Byron Writers Festival’s new initiative, the Members’ Book Club, held its inaugural event on 16 March when Marele Day‘s Lambs of God was the subject of discussion. Attendee Louise Heywood reports on a lively evening of literary conversation.
With places limited to the first ten to sign up, the inaugural Byron Writers Festival Members’ Book Club was enjoyed by all who were fortunate enough to secure a place. Not only was there the opportunity to discuss a book with other readers in a traditional book club setting, there was the added bonus of the author being in attendance. This was such a treat – and the group was expertly facilitated by Festival board member Anneli Knight.
One of the advantages of any book club is the opportunity to get out of one’s reading comfort zone. The book Lambs of God (1997) by Marele Day was not one I had heard of, and like many others, I tend to be drawn to the latest bestseller, when in fact there are so many hidden gems out there that we may have missed. Lambs of God was certainly a bestseller in its day – it was also translated into multiple languages. The novel presents an intriguing story about an enclosed order of nuns living on a remote island. In our initial discussions, the group agreed that the story is beautifully written, with the author’s poetic skill weaving in descriptive images of a small group of nuns living very frugally amongst their flock of sheep, happily self-sufficient and following their strict prayers and rituals. The location is never revealed, enabling us all to conjure up our own images of where it might be – Italy, France or Ireland, perhaps. Even Marele didn’t have a particular place in mind.
“The opportunity to ask questions about the book and to gain an understanding of the painstaking research, various drafts she undertook and how she developed the plot, proved very enlightening.”
Marele Day was lively and engaging, and we were all hungry for more information about how she had developed her story, what had made her deviate from her very successful career as a crime writer and why she had chosen to apparently write about a number of things of which she had no firsthand experience – Catholicism, knitting and shepherding.
The opportunity to ask questions about the book and to gain an understanding of the painstaking research, various drafts she undertook and how she developed the plot, proved very enlightening.
Rather like the book, the book club was dominated by women with a single man in attendance, who I am sure was very grateful not to receive the same treatment as the sole man in Lambs of God. In fact, we were able to share what we liked and disliked about the novel and hear from several of the group who had had varying experiences with Catholicism and were impressed at how accurate Marele had depicted it all. Whilst we had a diverse mix of thoughts about the book and, in particular, how she chose to end the story, I think we were all in agreement that we could have listened to Marele for hours. We were extremely grateful for her generosity in coming along to create such an enriching experience. Thank you Marele and Byron Writers Festival.
The Members’ Book Club occurs monthly at the Byron Writers Festival office on Jonson Street, Byron Bay. This ongoing members-only free event is a book club with a difference, in that the author joins the forum for the second half of the evening. Bookings are essential.
For further information visit www.byronwritersfestival.com/whats-on/bookclub/