Ten members attended and were welcomed to this month’s meeting at The Cloisters, Bembridge to discuss the above book with apologies received from 9 members unable to be with us together with notes of their comments and views on the book which were added to the discussion “pot”.
The discussion began with a feeling from many of the members present that this book was beautifully written, with detailed descriptions which moved along at a sedate and very slow pace. One member likened it to a school project, with not much happening and expecting more, leading to a relief of a chapter finishing. Generally members agreed it felt that although the characters were likeable, with the descriptions of village life in Oxgodby as a lovely portrayal of blissful calm, untouched by change as it was in 1920, it had unfortunately proved on the whole to be a generally disappointing read.
As the month progressed you could really appreciate the changes happening to Tom Birkin as he began to relax and heal and a sense of renewal to all the harrowing memories he experienced in the war. His total absorption in uncovering the mural, together with the friendships he made and the beauty of the surrounding Yorkshire countryside, all seemed to combine to heal his troubled soul, leading members believing that he had looked back at this month in his life with great affection. Several members found the intricate descriptions of the uncovering of the mural fascinating with its detailing which prompted a discussion about the artist and if the bones uncovered by Charlie Moon (the archaeologist ) might have possibly been his. Members also thought the story may have “taken off” more in the belfry perhaps with the vicar’s wife Alice but as one member pointed out he was described by his friends as candid, a straightforward and honest man so we should have known he would go back to his unfaithful wife.
All members agreed that, although the book was at times confusing, it was an easy read and full of kindness, interesting, redemptive, amusing, but with nothing much happening in a simplistic and gentle way leading disappointingly to no FINALE! A book which most said they did not actually dislike but possibly was not their “cup of tea” and the unanimous vote for this book was we would choose the friend to recommend it to.