It’s been a while since a book divided our meeting so neatly – exactly half of those present really liked The Friday Gospels, whereas the other half were, to differing degrees, much less keen. That still makes it the most popular of our last three books, and like the other two we found plenty to talk about.
Most liked the structure of the book – having the story told in five different voices, all within a 24hr timeframe. However, several members (including Steph all the way from Singapore via Ruth) felt that at least some of the characters were not as well developed as they could have been.
For many, Gary was the most likeable character, and much of the humour in the book came from his experiences. Several found Jeannie in particular to be rather underdeveloped and unconvincing. Julian provoked controversy – for some he was the most interesting, for others the most unsettling – was he a paedophile? Autistic? Even mentally ill, based on the repeated references to headaches? We had little to say about Martin, although there was sympathy for his obvious loneliness – in fact one of the strengths of the book was the portrayal of a family unit full of such lonely individuals. Many agreed that the sibling relationships were well drawn.
There was much sympathy for Pauline, although many found the symptoms of her condition made for (perhaps unnecessarily) uncomfortable reading, and there was considerable bewilderment at how her condition had become so bad, to the point that a genuine physical condition had apparently been so exacerbated by mental attitudes, both from Pauline and those around her.
The Mormon religion was very much a part of this book, and there was a wide range of reactions to it – the book’s fans enjoyed the details and insights, whereas other found the details frustratingly insufficient, or even, in one case, just too much. Many, fans and detractors alike, were disturbed the level of control the Mormon religion seemed to have over its followers.
As might be expected, the ending provoked considerable differences, from implausible to satisfactory, even redemptive, and from too neat to realistically open-ended…
We also discussed out Christmas meal which, as usual, replaces the December meeting – I’ve now sent out confirmation to everyone who’s able to come. If anyone else would like to join us please do get in touch, either via my email or the comments box here.
I’ve had to tinker with the order of our next 3 books, as the Atkinson isn’t now available in paperback until the end of January, so on 8th January we’ll be looking at Alice Hoffman’s The Dovekeepers.