By Rosie Milne, Finder Blogger: The Herstory Buff, author of Olivia & Sophia
The Finder‘s latest online contributor just published Olivia & Sophia, a historical novel about Stamford Raffles’ adventures, as seen through the eyes of his two very different wives. Here, she talks to keen readers about the role book groups play in their lives, and offers some ideas on where to get advice if you want to write your own novel.
Angela Lawson is the British organiser of a book group for parents of children at the two United World College (UWC) schools, in Dover Road and in Tampines. Members come from all over the world. At the end of each meeting they collectively choose the book to be read at the next meeting — either fiction, or non-fiction. This month’s choice is The Orphan Master’s Son, by Adam Johnson, a wonderful novel exploring life in North Korea. Angela says, “Belonging to a book group made up of women from many cultures is a very enriching experience. As well as being introduced to a broad range of writing, the member’s different perspectives can lead to some very lively discussions.”
Alison Harvey, also a British expat, is a member of three book groups, one concentrating on non-fiction. She says, “Book groups offer an introduction to books that we probably wouldn’t have thought of reading, other people’s tastes are surprising and sometimes refreshing and considering their viewpoints forces us beyond our own preconceptions. It’s also a wonderful way to make new friends when you are newly arrived in a place and generally I find women in book groups very open-minded and welcoming. I do wonder though why in Singapore at any rate there are virtually no male members!”
Danielle Fraser is an Australian expat. She is a member of a book group that has been meeting for more than 18 years, with one original member still participating. She says, “We read a wide range of novels, and sometimes anthologies of short stories. The group is diverse in its literary tastes, and the best discussions come when some members have hated the book, while other members love it. It brings a much richer understanding of the book, because knowing that you will talk about it means that you read it in a different way. The great benefit of being part of a book group is the community; with our busy lives, few of us see each other outside the book group, but over the years, we have shared life events, like children leaving home, parents’ illnesses and dealing with the joy of living in Singapore.”
[Related: The Ultimate Expat Book List]
If you want to join a local book group, you could check out the local meetup group The Hungry Hundred Book Club. But if you are an expat, you may prefer to maintain links with a book group back home. Fran Lebowitz, a literary agent and editorial consultant who is based here, but who works in both Singapore and New York, says, “I happen to be a member of the world’s oldest continuously running book group, The Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle, founded in Chautauqua, New York, in 1878. I know from this and, truly, from any committed and organised book club, that the spirited discussion and respectful exchange compliment a good book, enrich friendships, and broaden perspective.” With her agent’s hat on, she adds, “The rise in popularity of the book group has been a boon to publishers, and it’s a well-regarded market to try to hit.”
[Related: Top 3 Books of 2015]
If participating in a book group inspires you to write a book yourself, you can contact Fran for advice through her Reedsy page. Or you may like to join the Singapore Writers’ Group. Alice Clark-Platts, author of Bitter Fruits, a crime novel set in England, founded the group. She says, “Ours is a community of both professional and aspiring writers who come together to motivate and inspire. We are always on the look-out for new members and offer a warm welcome to those who come along to our monthly social meetings or our regular critique sessions.”
Happy reading, and writing!
About Rosie Milne
Rosie Milne has recently published Olivia & Sophia, a historical novel exploring the life of Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore, through the eyes of his two very different wives. She writes a weekly blog for the UK’s Telegraph about life in Singapore, and reviews fiction for Asian Review of Books. She also runs Asian Books Blog. Her earlier novels are How To Change Your Life, about an editor of self-help books who tries to follow the advice in a self-help book, and Holding The Baby, which examines different attitudes to motherhood.
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