The debut novel by Matthew Griffin proved a universal hit with the panel
With the last days of summer 2016 winding to an end and the school year already upon us, Pat and the other members of the Eason Book Club gathered again in Newstalk’s Dublin studios to pore over another book. This time around it was Hide, the debut novel by American writer Matthew Griffin, an epic and quiet romance that spans decades.
“It’s a love story, a beautiful love story,” said comedienne Katherine Lynch. “More than a love story, a longevity story. It’s about two men who move to a very remote part of America and live in secret, and what happens when one of them develops dementia.”
Former cabinet minister Mary O’Rourke was also enthralled by the story. “It’s a long time since I cried because of a book. But I cried because of this,” she admitted. “Not bitter tears, but I cried tears of sympathy. I was just wowed by it. I thought it could be about any two men, two women, a man and a woman.”
Although moved by the tale of love, companionship and camaraderie that Griffin weaves between his two protagonists, Wendell and Frank, there was one thing that wasn’t to Mary’s taste.
“Wendell is a taxidermist, but I didn’t like those scenes. They went into huge detail...”
Pat, who had recently interviewed Matthew Griffin, revealed that the author had gone to great length in researching the mid-century methods a practising taxidermist would use to stuff and mount an animal. Griffin told how he had received a tip of a correspondence course that those hoping to take up the craft would follow, which he would up buying a second-hand copy of from eBay.
“I just love the fact that the book is called Hide,” said singer Brian Kennedy, “Because that’s what Wendell and Frank were doing, they were hiding. But it’s also such a touching story about the sheer luck of two people finding each other and growing old together, exploring the loneliness of their situation as well.”
Joining the Eason Book Club from Carlow was Sinead Meade, who helped found a mother-and-baby group there when she emigrated back from Brussels. The women have remained friends long after their babies have become children, forming a book club that meets once a month. For more than 10 years, they’ve read a book a month, fastidiously casting secret ballots to rate each one out of 10 at the end of the meeting.
“We gave Hide seven, which for us is very high,” Sinead said.
“Most of us really, really liked the book. It wasn’t what we expected when we read the back cover. ‘Oh, this is a love story? Oh. It’s a gay love story?’ But actually, it was a human love story, with very realistic characters
“What really struck us about the book was how much you sympathised with the couple, even when there were times when they weren’t that sympathetic.”
Mary O’Rourke will select September’s book on Monday’s show, with the segment scheduled to take place on the last Thursday of the month, the 29th. As ever, she’ll have her pick from one of the four following books, all available for purchase at your local Eason or online: Nutshell by Ian McEwan, Lara: The Untold Story that Inspired ‘Dr Zhivago’ by Anna Pasternak, The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride, Minds of Winter by Ed O’Loughlin.
You can listen back to August’s Eason Book Club in the podcast below: