Two Caravans By Marina Lewycka

Eleven members were present on a very hot July 8th evening with apologies received from those unable to make it this time. Brenda started thanking everyone for turning out on a very warm evening and by asking what we thought of the book straight away. It became very apparent that this had indeed proved a hard read with several members having to restart and make several attempts returning to the beginning of the book before getting into it properly. Comments were made initially by several members who had had high expectations from reading a previous, popular and funny title of the author, that it had generally been quite disappointing and not “as billed”: ‘extremely funny, hilarious and an excellent follow up of her first novel which won the Bollinger Everyman prize for Comic Fiction!!’.

Most agreed that on the whole that the book, although well written, more so in the second part, had been one that was fairly depressing and really only splattered with odd moments of a comedic and entertaining nature (most had to really look for the humour it contained) e.g. the dog’s comments, whilst rounding up and saving the chickens, about the stupidity of Irina, the old chap in the nursing home and the language misinterpretation caused by the mixing up of the words canal and carnal!!

Most struggled and could not identify with the characters with the Farmer and his wife being the most disliked and the “plot” (which because it changed felt had lost its way) which did not really improve at all throughout with several members becoming bored and fed up and feeling it had become too predictable and not entertaining. Absolutely everyone found the chicken scenes very distressing reading and felt the need to step away from the despair and cruelty and to then try to concentrate on the chaos and mayhem unfolding. But the dog “saved the day” and not just the chickens! It was felt he was the real star of the book and the most liked character with members feeling quite sad about his demise and his loyalty in giving his life.

As the discussion progressed it was thought generally that this book was one that humanised people of all nationalities (of which there were many) its social commentary threaded its way cleverly through the put-down of various cultures of the migrant workers – a book touching on “slavery” and that possibly believably dreadful things do happen and, although upsetting, it was agreed, sadly, this is how it actually was, but we were amazed that they could not see what was going to happen time after time!

So in conclusion…………. It was generally felt this book was not a page turner or a holiday read! Possibly a book for young adults to read to gain an understanding of the above. One or two thought it was written in a way so that the reader understood the narrative interaction – but obviously the characters didn’t once they disbanded!! The dedication to the cockle pickers was very touching.

But not a book to recommend or read again for most of the members. So a thumbs down from us!!!