SAINTS OF NEW YORK a book club discussion.
On Tuesday February 22, the Bailieborough Library Book Club got together for its monthly book discussion. The book we discussed was SAINTS OF NEW YORK by R.J. Ellory of which we had received 10 copies from Bookdagger. It turned out to be a very interesting event.
Let me start by saying that this was probably the most lively and best book discussion my book club has had so far.
Let me also say that I now know why Holland has created a separate genre named “literary thriller”, and that I think we could do with such a category over here. It does give you a better idea of what to expect when it comes to some titles.
The members of my book club took me completely by surprise today. I thought I had a pretty good idea of who would enjoy this book and who would be less enthusiastic about it. I know which of my members read and like mysteries and thrillers and who usually stay away from that genre, and had based my assumptions on that knowledge.
You can therefore imagine my surprise when it turned out that the “thriller readers” were less enthusiastic than those who claim to not like that sort of story.
And that brings me back to my statement about literary thrillers. I guess that how much we enjoy a book has at least a little bit to do with the expectations we have before we start reading. And with a genre indication like “literary thriller” on the cover the reader would know to expect more than a standard mystery or thriller. It would make it clear that while the story contains a mystery, it is at least as much about character development, and the thoughts and feelings of the main character(s).
For the people who were expecting a straightforward thriller this book delivered too much background information, too much introspection and not enough action. They just wanted to solve the mystery and get on with it already. The sessions with the therapist and the background story regarding Frank Parrish’s father didn’t interest them a lot and they felt those parts got in the way of the “real” story.
And then there were those who really weren’t looking forward to having to read a mystery at all. It was them who came back gushing about the story, having thoroughly enjoyed the book because it was about so much more then "just" the murders and solving the mystery.
Another one of the members used to live in New York for years and was very impressed how Brooklyn just jumped off the pages for her. The description of the place took her back there, an experience she really enjoyed and a writing skill she admired. Her admiration was only increased by the knowledge that the author isn’t actually American.
I have already posted my thoughts about this book in an earlier blog and explained why I loved this book so much. And while I’m sorry that not everybody shared my admiration for this book, I’m not surprised by it. Reading is such a personable experience. It is so hard to predict what anybody might or might not enjoy at any given time that I find myself at times reluctant to recommend a book to anyone, which is probably not the right attitude for a librarian to have.
I really enjoyed this discussion though, especially because the reasons some people gave for loving the book were the exact same as the reason others gave for not enjoying it as much.
There were a few things the whole group did agreed on though; our gratitude towards the author for answering the questions we had at such short notice, to Bookdagger's Real Readers for providing us with the copies of this book, and that this was probably the most inspired discussion we have had so far. Any book club looking for a good discussion could do a lot worse then picking this book as their next read.