it's all of you too and we are certainly hoping you will join us over the next sixteen weeks as we read our selection.
First a few housekeeping arrangements.
Just because we're online doesn't mean we can't enjoy ourselves, so when in deepest rural Devonshire, and you are currently at that little white dot in the middle...
as regular visitors to dovegreyreader scribbles will know, you are offered virtual pots of tea and will have scones and clotted cream forced upon you, and the sofas are far more comfortable if you kick off your wellies (preferably before you come in) and curl up.
In the event of a fire, grab your wellies and run like crazy across the fields because we're in the middle of nowhere and the fire brigade will be three hours getting here.
Now for anyone who is new to the book blogosphere (we've missed you) and may be wondering how this works, we plan to meet on the hosting blog fortnightly with a few holiday exceptions and you can check the schedule here. The host blogger will introduce their book choice followed by discussion in comments.
We've all agreed on discussion that will do its utmost to respect each other's views whilst offering honest opinions about our reading and we've also decided to make no spoiler allowances.
You know when you pitch up at the book group and someone hasn't read the book and is begging you not to reveal the ending...or the middle...or the beginning, so you all hobble around the edges terrified lest you give anything away?
Beans will be spilled here, so if you haven't read the book and this worries you, you might want to take the dog for a walk today instead and return to the discussion at a later date. One of the joys of a blog is that the discussion will still be there waiting for you, no seven day deadlines here. Bookmark it and please come back at your leisure with your thoughts because we'll know if you leave a comment, even if it's in July, and will be sure to reply.
So when you see this you'll know we're ready for the off...and I think we are.
** Warning... if you haven't read the book there may be spoilers ahead **
Brodeck's Report by Philippe Claudel, set somewhere post-war and European, undefined yet surely Mittel-European, isolated and mountainous, exuding a powerful sense of place and tradition; in some ways an idyllic setting but one laced with the potent mixture of a community riven and damaged by the atrocities of war.
A community with a strong sense of tradition is perhaps able to fall back on its past in order to survive and recover, but in this case a community with barely healing wounds which are about to be painfully reopened when a traveller arrives in their midst. Known only as Anderer (the Other,) the enigmatic, eccentric stranger transmits a power that unsettles by his mere presence because he barely utters a word. Fear and suspicions escalate within this fragile community and when the Anderer is murdered it is Brodeck, himself once a child-stranger and an outsider arriving in the village some thirty years previously, who is commissioned by the village elders to write a report of events.
It is a given that the report will reflect well on a community that may just have been confronted and betrayed by its own corporate guilty conscience, all exposed so astutely by the Anderer.
Brodeck a victim of the recent unnamed war, incarcerated in a camp, treated like a dog by the guards but harboring guilt of his own that he will somehow need to assuage if he is to find peace within himself.
'I am not a storyteller. The present account, should anyone ever read it, will prove that I am not: I keep going back and forth, leaping over time like a hurdle, getting lost on digressions and maybe even, without wishing to, concealing what is essential.'Brodeck may certainly feel this about his own official and unofficial account of events which are the sum total of Brodeck's Report, but the same could not be said of Philippe Claudel who I felt to be a consummate storyteller as he weaves this novel out of the warp and weft of recent history.
Yet it feels like timeless history and I wonder whether you were struck by this too?
Time seemed to fold in on itself, the present pleated into the past and felt fluid, occasionally it became perfectly possible to imagine that I was in the midst of any community, anywhere, recovering from any recent war and its associated sorrows and repercussions.
When someone threw a cobble that community could have as easily have been medieval, this felt like timeless and universal cause and effect. In fact as far as I recall wasn't the typewriter the only concession to modernity?
I sensed those shards of the holocaust but I felt that Philippe Claudel constantly evaded certainties. Versions of events like Kristallnacht that are echoed in Purische Nacht, the symbolism of the Star of David only hinted at in the star-shapes left by the broken glass, and the Nazi persecution of the Jews never clearly identified beyond the obvious associations of the cruelty of the train journey and the camp.
Philippe Claudel confirms in a revealing and informative interview with Boyd Tonkin of the Independent, that Brodeck's Report is much more about the aftermath and I certainly sensed his focus on the effects, on a community and the individual, of an invader; the corporate thinking that follows if a community is to flourish again, yet how a community also needs the courage of those lone voices prepared to say the unsayable.
Plenty of food for thought, in fact food seemed to be a very important thread too and it was all good, wholesome warming nourishing stuff, as if to exaggerate and throw into sharp relief how starved many of the villagers seemed to be of the other necessities of life... kindness, forgiveness and so much more.
Themes just oozed off every page as I read, trust, betrayal, hatred, fear, regret, guilt, suffering et al, and I have all sorts of ideas flying round in my head about fairy tales, oral storytelling and the language which I think will emerge in comments, but first I'm wondering what you all thought?
And you know how much I *don't like* those lists of reader questions to help get me started at the end of a book so I have no intention of throwing those at you all, but I am sitting here ready to bat it all about through the day and beyond...well I will be by about 10am GMT, so who's going to bowl the first ball?