Podcast: Bookclub

BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
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Led by James Naughtie, a group of readers talk to acclaimed authors about their best-known novels
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4added an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Bookclub3 months ago
Owen Sheers talks about his novel I Saw A Man with James Naughtie and a group of readers at the Dylan Thomas Centre, Swansea.

After the sudden loss of his wife, Michael Turner moves from Wales to London to start again. Living on a quiet street in Hampstead, he develops a close bond with the Nelson family next door: Josh, Samantha and their two young daughters.

The friendship between Michael and the Nelsons at first seems to offer the prospect of healing, and then one Saturday afternoon in June 2008 Michael steps through the Nelsons’ back door, thinking their house is empty and everything changes.

Meanwhile thousands of miles away, just outside of Las Vegas, a man is setting in motion a change of events which eventually come to puncture life on that Hampstead Street.

And Michael finds himself bearing the burden of grief and a secret.

Presenter : James Naughtie
Producer : Dymphna Flynn

September's Bookclub Choice : The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna (2011)
Owen Sheers - I Saw A Man, BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4added an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Bookclub3 months ago
Gail Honeyman talks about her novel Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine which won the 2017 Costa First Novel Award and has been a runaway success since.

Gail was inspired to write her debut novel after reading an article in which a young woman described her lonely life. On the outside, her life was a success, with her own flat and a good job but the reality was she often went home on Friday evening and returned to work on Monday morning without speaking to a soul all weekend.

Gail created her own version of this story with the character Eleanor Oliphant, who leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend. She speaks to her mother every Wednesday evening on the phone. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life.

One simple act of kindness shatters the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Gail describes how Eleanor becomes the agent of her own destiny and the change, learning how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted - while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she's avoided all her life.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a heartwarming story about loneliness, loss and the possibility of change.

Presenter : James Naughtie
Producer : Dymphna Flynn

August's Bookclub choice : I Saw A Man by Owen Sheers (2015)
Gail Honeyman - Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4added an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Bookclub3 months ago
Gail Honeyman on her book, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4added an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Bookclub5 months ago
David Szalay discusses his novel All That Man Is which was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize in 2016.

All That Man Is is a meditation of modern man told through the stories of nine men from across Europe, who are all at different stages of their lives.

David says the three ages of man was present in his mind as the nine stories fall naturally into youth, middle age and older age. The characters are seemingly unrelated, and their stories are rooted in a contemporary reality, with David presenting the driving ambitions of each man in various stages of life.

As well as the preoccupations of time passing and aging, the book is also about contemporary Europe, with characters in different social settings from Cyprus to Copenhagen, Budapest to Mayfair. The book was published just before the 2016 European Referendum, but David, who currently lives in Budapest, says his aim was not to pass any political judgment, but to describe modern European life as it is.

Also important to him was the comic element of men's lives – from obsessions like booze to sex to social status, and how comedy can be redemptive, with incapacity being both funny and sad at the same time.

Presenter : James Naughtie
Producer : Dymphna Flynn

July's Bookclub choice : Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (2017)
David Szalay - All That Man Is, BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4added an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Bookclub6 months ago
Louise Doughty talks about her novel Apple Tree Yard, which went on to be a popular BBC television drama. It is the story of Yvonne, a high-flying married scientist, whose personal life is, by turns, erotic and troubled and, eventually, disastrous.

Completely out of character, Yvonne has consensual sex with a stranger in the Palace of Westminster. So begins an affair with a man called Mark which in the end leads them both to the dock of the Old Bailey. Much of the book is told through Yvonne’s unsent emails to Mark. Through them we come to understand Yvonne - the conflicts between her professional and private life, the pressures on her and her family and the horror of an act of violence that becomes the hinge of the story.

James Naughtie presents, and a group of readers ask the questions.

Presenter: James Naughtie
Interviewed guest : Louise Doughty
Presenter: Dymphna Flynn

June's Bookclub choice : All That Man Is by David Szalay (2016)
Louise Doughty - Apple Tree Yard, BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4added an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Bookclub6 months ago
Richard Holmes talks about The Age of Wonder, his non-fiction account of the Romantic age, as scientific and artistic thinking began to diverge.

In the book he describes the scientific ferment that swept through Britain in the late-18th century and tells the stories of the celebrated innovators and their great scientific discoveries: from telescopic sight and the discovery of Uranus to Humphrey Davy's invention of the miner's safety lamp, and from the first balloon flight to African exploration.

Holmes has also written biographies of the poets Coleridge and Shelley and he explains how The Romantics didn't believe in the modern idea that the arts and sciences are two cultures dividing us. The chemist Humphrey Davy wrote poetry and was good friends with Coleridge and they inhaled nitrous oxide gas together as part of Davy's experiments on its properties.

Presented by James Naughtie and including questions from an audience of readers.

Presenter : James Naughtie
Producer : Dymphna Flynn

May's Bookclub Choice : Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty (2013)
Richard Holmes - The Age of Wonder, BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4added an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Bookclub6 months ago
Richard Holmes talks to James Naughtie about his novel, The Age of Wonder .
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4added an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Bookclub7 months ago
Simon Mawer talks about Tightrope, an espionage story featuring the enigmatic agent Marian Sutro which is set during World War II and the years into the Cold War.

Tightrope opens as Marian returns to England having survived Ravensbruck concentration camp. She had been parachuted into France by the Special Operations Executive and captured by the Germans in Paris. As peace comes Marian finds it impossible to adjust and find a role for herself. Then, enemies become friends, friends become enemies as an iron curtain is drawn across Europe. Spies are in demand. It is in the clandestine and secret world of the new espionage that Marian finds purpose and is recruited by the Soviet Union.

Mawer's evocation of poor, battered post-war London, still a drab city of thick and clammy fogs won praise from critics, who also likened Marian to James Bond – both in terms of bravery and promiscuity. Marian walks the tightrope between the people in her life who have sent her into danger, those whom she must fear, and those she seeks to protect.

Tightrope won the Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction 2016.

Presented by James Naughtie and including questions from an audience of readers.

Presenter : James Naughtie
Producer : Dymphna Flynn

April's Bookclub Choice : The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes (2008)
Simon Mawer - Tightrope, BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4added an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Bookclub8 months ago
Simon Mawer talks to James Naughtie about his novel, Tightrope
Simon Mawer discusses his novel, Tightrope, BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4added an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Bookclub8 months ago
Alice Oswald, Radio 4's Poet in Residence, discusses her collection Falling Awake which won the Costa Poetry Prize 2016.

Falling Awake explores two of Alice Oswald’s recurring preoccupations - with the natural world, and with the myths of more ancient civilizations. Alice studied Classics at university and on graduation became a gardener. Homer, she says, made her a gardener because in the ancient world, the archaic poets create continuity between human beings and our surroundings.

The poems in Falling Awake move easily from the observation of the falling rain, or the stealthy tread of a fox through a darkened garden, to the sight of the head of Orpheus floating away on the River Hebron after he's been killed, with his voice still singing as it goes. And, then finally, to Tithonus, a forty-six minute poem written for performance which is a gripping evocation of dawn - again from an idea bequeathed by classical mythology. The poem takes us, as it did one summer as Alice observed the dawn, from the moment when the sun is six degrees below the horizon to the breaking of light.

Presented by James Naughtie with readers from the charity Poet in the City asking the questions.

Presenter : James Naughtie
Producer : Dymphna Flynn

March's Bookclub Choice : Tightrope by Simon Mawer (2015)
Alice Oswald - Falling Awake, BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4added an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Bookclub9 months ago
Poet Alice Oswald talks to James Naughtie about her collection of poems, Falling Awake.
Poet Alice Oswald talks to James Naughtie, BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4added an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Bookclub9 months ago
Jessie Burton discusses The Miniaturist, her debut novel which was the subject of a bidding war between 11 publishers at the 2013 London Book Fair. Set in Amsterdam in 1686–87, the novel was inspired by Petronella Oortman's doll's house which is on display at the Rijksmuseum.

Jessie explains how she created her own fictional version of Nella Oortman for the novel. At the age of 18, Nella marries a rich merchant, Johannes Brandt, hoping for love and prosperity. Instead, she enters a world of tensions, secrets and mystery which soon threatens her future. Johannes gives his new wife an extraordinary wedding gift: a miniature replica of their home. As the enigmatic craftswoman delivers more and more miniatures for the cabinet house, its tiny occupants start to mirror their real-life counterparts in unexpected ways.

Presented by James Naughtie and recorded with a group of invited readers.

Presenter : James Naughtie
Interviewed guest : Jessie Burton
Producer : Dymphna Flynn

February's Bookclub choice : Falling Awake by Alice Oswald
Jessie Burton - The Miniaturist, BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4added an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Bookclub10 months ago
Poet Simon Armitage on his translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4added an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Bookclub10 months ago
American author Meg Wolitzer discusses her novel The Interestings, which follows a group of friends from teenage years through to middle age and marriage and children.

Aged 15, the group first meet at on a warm night at Spirit in the Woods summer camp in 1974. They drink, smoke pot and share their dreams and vow always to be interesting. Although not strictly an autobiographical novel, the idea for the book came from Meg's own experience as a teenager at summer camp in the same era and how the experience can give young people the opportunity to re-invent themselves. What links the six teenagers in The Interestings is their creativity — but how many of them will be successful in their chosen fields?

Decades later, aspiring actress Jules has resigned herself to a more practical occupation, Cathy has stopped dancing, Jonah has laid down his guitar and Goodman (a bit of a misnomer) has disappeared. Only the animator Ethan and theatre director Ash, now married, have remained true to their adolescent dreams and have become shockingly successful.

As the group's fortunes tilt, their friendships are put under strain and Meg Wolitzer explains to Bookclub how the strain of envy and disappointment drives the story.

Meg Wolitzer has been enjoying great success this autumn with the film version of her novel about a Nobel prize winning writer, The Wife.

Presented by James Naughtie and recorded with a group of invited readers.

Presenter : James Naughtie
Interviewed guest : Meg Wolitzer
Producer : Dymphna Flynn

January 2019's Bookclub choice : The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (2014)
Meg Wolitzer - The Interestings, BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4added an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Bookclub10 months ago
The Gunpowder Plot by Antonia Fraser
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4added an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Bookclub10 months ago
Andrew Michael Hurley discusses his book The Loney which won the Costa First Novel Award in 2015. Recorded with an audience at the Liverpool Literary Festival and presented by James Naughtie.

First published in a print run of just 300 copies by a small press, The Loney went on to win The Costa First Novel Award and Book of the Year at the British Book Industry Awards 2015. This gothic novel is set on a bleak stretch of the Lancashire coast near Morecambe Bay called The Loney, which is infamous for its dangerous waters.

In 1976, The congregation of St Jude’s Catholic church in London head north, on pilgrimage to a holy shrine, near The Loney, hoping to cure Hanny, a boy who’s been mute since birth. His brother, who is unnamed throughout the novel, narrates the story in the present day.

The retreat is led by the newly installed parish priest, Father Bernard McGill, who struggles to shake off the ghost of his predecessor, the hardline Father Wilfred. Meanwhile, the rain sweeps in off the sea and the tides come and go, shifting the sands, burying and obscuring.

There's a mysterious death at the heart of the novel; complicated and destructive family relationships, and running through it all a story of faith and superstition, imagination and fear. To the author's delight it was described as 'an amazing piece of fiction' by the master of modern gothic himself, Stephen King.

Presenter : James Naughtie
Interviewed guest : Andrew Michael Hurley
Producer : Dymphna Flynn

December's Bookclub choice : The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer (2013)
Andrew Michael Hurley - The Loney, BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4added an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Bookclub10 months ago
A treat from the Bookclub archive celebrating our 20th anniversary
Anne Enright - The Gathering, BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4added an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Bookclub10 months ago
Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgaard discusses A Death in the Family, which is the first part of My Struggle, his series of memoirs which have a devoted following.

Already a successful novelist in his native Norway, almost ten years ago Knausgaard embarked on a huge project: a first person narrative about his life.

In A Death in the Family he writes with painful honesty about his childhood and teenage years, his infatuation with rock music, his relationship with his loving yet almost invisible mother and his distant and dangerously unpredictable father, and then his bewilderment and grief on his father's death. Becoming a father himself, he has to balance the demands of caring for a young family with his determination to write great literature.

The series is an exploration of the author’s past from which emerges a universal story of the struggles, great and small, that we all face in our lives. Karl Ove Knausgaard writes with honesty about his upbringing, causing ructions in his family. He says he always knew that whatever he wrote, he would have to be able to look his family members in the eye.

My Struggle finally ran to six volumes, and the last one The End, has just been published in the UK. The series became a literary sensation in his native Norway as well as around the world.

Presented by James Naughtie and recorded with a group of invited readers.

Presenter : James Naughtie
Interviewed guest : Karl Ove Knausgaard
Producer : Dymphna Flynn

November's Bookclub choice : The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley (2014)
Karl Ove Knausgaard - A Death in the Family, BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4added an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Bookclub10 months ago
A treat from the Bookclub archive celebrating our 20th anniversary
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4added an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Bookclub10 months ago
James Naughtie and Madeline Miller discuss her debut novel The Song of Achilles which won the Orange Prize for Fiction 2012.

In The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller presents a love story against the backdrop of the Trojan war — between Achilles, leading the Greek army, and his best friend Patroclus. Her imagined relationship between the two men explains the emotional support that Achilles gets from Patroclus, the strength of the bond between them and the depth of Achilles' grief at his friend's death.

Recorded with a group of invited readers.

October's Bookclub Choice : A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgaard (2014)

Presenter : James Naughtie
Interviewed Guest : Madeline Miller
Producer : Dymphna Flynn.
Madeline Miller - The Song of Achilles, BBC Radio 4
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