OK cards on the table time. I was too busy being involved in the discussion this month to take notes. Reading group facilitator fail. Reading group discussion success! It really was an enjoyable session this month.
Our book was The Herd by Emily Edwards. It centred on 2 best friends, Bryony and Elizabeth, who are complete opposites in personality and how they live their lives, yet they’re such good friends that they’re godmothers to each other’s daughters. They live on the same street, socialise together, walk their children to school together… however perhaps they’re not as close as it would seem. Elizabeth’s daughter, Clemmie has a health condition which means she can’t be vaccinated. Bryony has been brought up in a strictly anti-vax family, and is continuing that philosophy with her own daughter. But Elizabeth doesn’t know…
You can imagine how the tale unfolds- there’s a children’s party, an infectious disease (it’s not COVID!) with devastating consequences, lies, falling outs, betrayals, money worries, a court case and a TWIST. Oh and a next door neighbour with an Italian toyboy and a habit of sculpting with a chainsaw in the garden.
Our discussions were wide ranging. We talked about betrayal, responsibility and friendship. We had differing opinions on who was to blame, but on the whole we thought the author had done a good job of putting both sides of the debate forward. I don’t think any of us particularly identified with Bryony or Elizabeth however, we understood our protagonists’ reasons for their actions, and the twist at the end was a mystery to us all. Our opinions on the novel went from such fascination that we were looking up vaccination protocols (we are based in a medical library after all), to genuine annoyance with the relationships the novel explores. Considering it was a novel about vaccinations, we didn’t discuss our own opinions on the topic at all, because there was so much more to talk about within the book itself.
One aspect of the novel that we all enjoyed was the insertion of short snapshots from the viewpoint of onlookers in the courtroom that appeared throughout the book. Unconnected to the story unfolding, their alternative take on the events they’re hearing about in court and the people involved were well-considered interruptions to the narrative.
Our next read is the fantastical Piranesi by Susanna Clarke, winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2021. It’s a short novel and copies are available to pick up at the William Harvey Library.