Ready, Set, Launch: The First Year of Mirthy Book Club
The Mirthy Book Club has been running since April 2021.
For anyone who has joined us from the start, or for any new members wondering what it’s all about, let’s look back at some of the highlights from this year.
We started with the historical novel ‘The Skylark’s Secret’ and a visit from guest author Fiona Valpy:
"The Skylark's Secret was the first book for the Mirthy Book Club back in April. I have never belonged to a book club before, but had always thought it might be something I'd like to try, and here was the perfect opportunity. I like to read books that have some element of true story or location behind them, and this certainly did - I learnt about the Artic convoys, something that was just a 'wartime expression' previously to me. The book was cleverly set within two time periods - the 1940s and the 1980s, contrasting very different lifestyles, and everything fitted nicely into place at the conclusion which was very satisfying. Fiona's descriptions of Loch Ewe in Scotland were magical, and I was amazed when at the afternoon chat with Fiona, she showed us some photos of the area from her research for the book - they were exactly as I had imagined them in my head. What is good about this author is that she has written quite a few other books, which is great when you find an author you like - just finding the time to enjoy them is the problem!"
After staying with the theme of ‘Skylarks’ (quite unintentionally!) with Liz Shakespeare’s book ‘Song of the Skylark’, we enjoyed ‘The Authenticity Project’, a group favourite of the year:
My first experience of the Mirthy Book Club was when I joined the event for ‘Song of the Skylark’ in May. I hadn’t read the book but wanted to get a feel for what the book club was all about. Having decided that I’d give it a go, I read June’s book choice, ‘The Authenticity Project’ by Clare Pooley. What a wonderful story! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and I was so glad this was my first book club read. I loved the way Clare wrote the same episode from different characters’ perspectives. The story was uplifting as well as touching on some important issues such as loneliness as well as truth and friendship. There was even a tear or two at the end! At the author’s Q & A, hearing Clare talk about her life as well as the book was very interesting. It was very admirable the way that Clare was very honest and open about her life. For me, the Mirthy Book Club is very enjoyable. It takes me out of my comfort zone by reading different genres and it is lovely to meet fellow members and to discuss our current book at the coffee morning sessions.
Never too late!
In July, we were joined by author Pam Skelton who wrote her first book aged 86.
As a novice author, albeit in my 86th year, it was a great experience to talk to Mirthy Book Club in July. The questions posed by Abbie were far reaching and allowed me to tell members about my work, my life and the influences that triggered First To Go. We talked about the vast amount of research necessary when writing an historical novel. I was able to explain how Bridget fitted into my family history. In the last quarter of an hour members had the opportunity to ask their questions which gave me an insight into what readers want to read in a book. Thank you Mirthy for this opportunity. I am pleased to report that First To Go continues to sell well and, because of the Irish element, has an overseas following, particularly in Ireland and the United States.
After the Q&A, Eveleen said: "I really enjoyed the talk with Pam Skelton who like many of us is 2nd generation Irish. [...] It was interesting to hear of how Pam researched the book drawing on the actual and what might have been. Pam's description of publishing her book was great - took some guts to write a book, let alone find a way of publishing it herself. I wish her all the best with the next book."
In August, we read a more contemporary novel - ‘The Silent Treatment’ by Abbie Greaves - digging deeper into relationships and asking big questions such as ‘are we ‘fearful of silence’ in this day and age?’
Abbie Greaves came to talk to us at Mirthy Book Club about her debut novel, ‘The Silent Treatment’. I really enjoyed Abbie Greaves talking about how she came to be an author. The idea for the novel came to her on a tube train, when she read an article in a newspaper about a Japanese couple who hadn’t spoken to each other for 20 years. They had an 18 year old son, who had never heard them talk to each other! Abbie had a hectic work life and therefore had to write between the hours of 5 and 7 am, when it was quiet. We are privileged to hear directly from the author during the Mirthy Q & A sessions. In this session we were given lots of background knowledge about the characters and how Abbie developed them. I intend to read Abbie’s second novel ‘The Ends of the Earth’ as I enjoy the way she writes about love and relationships.
Black History Month
After a break in September to discuss the direction of the Book Club and get feedback from our members, we read ‘Small Island’ by Andrea Levy as part of Black History Month. This book inspired some fantastic conversations about racial identity and the experiences of the Windrush Generation. For further discussion, we were joined by Dr Michael Short from Liverpool John Moores University:
I joined the Book Club right at the start back in April 2021 and have read all the books so far. My favourite was the choice for Black History Month in October – Small Island by Andrea Levy. To my shame I realised that it was published in 2004 and I had never read it!
Andrea was a prize-winning novelist, and I could soon see why. The novel is long, moves through different time zones and required my concentration. Coffee morning discussions and posts on the Book Club Facebook page helped me to get right into the story.
Watching the BBC adaptation on the Drama channel on TV gave me another perspective and the icing on the cake was the Q&A session with Dr Michael Perfect, an Andrea Levy expert. If , like me, you haven’t yet experienced this superb novel, what are you waiting for?
Getting to know you…
After a Facebook poll vote, we dived into the crime genre this month, reading ‘The Trail’ by James Ellson. In our Coffee Morning, we broke into smaller breakout sessions which enabled members to properly connect on Zoom, starting off on the topics of books but sometimes veering off-course! This was a fantastic way to appreciate how international our book club is too, with members tuning in from across the world.
Shelagh said, "This was such an informative interview. Hearing about James Ellson’s previous life as a police officer and then about his striving to become an author was so interesting. As someone who does a bit of writing too, I can understand how he felt to have, what appears to be a perfect piece of prose, harshly critiqued.
I admire him for sticking with it and look forward to reading more of his work."
To end the year, we were joined by Fay Keenan who wrote the Book of the Month ‘Snowflakes over Bay Tree Terrace’, and were joined by some new members joining us for the first time:
Mary said: ‘My first visit to the book club and I really enjoyed the book. I found Abbie to be a very good presenter, asking pertinent questions and keeping the interview flowing. I’m looking forward to next month’s book and book club session.’
And Sue was also joining us for the first time: ‘Many thanks to Abbie and to Fay Keenan for the brilliant afternoon talk. I would have given it more than five if I could! This is the first Mirthy event I have attended and I'm looking forward to more of them. I haven't read any of Fay's books - but have now got some on order from the Library. Thank you again for an inspirational talk.’
An end to a wonderful year of reading!
Abbie, Events and Community Manager says:
It would perhaps be wrong of me to say I have a favourite event. However, *if* I could choose a favourite, it would be the Book Club! I have loved selecting such a variety of different books to read each month, interviewing fantastic guests throughout the year, and hearing the thoughts and feelings of our community members. Throughout an extremely tough year for all of us, the escapism and companionship of books has provided much-needed relief. So to have a group of wonderful people who can accompany those journeys has been a delight and I have learnt so much from you all. Thank you!
You can join the Book Club at any time, dropping in and out for different months or challenging yourself to join every month. You can join for the monthly Coffee Morning, or Q&A session, or both! We are a diverse group spread across the world, some with English as a first language, some not - all are welcome and it certainly makes our discussions all the more interesting being so international!
To keep up to date with any news, updates or discussion, be sure to join our Mirthy Book Club Facebook group.
Mirthy offers expansive calendar of activities each month, covering everything from cooking classes and educational lectures to music concerts and fitness sessions.
Click below to see our upcoming events!