Book-club Sidesteps

Pocket Book-club talked about a lot of things this meeting. Germaine Greer, The Cursed Child, suitable endings for Game of Thrones, hysterical children on school camps. The hysterical children were somewhat of a segue toward ‘the book’. The book being Bluebottle by Belinda Castles.

This book was chosen by us on the strength of it being on the Stella Prize Longlist. It revolves around the Bright family from the point of view of each of the three children, nervous Jack, restless Lou and the youngest, attention seeking Phoebe. However, at the centre of the story is their father Charlie. It is what Charlie may or may not have done, or unpredictably could do that drives the story forward, and indeed, what happened to Charlie is the story question that you want answered.

It is our guess that Charlie may have had some un-diagnosed mental illness but one of my issues with the book is I don’t really get a sense of the things Charlie has done that make the family vigilant and nervous. There are hints but not enough for me to get a sense of how bad it could be. On the other hand, another view at the meeting was that he was a man of his time. If he called his children nasty names he could justify it by saying his father called him worse names.

The book is described as ‘gripping and evocative’. The book-club agree with evocative – Australian summers at the beach, the preoccupations of teenagers, dysfunctional family life – you know the time when you blamed everything on the shortcomings of your parents.

However, we are not sure that gripping is an apt description. The book jumps back and forth from Boxing Day to twenty years later when the family has moved on, but not entirely. Charlie, or the idea of Charlie, is still a pivot point. There is a mystery of a missing girl, however the pace is more of a hot day lazy at the beach then a crazy roller coaster ride at Disneyland.

There are some great scenes in this book. My favourite involves a sexy girl and a swimming pool. Everyone at book club agreed Phoebe was their favourite character. Overall though, it feels a few steps to the side of what it could have been. Perhaps that is why we sidestepped talking about the book and ended up on Germaine Greer, grade 5 campers, and the various capacities of theatres in Brisbane.

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