Eight of us met last night to discuss our second helping of Stephen King for our book club: Mr. Mercedes. As he tends to do, King starts this novel with a bang: a lone man in a stolen Mercedes plows into a crowd of job seekers, killing and injuring many. The story then focuses on Bill Hodges – the retired detective who blames himself for letting the killer escape.
This novel certainly inspired a lot of discussion. Those who loved it loudly argued its merits with those who hated it (a fairly even split). We did discuss how uncomfortable it made us reading it so soon after the terrible Nice attack, as we saw many unsettling similarities.
One of our members had issues with the improbability of the book – unbelievable characters in unlikely circumstances, leading to an overall convoluted book. Another member said the excitement of it all kept her up reading all night, just hoping that “They get the bad guy in the end!”
We also pondered on the concept of Nature VS. Nurture – are sociopaths products of their upbringing? Or were they always going to be this way, regardless of the love and attention bestowed upon them by their families.
Overall, when asked whether they would be reading the rest of the trilogy, the response was a overwhelming “NO.” It was a bit of fun, nothing serious, but we were extremely happy to leave it at one.
We did give it quite an unexpected rating – 4.1 stars! It took me by surprise when one of the members who was very adamant that she hated it gave it 4/5 stars. When I asked how, she responded “Well, he is obviously a good storyteller. I couldn’t put it down”. This was quickly followed by an assurance that this would be her last Stephen King novel.
Next month we will be meeting to discuss Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘The Signature of All Things’.
In The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert returns to fiction, inserting her inimitable voice into an enthralling story of love, adventure and discovery. Spanning much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the novel follows the fortunes of the extraordinary Whittaker family as led by the enterprising Henry Whittaker—a poor-born Englishman who makes a great fortune in the South American quinine trade, eventually becoming the richest man in Philadelphia. Born in 1800, Henry’s brilliant daughter, Alma (who inherits both her father’s money and his mind), ultimately becomes a botanist of considerable gifts herself. As Alma’s research takes her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, she falls in love with a man named Ambrose Pike who makes incomparable paintings of orchids and who draws her in the exact opposite direction — into the realm of the spiritual, the divine, and the magical. Alma is a clear-minded scientist; Ambrose a utopian artist — but what unites this unlikely couple is a desperate need to understand the workings of this world and the mechanisms behind all life.
Exquisitely researched and told at a galloping pace, The Signature of All Things soars across the globe—from London to Peru to Philadelphia to Tahiti to Amsterdam, and beyond. Along the way, the story is peopled with unforgettable characters: missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, geniuses, and the quite mad. But most memorable of all, it is the story of Alma Whittaker, who — born in the Age of Enlightenment, but living well into the Industrial Revolution — bears witness to that extraordinary moment in human history when all the old assumptions about science, religion, commerce, and class were exploding into dangerous new ideas. Written in the bold, questing spirit of that singular time, Gilbert’s wise, deep, and spellbinding tale is certain to capture the hearts and minds of readers.