The North recommends: New Parents’ Book Group

I heard about the New Parents’ Book Group when I was pregnant and looked to see which books the group would be reading in the months after I was due. I thought that the meeting scheduled for two weeks after my due date was probably a bit unrealistic but thought I’d aim to get to the meeting a month later. In fact, I didn’t manage to get there until quite a few months later. It turns out that babies are rather time-consuming and that giving birth motivates you to weep while watching Homes Under the Hammer rather than get cracking on the latest Franzen offering. When I did manage to squeeze a few pages into every snatched moment and finished reading a book, I felt like I had gotten a little bit of me back. My baby, Teddy, is over a year old now and it still feels like a wonderful luxury to give my mind over to a story (a story that isn’t written by Julia Donaldson, no offence Julia!). Being a member of a book group has definitely pushed me to prioritise making time to read and has given me a chance to meet other parents who I have something in common with other than a baby.

The group has been meeting for several years but has a pretty high turnover of members as people go back to work and their children grow. As we ordinarily bring our babies with us, we try to meet in a child-friendly space so that toddlers can have a run around while their mum or dad chats, with space for buggies and changing facilities. At the moment we’re trying some new venues, so check our Facebook page for the venue before coming along to a meeting.

We are open to reading any sort of book but when suggesting one, I do try to keep it fairly short. That’s why I suggested Mike McCormack’s Solar Bones, a short novel that had been longlisted for the Booker Prize. What I didn’t consider was that this not-too-long book consisted of a single sentence – a stream of consciousness from one man reflecting on episodes of his life. It turned out that everyone found this a very difficult book to get far with. Not because it wasn’t good, but because the style was not really compatible with being picked up for a hurried few pages and put down again. The language McCormack uses is poetic and the pages themselves are formatted to reflect that. There were some particularly striking sections in the book. The scene where Marcus Conroy (the narrator) describes visiting his daughter’s art exhibition, has stayed with some people – he has an emotional crisis when he sees that her work is made from her own blood and that it seems to be criticising their community. There were lots of beautiful reflections on small town life in the book – observations on humdrum things, such as the narrator knowing every person who drove past his window in the morning, where they worked and what order they would be setting off in. However, most of us were frustrated that this was obviously a book you needed to be able to sink into rather than dip in and out of. Books that have gone down well in the past have tended to be quite gripping, often with short chapters. I am currently focusing on training Teddy up to be able to make his mum cups of tea so that I can, several years from now, spend a whole weekend getting absorbed in Solar Bones while he provides refreshments.

To find out more about our New Parents’ Book Group and to join, click here.