Since January, I've managed to miss two book club meetings. I missed the February meeting because I was too busy at work to finish "early" (at 5.15pm...) and go to the meeting. That was a shame, actually, because the book was The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton and I was curious to see what other readers made of it. From what I gathered from chatting with other book clubbers after the meeting, the feelings were really positive about the book on the whole but nobody really saw the point of the titular miniaturist. So pretty much what I thought myself. I missed the March meeting because I was a month into the War and Peace read-along and didn't manage to read the book (which was a bit annoying because it's one I've owned for years but not read) - The American Boy by Andrew Taylor. I'm sure I'll read it one day.
April's pick: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
I'll admit I was relieved when I got the email listing our next few reads and I saw that the book for April was one I'd already read. If it hadn't been, I'd have been skipping out on April too because there's been no time for anything else while I've been facing down Tolstoy.
Five people turned up to the meeting (including me) and I spoke to two people who couldn't make it but who'd read the book. Out of the seven of us, five really liked it and two weren't keen. More surprisingly (to me) was the fact that two readers actually managed to guess the ending. One other book clubber said that they had suspicions about the ending but that they didn't actually guess it. I was completely blind-sided by the ending. The thing I find with Agatha Christie is that I think that maybe if I really tried one day, I'd be able to fathom out the murderer but, like I said when I was defending my lack of sleuth skills, I don't think I want to. Part of the fun of Christie's books for me is that moment where Poirot or whoever gets everybody in a room and unravels the mystery for me. I like reading the clues but not really trying to puzzle them out and I get as much enjoyment out of being surprised as I think I would at being proven right.
The readers that thought The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was "just ok" found the mystery aspect got in the way of the portrait of English village life in the 1920s. It wasn't Christie they didn't like per se, just crime fiction generally. It seems that if you aren't a crime fan, this isn't going to convert you, which I found interesting because I thought that if anything could, it would be this book. What do I know?
There were some big Christie fans among the group (both of whom declared a love for Miss Marple, which I do not get) but also some complete newbies. It was a nice mix and meant that after we'd all done shock face over the ending and discussed why people did/didn't like it, we got onto sharing other Christie recommendations. Obviously I sang the praises of And Then There Were None, which remains hands down my favourite Christie and probably one of my favourite books. Others shouted (not literally) about the wonders of Murder on the Orient Express, which I read last year and also really liked, but there weren't any recommendations for stand out novels that I hadn't already read. Boo.
I'm not at all sure about this pick. I have next to no interest in space travel and the like. I actually dislike that so much money is poured into sending people off to Mars while there are people that don't have enough to eat and that are homeless. So do I want to read about an astronaut's adventures? Not especially. Also, there's a whiff of self-help in the description: "his vivid and refreshing insights in this book will teach you how to think like an astronaut, and will change, completely, the way you view life on Earth – especially your own". Ugh. I know that the point of a book club is to stretch yourself and read outside your comfort zone but I would never have picked this up on my own. I guess we'll see how it goes.