What we're about

Reading contemporary, classic, and literary fiction in different genres and from different cultures, we meet once a month at the Butcher's Arms in Headington. Active members suggest books, and shortlists are narrowed down by group poll. It's a welcoming and mellow group, but not without lively discussion. You don't have to live in Headington . . .

Upcoming events (3)

Let's talk about COLD COMFORT FARM by Stella Gibbons

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COLD COMFORT FARM by Stella Gibbons (233 pages)

When sensible, sophisticated Flora Poste is orphaned at nineteen, she decides her only choice is to descend upon relatives in deepest Sussex. At the aptly-named Cold Comfort Farm, she meets the doomed Starkadders: cousin Judith, heaving with remorse for unspoken wickedness; Amos, preaching fire and damnation; their sons, lustful Seth and despairing Reuben; child of nature Elfine; and crazed old Aunt Ada Doom, who has kept to her bedroom for the last twenty years. But Flora loves nothing better than to organise other people. Armed with common sense and a strong will, she resolves to take each of the family in hand. A hilarious and ruthless parody of rural melodramas and purple prose, Cold Comfort Farm is one of the best-loved comic novels of all time.

'Screamingly funny and wildly subversive' Marian Keyes, Guardian

PLEASE NOTE THIS WILL BE A ZOOM MEETING AND I'LL EMAIL THE LINK NEARER THE TIME.

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Let's talk about THE RAGGED TROUSERED PHILANTHROPISTS by Robert Tressell

THE RAGGED TROUSERED PHILANTHROPISTS by Robert Tressell (742 pages)

Robert Tressell was the nom-de-plume of Robert Noonan, a house painter. The illegitimate son of Mary Ann Noonan and Samuel Croker (a retired magistrate), he was born in Dublin in 1870 and settled in England in 1901 after a short spell living and working in South Africa. He chose the pen name Tressell in reference to the trestle table, an important part of his kit as a painter and decorator.

Based on his own experiences of poverty, exploitation, and his terror that he and his daughter, Kathleen—whom he was raising alone—would be consigned to the workhouse if he fell ill, Noonan embarked on a detailed and scathing analysis of the relationship between working-class people and their employers. The "philanthropists" of the title are the workers who, in Tressell's view, acquiesce in their own exploitation in the interests of their bosses. The novel is set in the fictional town of Mugsborough, based on the southern English coastal town of Hastings, where Noonan lived, although its geographical location as described in the book is well away from the actual town of Hastings.

Noonan completed The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists in 1910, but the manuscript was rejected by the three publishing houses to which it was submitted. The rejections severely depressed Noonan, and Kathleen Noonan had to save the manuscript from being burnt by keeping it in a metal box under her bed.

The book provides a comprehensive picture of social, political, economic and cultural life in Britain at a time when socialism was beginning to gain ground. It was around that time that the Labour Party was founded and began to win seats in the House of Commons.

George Orwell praised the book's ability to convey "[w]ithout sensationalism and almost without plot ... the actual detail of manual work and the tiny things almost unimaginable to any comfortably situated person which make life a misery when one's income drops below a certain level". He considered it "a book that everyone should read" and a piece of social history that left one "with the feeling that a considerable novelist was lost in this young working-man whom society could not bother to keep alive".

PLEASE NOTE THIS WILL BE A ZOOM MEETING AND I'LL EMAIL THE LINK NEARER THE TIME.

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Let's talk about INCOMPARABLE WORLD by S. I. Martin

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INCOMPARABLE WORLD by S. I. Martin

A visceral reimagining of 1780s London, showcasing the untold stories of African-American soldiers grappling with their post-war freedom

'Remarkable' David Dabydeen

In the years just after the American revolution, London was the unlikely refuge for thousands of black Americans who fought for liberty on the side of the British.

Buckram, Georgie and William have earned their freedom and escaped their American oppressors, but on the streets of London, poverty awaits with equal cruelty.

Ruthless, chaotic and endlessly evolving, London forces them into a life of crime, and a life on the margins. Their only hope for a better future is to concoct a scheme so daring, it will be a miracle if it pays off.

Bursting with energy and vivid detail, Incomparable World boldly uncovers a long-buried narrative of black Britain.

'Adventurous and exuberant . . . a rollicking thriller [that] pulsates with vivacity' Bernardine Evaristo

PLEASE NOTE THIS MAY OR MAY NOT BE A ZOOM MEETING: IF IT IS I'LL EMAIL THE LINK NEARER THE TIME.

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Past events (87)

Let's talk about THE ALEPH by Jorge Luis Borges

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