ashmore GriefThe coming together of multiple book clubs on the one evening was always going to be an interesting exercise. A group of well-informed readers willing to delve into issues and readily give their opinions is not a place for the faint hearted. Throw in the author of a topically controversial novel facing this audience, then you really do have the makings of a lively evening!

So was the case for the first of our ‘An Audience with …’ program, where book clubs and the general public were invited to read then grill a local author on all aspects of his novel and its creation.DSCN2030

Our first guest was local author David Cairns with his latest novel Ashmore Grief. The majority of the audience had read the book and were keen to put probing questions to David concerning everything from his struggles with the plot, experiences with refugees and his views on border control, to political corruption and media roles in community perception. Very meaty stuff for a first experimental meeting, but the crowd did their bit well and David shouldered the interrogation with aplomb and a great deal of good grace.

So on all accounts, I would have to say the evening was a total success!

As discerning readers, most book club members love to delve deep into characters and plots, which tends to bring out varying opinions and views. They leave few stones unturned and David found himself forced to think more seriously about certain aspects of a novel he thought he knew well!

David Cairns In the end, David felt that if Ashmore Grief forced people to rethink their ideas on asylum seekers and refugee policies, and in doing so, broaden their minds to becoming a more tolerant and compassionate person … then he was more than happy.

As for our audience, they were vocal in voicing their ideas that Ashmore Grief was one of those novels that should be read by a population that needs to form their own opinions on the human question regarding asylum seekers and refugees. And maybe, what we should all be doing is discussing such matters much as a book club does … with genuine respect for others opinions and a generous open-mindedness for discussion on a mature and civilised level.

Don’t miss our next An Audience with … Shady Cosgrove in August, discussing her new novel What the Ground Won’t Hold.