Sandford Park’s Book Club meets once a month or so when a band of avid readers from TY, Form V and VI discuss the latest text to come under their gaze.
Previous novels that have engendered much debate include Old School, by Tobias Wolff; The Book of Evidence, by John Banville; and Any Human Heart, by William Boyd. All very different novels in terms of theme and tone, but all admired by the students. The students have also been introduced to some of the recognisably ‘great’ writers, such as Philip Roth, Evelyn Waugh and John Steinbeck, through their more approachable novels, such as Everyman, Decline and Fall and Of Mice and Men. In future years, we will read from, amongst others, Brian Moore, Ian McEwan and Kazuo Ishiguro.
The Book Club does not confine itself to fiction, of course; or even merely to reading! Last year, former Guardian journalist David Beresford’s Ten Men Dead was read in conjunction with Steve McQueen’s film Hunger (both of which centred on the hunger strike in Northern Ireland in 1981). These two texts led to much animated debate about the (potentially dangerous) power of identity, the legitimacy or otherwise of political violence and the possibility, or even desirability, of a lack of bias in such matters.
There are also occasional trips to the theatre; last year we went to see William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale in a pared back production by Andrew Hinds at the Project Arts Centre. The students’ verdict? That the focus on performance over razzmatazz proved legitimate, and that it was a strange pleasure to be able to follow a play from four hundred years ago as clearly as an episode of Fair City. That night a little more of the (undeservedly) off-putting veneer of Shakespeare got chipped away.
Themes that have proved consistently popular include, perhaps unsurprisingly, the coming of age and identity. However, the students have also been receptive to whatever thematic ambiguities that have come their way, from personal and moral problems; to the indignities and fears of old age; to sex, and death itself.