Book Club 2022 Monthly Club - January

Good morning everyone!

A very warm welcome to our FIRST monthly discussion! I hope you’ve had a nice January! :slight_smile:

Our first book this year is Away With the Penguins by Hazel Prior. I hope you’ve all enjoyed this heartwarming, Winter read and I can’t wait to hear your thoughts! Below, are 8 questions that will be asked each month. You might want to write them down for future meets so you’re thinking of your answers as you read! :slight_smile:

  1. What was your favourite part of the book?
  2. What was your least favourite?
  3. What did you think of the writing? Are there any standout sentences?
  4. Did reading the book impact your mood? If yes, how so?
  5. What surprised you most about the book?
  6. How did your opinion of the book change as you read it?
  7. How does the book’s title work in relation to the book’s contents? If you could give the book a new title, what would it be?
  8. How did it impact you? Do you think you’ll remember it in a few months or years?

You can choose to answer some or all of the questions, it’s up to you! All I would ask is please be mindful and respectful of everyone’s opinions, we’re here to have fun, (hopefully) enjoy the book and make some friends along the way!

See you next month for our 2nd book of the year which is A Pho Love Story by Loan Le :heart_decoration:. The discussion will take go live here on the Community on Monday 28 February 2022 at 10am. If this book isn’t your taste or perhaps you’d like an alternative, love themed read for February, please do check out the weekly list and give your opinions on the week the discussion becomes available!

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This was such a sweet book! Not the kind of thing I’d usually pick up at all but it was a really nice read. I ended up reading the bulk of it while I was in bed recovering from Covid and it was perfect for that; it kept me engaged but wasn’t too difficult to follow for my poor little feverish brain.

My favourite part of the book was the descriptions of life at the penguin base and especially Veronica’s excursions with Terry; it was all described so vividly that I could see it all in my mind’s eye and I learned so much about penguins too which was a good bonus! My least favourite parts were probably the diary entries - it’s a pet peeve when diary entries use reported speech etc, I know it’s a plot device but I just can’t ever imagine writing a diary in that format and it takes me out of the narrative a bit.

I did find some of the characters a bit clichéd at times, but I really enjoyed Veronica and her spikiness, and the way she gradually learned to let her defences down with baby Pip and then the people she was surrounded with too. If I could describe it in one word it would probably be “cosy”!

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I would agree with @sophiehanson that cosy is a good word for this book! It is definitely an easy page-turner, just what you need sometimes! I read it just about in one sitting!

Spoiler alerts from here on in!

I think my favourite part of the book, well perhaps ‘favourite’ is an odd word to describe it, but the part that moved me most was the emotional backstory of Veronica and her baby who ended up being taken away from her. Perhaps I’m just particularly susceptible to stories of separation of mums and children because of having a small one myself, but I found it built up very well emotionally, and went a long way to building understanding and sympathy for Veronica’s prickly character, likewise the way the death of her parents was dealt with.

It’s an interesting point you make @sophiehanson about the diary entries, and I totally agree that heavy use of dialog is very unrealistic in diary entries in general. But on the other hand I find I am very willing to suspend my disbelief because of the pay-off of that sense of being able to look into the past when reading them. I think that is what is so comforting about novels that move around in time (whether through the construct of diary entries or not) they really fulfill that human desire that you don’t really get in real life to find out what really happened in the past, to reclaim it and re-live it almost. It’s a similar satisfaction to the end of a murder mystery novel where everything is unravelled and tied up neatly with a bow!

The other interesting thing about the book was the two opening chapters. The way they were set up with the title of ‘Veronica’ for both (normally a convention when switching narrators) and then Veronica completely not remembering that she had instructed all the mirrors in the house to be put away, made it seem like the book was going to be much more about memory loss than it actually was - this theme seemed to vanish as the book went on. I guess this could be purposeful as a big theme was about reclaiming and sharing memories (particularly painful ones), so the move away from memory loss to memory regained would absolutely fit with that, but I found it a bit odd at the time.

Terry was definitely my favourite character in the book, she was really sweet and straightforward, but I’m afraid to say I did see the romance with Patrick coming a mile off, though that didn’t make the nice happy ending any less comforting!

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A little late to this conversation - sorry!

This was a lovely little read, the sort of thing to while away a rainy January Sunday afternoon (which was exactly how I read it).

At times the predictability of the plot did bug me (ooh cantankerous old woman: must be a tragic backstory there…) and yes, like you @Rachel_Oxton-King I agree the romance between Patrick and Terry was very easy to see coming.

BUT - I still really enjoyed it. Sometimes it’s just nice to be entertained in the company of some fun characters. And cute penguins.

Thanks for the recommendation @samirahales!

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Ladies! I am so sorry I’m so late to reply to this, January and the start of February has been extremely busy!

Firstly, thank you all for choosing to join in with the read, I’m so glad all of you found some positives in it. I first read this book last January (2021) and found it to be an utterly comforting read.

My favourite part of the book is 100%, like you @sophiehanson the descriptions of life on the penguin base, as well as Veronica’s relationship with Pip which just ended up melting my heart! I have to say the main bit I continue to remember are the passages when Veronica is sick. It struck personally with me and I think any book that has passages that stick with you for a long period of time have done a great job!

Whilst I don’t mind the diary entries, I do understand why you feel that way @sophiehanson! However, I think @Rachel_Oxton-King sums it up beautifully and in a way I have never thought of before. I tend to feel closer to the characters/story, rather than removed from it as I feel like I’m being let in on a part of their life I would otherwise have had to imagine for myself.

For me, my least favourite part was probably some of the longer, narratives from Veronica that, whilst I understand they allow us as readers to understand just how cantankerous and, at points, anal Veronica can be, they could have been slightly shortened. I found myself thinking “I’ve got the point!” on occasions but I can appreciate this adds further depth to her character too.

I also found the love story between Terry and Patrick very obvious but I was surprised by how emotional I felt during Veronica’s illness. I was sure at points she was going to die and that did change my opinion of the book from being quite a playful, light read to actually addressing some very serious points. Likewise, Veronica’s backstory was handled very well, with care and did definitely get me too @Rachel_Oxton-King!

Overall, I think the book is a really nice, winter read that whilst, dealing with some heavy topics, triumphs in leaving you feeling warm and fuzzy - much like a penguin! :penguin:

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