"The story in this book... It is, at once, a metaphor and a reality..."
With the clocks going back this weekend, so spending that extra hour on Sunday morning with a good book is a tantalising promise. To wit, the Eason Book Club reconvened on The Pat Kenny Show in Newstalk’s Dublin Studio – albeit without regular member Mary O’Rourke – to tackle Colson Whitehead’s new book The Underground Railroad. The story of a slave in the Deep South making the perilous pilgrimage to freedom, the book mixes history with fantasy, and mixed the panel as well.
“I read it in one sitting yesterday, but what an exhausting thing that was,” said Brian Kennedy. “We immediately go on this journey with Cora, a slave in Georgia, where the last thing you wanted is a deep colour of skin. From the get go, it says ‘There were no laws but the ones rewritten every day.’ In other words, the slave owners changed the laws every day to suit themselves and treated these people abominably. I loved this book.”
Comedian Katherine Lynch was less enthused by the novel, Colson’s sixth novel. “I did love the story. And you couldn’t be anything but empathetic, but I thought the writing was awful and needed massive editing. It wasn’t poetry, it wasn’t prose, it was puns! It was an awful lot of showing off with the writer, and I didn’t think there was a necessity for that.”
As ever, the Eason Book Club welcomed a caller from another reading group, with Karen Meenan from Dublin calling in to talk about her 11-member strong The Good Book Club – which takes its name from the pub where the women meet once a month. Karen’s second book club, the members decided to meet up in The Goose Tavern in Drumcondra rather than put any pressure on each other to host in freshly cleaned houses, instead.
The only rule in The Goose Book Club is that each of the members picks a book, but it has to have been one they’ve read before, rather than every single member hating it and them feeling like they’ve wasted a chance to read something provocative.
On The Underground Railroad, The Goose Book Club readers were also split. “Well, we had such a heated discussion about this book,” Karen said. “And they’re the books that are usually the best. We’ve had this conversation before about what makes a good book and a good book club book and there is a difference. A good book is one you can just enjoy privately and you don’t want to talk about it. But a good book club book you can’t wait to talk to the girls about it.
“The reaction to The Underground Railroad was we hated the opening section, ‘turgid’ was the word. But once Cora and Caesar escaped, it slowed down and everything got much clearer and then it took off.”
Ranking their books out of 10, The Underground Railroad came in as a “high seven,” a rating that was met with approval by the Eason Book Club panellists.
November’s book club meeting will take place on Thursday the 24th, with the panel reading one of the following four books: I Read the News Today, Oh Boy Paul Howard, Days Without End by Sebastian Barry, The Twelve Apostles by Tim Pat Coogan, Hygge by Marie Tourell Søderberg. Listen to The Pat Kenny Show on Monday to find out which book it is.
You can listen back to October’s Eason Book Club segment in the podcast below: