Archive for February, 2011

Symmetry Backwards

So, how is everyone getting on with our book for March – Her Fearful Symmetry?

I’m looking forward to hearing what the group think about it, as it’s quite different from the Time Travellers Wife (IMO),  and I’m a sucker for books set in London – there’s something about the old buildings and historical aspects of areas like Highgate that give me the creeps, in a good way.

I shall have free copies of ‘Stuart – A Life Backwards‘ to give to group members (old and new) this month as I’ve been chosen as a World Book Night giver. (EDIT – I may not get them in time for this month’s group so will bring them to April’s group).

Free books are always exciting, but even better when you get to choose from a list of awesome ones.

If you’re interested in getting involved with World Book Night on 5th March 2011, there are lots of events going on in the North East – if you know of one happening on Teesside, please post it below and let us know what’s occurring! 

Also, thanks to group member Liz Cole who visited Highgate Cemetery recently, where ‘Her Fearful Symmetry’ is set.

She sent in some most excellent photos from her trip, which you can see here

See you all on March 1st, and remember, new members are ALWAYS welcome, so feel free to pop in if you haven’t before and grab a free book (in April if the books don’t arrive in time for March group!)

An interview with Emma Donoghue

Published writers are always busy. If they are not scribbling/typing furiously or stuck inside their heads plotting imaginary lives and timelines, they’re working with writer’s groups, promoting their work and are generally rushed off their feet.

Which is why it’s so nice when they take time out for their readers, to come see them (like Stella Duffy did for us a couple of summers ago) or to take time to answer questions that they have probably had to answer a million times before.

An author who must be very busy right now is Emma Donoghue due to the success of ‘Room’ which seems to be on every must-read list from chain stores to critics guide. And, being the lovely lady she is, she took time out to answer a few questions for the Middlesbrough Book group, after we discussed ‘Room’ for January group.

Here is what she said….

How did you come up with the idea for ‘Room’ and what motivated you to write the story of Jack and Ma?

What gave me the idea was hearing about the Fritzl case, but what motivated me was that fact that I had small kids (a four-year-old and a baby); the locked-room premise seemed to offer me a unique way to put the spotlight on, even a metaphor for, parent-child love.

Our group loved the book, and felt that the first half was very exciting, but some thought the last part of the book didn’t have the same pace…what do you think about that, and were there other ways you considered ending the story?

Any book in two halves – I’m thinking, for instance, of books set half now and half in the past – divides its fans into those who prefer one half and those who prefer the other. Some readers find the first half of ROOM unbearably stifling and the second half a relief… The two do offer different pleasures; the second, though open-ended and therefore less pacey, seems to me to go a little deeper, in that it considers separation between Ma and Jack in the emotional as well as literal senses.

Anyway, the point is moot, because the book needs the two halves; the first half alone would have been gripping but would have deluded readers into thinking that simply escaping into our modern world was happy ending enough. I wanted to ask much more searching questions about the need for every parent-child relationship to change, as well as the pros and cons of Outside.

What do you think happens to Jack and Ma in the future?
Ah, I hope they’re going to decline into ordinariness in the kind of way that is boring to read about – soccer classes, homework, bedtime – but utterly delightful to live.

Thank you to Emma for writing back to us, and if you haven’t read ‘Room’ yet, get it on your list. It’s a belter.

About the group

The Tees Valley Book Group meets at Stockton Central Library at 6.30pm on the first Tuesday of the month.

If you would like more information about what the group is reading, please visit


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