For this evening Ajay had matched us all up with characters from the plays of The Bard himself. Nothing personal in it, he assured us, even where Lady Macbeth was concerned …
We kicked off with another instalment from Anne’s novel, working title A proper sinner. She wanted our feedback on the setting of Riverbank Lodge and the dialogue centring around Detective Inspector Ogilvie’s examination of the body of Emma Hart. We were all struck by the vivid immediacy of the scene, though felt that maybe a little more filtering of impressions through Ogilvie himself might improve it. Could we please have more in the vein of his thinking the newspaper reporter had come ‘too close for comfort’? And what was all that about the lovebird?!
My own Rift followed, another Tale from Rural Umbria. The upbeat note at the end was appreciated when some of the tales have been darker, and the humour of a very substantial windfall going partly towards buying fresh pasta rather than dry pasta wasn’t lost on the audience.
Suzy informed us her piece was a third attempt at the opening of Vile Deeds of the amazing crab girl (pun on the initial capitals of the first part of the title) set in the late Victorian era. The heroine is reading, in a newspaper ironed for her benefit, an account of the execution of the magician held responsible for a fire in the Theatre Royal in Glasgow, and recalling how she lost her brother in the blaze. We were bowled over by the authenticity of the details, calling into play as they did all our senses, but maybe the focus could be just a little more through the prism of the personality of the heroine?
Next Maggie B. read us her pitch and synopsis for The Monsters’ Baby, followed by Chapter 2. We felt the pitch needed a bit more ‘meat’ but the chapter was pure delight. Could anyone else but Maggie have said “Yeah” in quite that cute but monsterish way, and could we please have the recipe for ‘dustbin stew’? To Maggie’s great credit, we have tension in whether the monster baby will or won’t speak, as well as what he might gobble down next.
We’d been waiting agog for the final part of Linda’s deliciously humorous story about George and his grandmother Ima Nutter. Would he get the answer to The Question and find his grandfather among the members of the rock band The Magic Muffins? Well he does and he doesn’t. Another lightbulb pings and he realises that he has two grandmothers, since Christopher discovered herself as Chris. Is this resolution clear enough? It was felt that the generation the story is aimed at would pick up on it straight away, even if yours truly didn’t.
We were now transported to Russia on the wings of Marion’s graphic account of her visit to Moscow. Imagine 30,000 people visiting McDonald’s on its opening day! And where else could whole residential buildings be moved with the inhabitants still inside after they’d been misinformed about the date of the move so as not to alarm them? We were reminded that Stalin created the beautiful Underground to be a palace for the same people as he sent in their droves to labour camps. The article deserves to find a good home in company with its photographs, although perhaps its title could reflect its core identity as a travelogue and minimise mention of the football match.
Kirsty has been working on a Young Adult Sci-Fi novel and she read us the Prologue. An arresting image was created before our mind’s eye of a Mother Tree from which Dak and Laika (have I spelt the names right?) are about to be hanged, although in sinister fashion the execution is referred to as a trial. We are plunged straight into the middle of the action while the strange world in which it takes place is created subtly and gradually. There are intriguing possibilities for a book cover, and the novel has great potential.
Finally Joanne read us her first sortie into children’s literature. What age might her story be suitable for? It was generally felt that confident readers aged 8 – 9 would love it, especially since it’s about animals, and better still, ponies! Rocky’s day at the show gives us a horse’s eye view of the world with Rocky himself ‘not meaning’ to do clumsy things like tread on people’s feet or knock them over. The book has the happy ending which a children’s story needs, with Rocky being rewarded with sugar lumps and, as it were, a wink from the small human Jack. Maybe a little more of the kerfuffle preceding a horse show could be portrayed?
Well, that was the end of the Readaround and of the whole Summer Readaround season. We all thanked Ajay for his technical expertise over the weeks and Suzy for starting us off down such an enjoyable road in what for many has been a trying period.
Now for the new challenge of general Club meetings on Zoom!