Well can you believe it, here we are writing about January again.

Hello 2017!

A new year, a new list of fantastic (and some potentially NOT so fantastic) books for us to tackle, delve into, enjoy, critique and live vicariously through.

The first book we spoke about this year was Emily Bitto’s novel ‘The Strays’, a fascinating look into a 1930s modernist clique living in Melbourne. The story is narrated by Lily, a young girl who is friends with Eva, the middle daughter of artists Evan and Helena Trentham, owners of Trentham house. Also sharing the house are their three daughters: Bea, Eva and Heloise.  Lily soon comes to join them, through her own set of circumstances, as do a series of other artists – who Helena calls “our strays”. While this artistic collective at first seems an idyllic way to escape the conservatism of the 1930s,  a series of events throughout the year lead to some very unexpected results.

At first, upon entering, most of my members said they disliked it. Easy enough to read, but not particularly exciting or interesting, was the general consensus. But fortunately, one of our members had not had a chance to read it, and requested that we give her a rundown as to what it was all about.

That was when the fun really started.

Everyone had an opinion about who was the problem in the family, whether the collective was a good or bad idea. We retold sections of the book that had us laughing uproariously, and sections where we frantically argued over whether someone had recollected it correctly.

Many of the members had a surprised “Oh! I forgot how much I enjoyed that bit!” moment, and most admitted that while they hadn’t necessarily enjoyed the book, they thought it was a great book for discussion.

The ratings ranged from 2 all the way to 5 (my rating. I personally adored it) and we settled on 3.3 stars out of 5. Not too shabby.

Next month, we will be discussing a selection of works by Nigerian author Ben Okri.


Poet and novelist Ben Okri was born in 1959 in Minna, northern Nigeria, to an Igbo mother and Urhobo father. He grew up in London before returning to Nigeria with his family in 1968. Much of his early fiction explores the political violence that he witnessed at first hand during the civil war in Nigeria. He left the country when a grant from the Nigerian government enabled him to read Comparative Literature at Essex University in England. 

He was poetry editor for West Africa magazine between 1983 and 1986 and broadcast regularly for the BBC World Service between 1983 and 1985. He was appointed Fellow Commoner in Creative Arts at Trinity College Cambridge in 1991, a post he held until 1993. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1987, and was awarded honorary doctorates from the universities of Westminster (1997) and Essex (2002).