Well a bit more of a mixed kitbag for this book than our recent reads, perhaps due to not all of us managing to finish the book before our virtual discussion. At 504 pages it’s a lengthy book and it had been a busy month for several in the group. However those who had progressed beyond half way were compelled to continue reading and to discover the connections between all the characters. Well done to everyone at the meeting for not giving away any spoilers!
For some it was their favourite book we’ve read so far, others found they struggled to get into the story finding the number of characters and to-ing and fro-ing of the different time periods hard work. A couple of us gave up early on not identifying with the central character Solomon. We had a good discussion about Solomon, a charlatan character of dubious morals, but we gained more insight into his earlier life as the book developed, and more empathy as a result.
We didn’t really have any favourite characters and instead decided that Edinburgh was the real star of the story especially for those who were from or had visited this fascinating city. We could visualise the dark alleyways and identify with the less shiny side of the city. Chatting with Mary Paulson-Ellis on Twitter (@mspaulsonellis) minor characters from her previous novel The Other Mrs Walker appear in The Inheritance of Solomon Farthing. This is apparently just for fun but we like the idea that characters don’t vanish with a novel – wonder who will turn up in Emily Noble’s Disgrace, the author’s third book later this year?
For some the book could have been shorter and one of the group found the placement of clues in the story a little obvious. However what we were all impressed with and moved by was the novel’s depiction of British Soldiers in the final stages of WWI. We felt the futility of war and weight of the decisions needing to be made by those who were young and had faced so much loss already. We spoke about PTSD spotting that Hawes was already suffering, and drew comparisons with the experiences of colleagues in the NHS during the pandemic. One of the group also mentioned that the book also helped to shatter the often glorified misconceptions of camaraderie associated with war. This was a group of soldiers (by this stage a mix of various battalions, backgrounds, experience and battle weariness) who didn’t particularly like each other but had a job to do. Another key message of the novel for us was the significance of small things which evoke memories are what remain important to us, rather than items of value.
We are taking a break from fiction this month with Somebody I Used to Know by Wendy Mitchell who was diagnosed with dementia at the early age of 58. This narrowly won the vote for our next book (thanks for all your votes). Dementia Action Week falls this month too – 17-23 May. Copies are available to borrow from the Library and we will be meeting virtually again on 3RD June 12:30 – 13:00pm. As ever everyone is welcome to join. Let us know if you’d like us to post a copy of the book to you at home or internally.