Roisin ingle on . . . a good book with a very long title


T here’s an unwritten rule in our book club that stipulates as firmly as an unwritten rule can do that: The Book Shouldn’t Be Too Long. For some of us, okay me, reading one book a month is an onerous enough task what with the demands of life, work and trying to keep up with the boxseteratti. (No, I still haven’t seen Breaking Bad . Yes I’m sure Game of Thrones is brilliant. What do you mean there’s a new series of Mad Men ? Honestly, you’d be worn out before you even found the remote.)

So the book should be a manageable 250 pages, 300 at a pinch. Our latest book is nearly 400 pages long. “I didn’t check the length before I chose it,” confessed the chooser when I objected. “I was under pressure to provide Madam Secretary with a book name. It just happened”.

Madam Secretary, who is also my Mother, runs a tight ship. I don’t know how other book clubs operate but ours would be sunk without her keeping tabs on dates and book choices. If a new member chooses, say The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, quicker than you can say “creationism rocks” Madam Secretary will point out that we’ve read it already. That in fact it was our third book, chosen by Daragh and sparking a heated debate about whether the coffee table we were eating our cheese and crackers off actually existed.

I don’t know if my fellow members will agree but I believe Madam Secretary is the reason we are still a book club six years after our inaugural meeting when, incidentally, we discussed Case Histories by Kate Atkinson which pretty much everyone rubbished except the person who chose it – aka me.

Madam Secretary keeps us in line. Ensures the quality of the book club vittles remains above par and this, naturally, means a warm and cold selection of snacks. In short, she’s our Thatcher. In a good way.

This 400-page book also has the longest book title we’ve ever had. Although I’ll just check with Maggie, I mean Mother, to confirm. Yes. Swedish author Jonas Jonasson’s The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared is the longest title of any book we’ve read. The second longest title in our history was Pierre Bayard’s How To Talk About A Book You Haven’t Read which obviously proved useful for some members more than it did others. Ahem.

Another rule of book club is: Don’t Talk About The Book Before Book Club. This is in case you happen to be on the phone with a fellow book club member (three of us are related, several are close friends) about another entirely separate matter and accidentally let slip that you are not really liking Many Lives, Many Masters by Brian L Weiss and are wondering what Sean, who usually has a fondness for solid Irish offerings by Kavanagh say or McGahern, was thinking by choosing it at all. This rule is in place to ensure the ensuing conversation is fresh and vibrant instead of like a dull patch of earth that’s already been well raked over.

The book club already happened this week so I am not breaking the don’t talk about it rule. But I want to tell you what I thought of this book and apologies if you’ve already read it or have no interest in reading about a 100-year-old-man who climbed out of the window and disappeared.

I read it when I was down in the dumps, worrying about friends who are going through tough times. I read it when I was thinking about the fragility of life and the wonder of the simple, beautiful fact that I woke up this morning with the elbow of a nearly-four-year-old in my face. I read it when I was thinking how difficult it is sometimes to just appreciate the fact that we are in the world at all. I read it when I was feeling hard done by and put upon and full of that sinking feeling in your belly that comes when you’ve made a mistake.

As I read it I dog-eared the corners of the pages containing lines that made me think. And I dog-eared the corners of the pages with lines that cracked me up laughing. And I dog-eared the ones that lifted me out of myself and got me copping myself on. And I dog-eared the ones with lines I wanted to remember and write down. The book is now a bit of a mess. (Sorry Madam Secretary.)

I can’t promise anything. Maybe it was just me and the mood I was in. But no harm in seeing what the book with nearly 400 pages and a very long title might do for you.

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