There comes a time in everyone’s life when they realise that they need to join a book club. That time, for me at least, is nigh. That’s why I’m now a bona fide member of Annie’s Bar Book Club. Of course, I’ve been a member of a book club before. In fact, before I moved to France, one of my strongest ties to Wales – one of the few things that made me think twice about the move – was my book club. I loved it and I miss it, so what better thing to do than join another now I’m here?
And you know the only thing that’s better than being a book club member? Well, it’s being able to write about that book club after the fact – and that’s exactly what I plan to do, making you an indirect member of Annie’s Bar Book Club too! I’ll write about what happened, I’ll review the book that we read and tell you what our other members thought, and I’ll let you know what we’re reading next so if you fancy it, you can join in the fun too!
So when I say that I’ve just joined Annie’s Bar Book Club, what I actually mean is that I’ve been a member since the beginning, and this was actually our second meeting. At our first, we discussed The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair, which scored an average of 6 out 10. There were three of us – me, the eponymous Annie (my witty mother and rather long-suffering proof-reader), and Nadia – plus a proxy member in Paris who was unable to make the trip down, Francoise. It was fun, if a little small. We were a cosy group of chatters with a common interest.
This month though…well, this month was newbie heaven and that is exciting! We had two newbies actually, Jules and Mandy, who turned our cosy little group of chatters into a growing group of budding book clubbers – and as pleasant as our little group initially was, it’s always good to grow. So what did we think of this month’s book?
The Running Man by Stephen King
Richards is down on his luck. His daughter is sick and he can’t afford food, let alone medicine. His wife has to earn money lying on her back. He can’t find a job, and life is miserable. He needs to find money to save his daughter’s life, and quickly. The Network has the answer. Allow yourself to be hunted until you’re murdered. The whole world is against you, but if you survive for a whole month, you’ll win a million dollars. Die before that, and a portion of the money (in proportion to how long you survived) will go to your surviving loved ones. It’s a solution all too tempting for the desperate Richards.
The thing with King’s books is that they can go one way or another. They are Marmite. You hate it with Pet Sematary and love it with 11.22.63. Roll-your-eyes-silliness or take-your-breath-away-magnificence. Like I said, Marmite. So where does The Running Man fall? Well one thing’s for certain, if you judge the tale on the Schwarzenegger movie based on the book, you’d hate it. So much so, in fact, that Mandy was reluctant to read this book at all, memories of an ill-enjoyed film filling her with dread. You should never judge a book by its movie though, right?
Right, because if you did, you’d be completely wrong in this case! In fact, our group were in complete agreement when we said that this book is an enjoyable and entertaining story, completely with an engaging writing style and interesting and well-rounded characters. Of course, in true King style, it gets a little silly in parts – unless you think that pushing your own intestines back into your bullet-ridden gut is standard – but it wouldn’t be King without that and for some, those slightly silly moments added an extra dimension to an otherwise fast-paced and somewhat dark storyline.
This is quite an old book, having been published in 1982, but we think that it’s still frightening relevant in today’s world – in a world in which the gap between the rich and the poor seems to be growing ever-wider, and a world in which people seem to be willing to do just about anything for fame and riches. It’s a short book that packs a lot of punches. It’s filled with characters that you believe in, a plot that will keep you intrigued, and a commentary that will have you shaking with the fear of what is potentially to come.
It’s not the best book I’ve ever read and the group agreed that the story ended where it needed to – it had a good feeling of closure that all but stopped any potential ‘book hangover’. It’s a complete story that won’t leave you wondering where the characters ended up or what they’re doing today. That said, it definitely kept me reading ‘just one more chapter’ and it is undoubtedly a great example of King’s awe-inspiring ability to tell tales. All in all, it’s one for a rainy Sunday afternoon, sat next to a cosy fire with a big mug of your tipple.
“He’ll make you shit in your boots and eat it.”
“The apartment was haunted by the ghost of a long-departed cabbage.”
Have you read it? What did you think of it?
Nadia: Score to come
Average – 8 / 10
This month, we’re reading Jules’ choice:
Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch.