Thursday, 29 November 2012

GROUP READ - 11/22/63 - Stephen King



Synopsis:
Jake Epping is a thirty-five-year-old high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching adults in the GED program. He receives an essay from one of the students—a gruesome, harrowing first person story about the night 50 years ago when Harry Dunning’s father came home and killed
his mother, his sister, and his brother with a hammer. Harry escaped with a smashed leg, as evidenced by his crooked walk.

Not much later, Jake’s friend Al, who runs the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to 1958. He enlists Jake on an insane—and insanely possible—mission to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson and his new world of Elvis and JFK, of big American cars and sock hops, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake’s life—a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time

52 comments:

  1. This was on King's fanclub fb page. Interesting, I didn't realise he was so involved in film.

    Hollywood's 25 Most Powerful Authors...

    #1. Stephen King: "Although King is most identified with the smalltown Maine environs of Bangor, the 65-year-old father of three boasts more film and TV credits than some of Hollywood’s most seasoned players. Ever since his first novel, Carrie, made the transition from best-seller to horror classic in 1976, King’s work has become go-to fodder for a wide range of filmmakers including Stanley Kubrick (1980’s The Shining), Rob Reiner (1986’s Stand by Me) and Frank Darabont (1994’s The Shawshank Redemption) as well as such TV networks as ABC (1994 miniseries The Stand) and Syfy (Haven, recently renewed for a fourth season). “His appeal has a lot to do with his absolute love for writing, and writing across so many different genres,” says King’s agent of 30 years, Paradigm’s Rand Holston. Although Warner Bros. and Universal passed on King’s Dark Tower series for budgetary reasons, the author has more than a dozen other properties in various stages of development and production, including the John Cusack vehicle Cell and The Breathing Method, with Paranormal Activity producer Jason Blum attached. And Carrie returns to the screen in 2013 with Chloe Grace Moretz in the title role. As is often the case with King, there will be blood."

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  2. Have ordered my copy via Angus and Robertson (thanks jaywalker) cost of paperback just over $11 - delivery free
    Interest in Stephen King inspired by that wonderful TV series 'Lost'. I have all the DVDs, and in the final the authors say they are all 'stephen King fans' So looking forward to reading one of his novels

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    1. I have ordered my copy from the library. It should arrive this coming week.

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    2. Strange - i just went into Angus & Robertson and it says it's not in stock - maybe you got the last one! I'll try amazon which means probably won't have it for a couple of weeks but I probably won't get round to it until then as I have to work all this week and still having to do a lot for Colin since his op.

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    3. I got my copy and have read a few chapters but I honestly don't think I can force myself to read it. It just isn't my cup of tea. If it were shorter I might have forced myself but I have eight enticing new books waiting for me and I just feel as if life is too short to spend on 700 pages I'm not enjoying. Maybe the next one!

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    4. Jaywalker, I'm with you on this one.I'm finding this book very tedious and I'm not sure that I can work my way through the entire 700 plus pages. Have had several goes at it, and have blamed the head and languid holiday fee, but nope, finding this book a real chore.

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  3. Yes, 740 pages does seem daunting. I wonder if we could divide the book into more manageable chunks of, say, 150 pages a week? This may also help to focus our discussion. What do you think?

    I was surprised that I'd forgotten how well King writes. His conversational tone perfectly suits his storytelling and his books are great stories. If there is anything deeper, I missed it. Of course, one has to be able to suspend belief but that is not as big an ask with 11.22.63 as it is with others of his books.

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    1. Must be feeling a tad narky because I would have to disagree with Sanmac on this one. Don't feel that the book is well written at all. Mr King goes on and on and on especially compared to some of his much tighter written novels such as The Green Mile, Children of the Corn, and Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.

      We will continue the good fight however and see it to the end...LOL

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    2. According to an interview, this book is King's attempt at mainstream fiction, and while I'm not sure that time travel is 'mainstream', I don't feel that King's book has any pretension to literature. I've not read the books you quote, so I can't compare. However, I do feel 11.22.63 is an improvement on his early works. Our disagreement should make for a lively discussion. :)

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    3. The breakdown to 150 pages at a time sounds like a positive idea.
      And something new.

      Its these changes in genres, and in the way we do things, that make the whole process fun. Good concept Sanmac!

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  4. Yes, it is the length that has always put me off Kings books, and ones ike Dragon Tattoo. (I thoughtr it might really help me if I had picked a thick book to read to go onto the heavier stuff..... segments by all means. Sandra. However my copy has stll not arrived... might try the library instead
    Jaywalker be brave,,,,

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    1. You have been waiting a while. From where did you order it? Perhaps there are too many Xmas parcels for our postal service :(. My copy came from the library and I had to order that too.
      Let us know when it arrives and we'll schedule the first chunk. The delay may not be a disadvantage. Perhaps more will be able to join in after the holiday period, when life is back to normal, whatever that is.

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    2. I got mine quicker posted from England via amazon.uk!!

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  5. i am a bit disgusted, according to A&R it was posted 6th December - I have given it extra time because of the holiday mail but wish I'd told them eralier
    They are sending me a new copy - in the meantime I am concentrating on Newspapers and Magazenes. I really need something to get my teeth into....

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    1. Hang in there Madeleinea. Sounds like you'll be receiving a fun parcel soon.........................

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  6. Book arrived today - from UK! Give me a week to read enough to comment!

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    1. Good one, Madeleine. We'll comment in blocks of 150 pages or so. No rush to finish it.

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  7. Took a while but starting to get into the story. yee haa

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    1. Good one, Moi! Are we ready to discuss the first block?

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  8. Just finished parts 1 & 2 - taking me to page 200. I am finding it a well edited, easy to read novel with a good plot. A surreal plot!
    My first emotions though were those of unease.... if you could change the past is it ethical to do so..
    Toward the end of my reading I came upon the statement
    'the past does not want to be changed' and felt much better

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  9. Well done Madeleinea.

    I found the first 150 pages a real slog. Forgetting that this genre is not my thing I simply found it all a bit odd in that I have not in any manner warmed to the lead character, Jake Epping. So we know about his marriage breakdown , and his career, and his family, but this has not brought me any closer to the character.Jake is not working for me at all, and I am finding this confrontational as one generally either likes or dislikes the main character. Its a method the author often uses so that readers can coonect with the story isn't it ?
    I think because of this lack of emotional connection I found the first 150 pages long winded.This seems to have improved for the next block I am pleased to report.
    I would also like to add that the nostalgia bit is not working for me either, but perhaps that is because of my age , or lack thereof. Afterall I am only 37 ( LOL!!!!)

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  10. Moi - I agree with you - Epping himself is a colourless hero!
    His wife, at least, has colourful ideas though.

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    1. Yes, Epping is vapid although it didn't bother me (watched too many American sitcoms, perhaps). King possibly wanted him to be just an ordinary Joe and over did it. I do like the literary references (Shirley Jackson, John Irving, Thomas Wolfe et al) in keeping with his profession. Some of the American references pass me by - Moxie? Musterole? - and King must be an ex-smoker!
      It's reminiscent of Carroll's 'Through the Looking-Glass', don't you think?
      How do you feel about King's glossing over the physics? Is the standard answer "I dunno", clever or a cop out?
      Epping was brave or very, very trusting to go through that door, especially seeing the ageing that his friend experienced.
      I suppose the Dunning story is for those like me; with only an overview of American political history and hazy on the details.

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    2. Yes Madeleinea, tend to agree with you. Think Mrs Epping may have been the better choice of hero in this tale

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  11. In my view - Epping was a fool to accept offer to go into the past! But then I was never adventurous.
    Still - entertaining story though

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  12. I read up to where he had just gone through the door before giving up on it. I agree about the characterisation of Jake. It's just me but I can't suspend my disbelief on this one. Am having too much fun reading "Bess of Hardwicke" and Donna Leon's new novel which is not part of her Detective brunetti novels but is about a mystery connected with a venetian baroque composer.

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  13. I am so emotionally disconnected from Epping that I haven't even considered if he was brave, trusting or just plain stupid walking through that door ! Bit like Jaywalker , I just did not believe any of it.........

    Have enjoyed the literary references also Sanmac , and in pages 150 to 300 the references to Catcher in the Rye and Of Mice and Men do make for a bit of interest.

    I would question however why such an emphasis on same. Yes, I get that the author is ensuring we are gauging the correct time period,and yes, Epping is an English teacher and wannabe author.
    Is the author being a little self indulgent with his own passions in this instance because some of this seems just to be page filler stuff ????

    With regards to the who physics caboodle, my feeling is that its just a cop out. This is King telling a yarn, but with contractural obligations rather than Booker Prize considerations.

    And can anyone enlighten me about the yellowcard man please.What was that all about ?

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  14. Dunno. Maybe a faded Green Card?

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  15. My library is being most unsympathetic and won't renew my copy of the book. This means that, not only will I not be able to identify the 'blocks', but I will have to rely on my memory for the details of the story.....and that's a scary thought.
    I read an article in the weekend papers which discussed the last generation's pulp fiction which has now become classic, if not literature. Raymond Chandler and John Le Carre were mentioned and it stated that even George Orwell wrote in this genre, now called 'popular fiction'. Perhaps the next generation will rate King's books as classic escapism?
    I do like his conversational style and his books >i>are escapism >/i>. The reader doesn't need to work at all. The ability to suspend belief, however, is a prerequisite to enjoying the story. I agree with you Moi, the lack of explanation of the physics involved is a cop out. Most 'time travel' books provide some sort of explanation - think HG Wells and, more recently Audrey Niffenegger.
    The references to literature may have been fillers but I enjoyed them, particularly the Shirley Jackson allusion. …...a sop to us 'literary types' ;)) ?
    The book is almost exclusively set in the past and instead of concentrating on Oswald, we are caught up in Jake's relationships. I'm undecided about these extra strands. At times I wished he would 'just get on with it' and yet, looking back, they were probably the more interesting.
    If King was attempting to stress Madeleine's moral/ethical issues by relating the Harry Dunning and the Coulson girl's stories, I think he failed. Or were they more 'filler'?
    It seemed to me that, with the Yellow Card Man, King was offering a bridge between past and present but he was so shadowy that I couldn't get a handle on him at all. What was it that sent him mad?
    To me, the book can be summed up as, "if you could change history, would you?"
    Do you know enough of American politics to be able to comment on the alternative history? This may be the crux but I'm afraid I am ignorant.

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  16. My library is being most unsympathetic and won't renew my copy of the book. This means that, not only will I not be able to identify the 'blocks', but I will have to rely on my memory for the details of the story.....and that's a scary thought.
    I read an article in the weekend papers which discussed the last generation's pulp fiction which has now become classic, if not literature. Raymond Chandler and John Le Carre were mentioned and it stated that even George Orwell wrote in this genre, now called 'popular fiction'. Perhaps the next generation will rate King's books as classic escapism?
    I do like his conversational style and his books are escapism . The reader doesn't need to work at all. The ability to suspend belief, however, is a prerequisite to enjoying the story. I agree with you Moi, the lack of explanation of the physics involved is a cop out. Most 'time travel' books provide some sort of explanation - think HG Wells and, more recently Audrey Niffenegger.
    The references to literature may have been fillers but I enjoyed them, particularly the Shirley Jackson allusion. …...a sop to us 'literary types' ;)) ?
    The book is almost exclusively set in the past and instead of concentrating on Oswald, we are caught up in Jake's relationships. I'm undecided about these extra strands. At times I wished he would 'just get on with it' and yet, looking back, they were probably the more interesting.
    If King was attempting to stress Madeleine's moral/ethical issues by relating the Harry Dunning and the Coulson girl's stories, I think he failed. Or were they more 'filler'?
    It seemed to me that, with the Yellow Card Man, King was offering a bridge between past and present but he was so shadowy that I couldn't get a handle on him at all. What was it that sent him mad?
    To me, the book can be summed up as, "if you could change history, would you?"

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    1. To me, the book can be summed up as, "if you could change history, would you?"
      Do you know enough of American politics to be able to comment on the alternative history? This may be the crux but I'm afraid I am ignorant.

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  17. I am over half way thru the book only.
    Yes it is more about his relationships in the past, but I think it a bit trite that he draws a comparison between condoms in 1962 and today (not much change)
    I also don't like - no matter what the year is - cream pie throwing...
    We continue - with this well written and easily read book, but either because of the length of the book - or perhaps encroaching demenenture (hope not) I sometimes can't recall who a charactor is - or when they were introduced to the plot......

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  18. I belong to a UK site called Education Forum and I looked at it today and noticed this post. It was a written a while ago but interesting. He is a published author from Washington, US.

    I've never understood the popularity of Stephen King. I think he's a great deal like Isaac Asimov- producing proflic pablum with no redeeming quality. His stuff is McLiterature, imho. Years ago, he offended many aspiring writers when he pulled off a publicity stunt and was published under his real name by a major publisher. To those of us who spent years piling up the rejection notices, and who realize that most queries are not even read by the big publishers, this was a complete joke. King actually poured salt in our wounds by publicly lambasting the hordes of unpublished authors, claiming that the publishing world is a meritocracy, and that if one has talent, it will be discovered. Yes, I'm quite sure no one knew your real name, Stephen....

    So it doesn't surprise me one bit that this conventional liberal Democrat, like all his political peers, swallows the impossible lone assassin myth. King is a Baby Boomer, loves the Red Sox, and almost certainly must have been a huge fan of JFK. If he set out to write a story centered around the Kennedy assassination, it's inconceivable that he wouldn't have done some homework on the issue. It's also inconceivable that he wouldn't be fully aware of all the controversy surrounding the subject, and the countless pro-conspiracy books written about it. Somehow, he must have neglected to read any of them. Maybe he contacted Tom Hanks, who directed him to Bugliosi's ridiculous book.

    It's fortunate, at least in this case, that most people don't read books any more. Thus, there won't be quite as many hapless readers swayed over to the dark side by King's new book. It's sad, however, to think that some will. King still has a loyal cadre of fans, who unquestionably will perceive this issue as he does after reading their hero's take on it.

    Needless to say, I won't be reading this book.

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  19. I think the above is a bit unfair Sandra _as said I am enjoying the book. But can someone clear this up for me? Epping goes back in time and partially prevents the Dunning massacre. Then he returns to the present - but the moment he returns to the past it reverts to how it was before his intervention
    So he goes back to see if he can prevent the JFK assasination. During his 3-4 years there he meets Sadie and has an affair with her lasting is it 3 years?when they separate she writes her name as 'Doris Diun' and he recognises a strong resemblance to Dris Dunning who he spoke to on his last visit.....but that woman was 20 years older...
    Now tell me, is Epping able to control/dictate the time he wants to go back to? And if it is 20 years before the massacre, is he going to have another attempt to p-revent the massacre.
    Look, I love this book. I was an avid follower of 'Lost' the TV series and have the DVDs. Granted that wasn't written by King, but as the authors of the series said... they were all fans of Stephen King. Maybe I'm perverted.......

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    1. As I have said, I had to return my copy to the library, so I can't check my facts. No, I don't think Jake can choose a time in the past. He returns to the same time/day/year on each visit and it resets each time he goes back. It must be frustrating to start again each time - and it's 4 or 5 years prior to Kennedy's assassination!
      I have the impression that Doris Dunn was Sadie's mother.
      I can't remember whether Harry's family massacre was prevented in the end. I know he spoke to his sister? in real time to learn how he had fared but it may have been 'reset' afterwards.
      It's good that you are enjoying the book. It does raise a lot of 'what if' type questions.

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  20. McLiterature.What a wonderful word. Love this !!!!!

    I find this very much describes this book, although as I have mentioned before, I am a fan of King's The Green Mile and Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption, both of which transposed to fantastic movies.

    King seems to lose the plot somewhere along the line and I really lost interest in the whole JFK storyline, which was afterall supposed to be the thread holding the story together. Like Sanmac I became more interested in Epping's peripheryl relationships, and like Madelainea I forgot who was who ( and questioned their role in the story.

    As for the time travel concept: shaking head and wincing, not my cup of tea...... Having said that, in the recent floods in S E Qld there was a real life case where a mum and her bub were walking along in the storm and were hit by a tree on the north side of Brisbane. At that precise moment, an ambulance driver who was driving home from his shift, who happened to have a chainsaw in the back of his car, witnessed the accident and was able to pull mum and bub from under the tree.Ok, so its not time travel. But this is surely an example of the interconnectedness of the Universe that comes out in King's book

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  21. Yikes - that's harsh criticism Moi!

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  22. I forgot to say that everything below the first two lines in my post about King is a quotation - I should have put it in quotation marks.

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  23. We mustn't forget that King has no pretentions to literature. He is a master in the field of popular/pulp fiction - airport books or McLiterature, if you prefer, Moi. And this is outside his comfort zone of the horror genre. I realise that it's not much of a recommendation but I've read many books that are much, much more poorly written which were also 'best sellers.' King sets out to tell a yarn and imho, does it well. If, as Jaywalker's reviewer suggests, JFK is his hobbyhorse it is perhaps our lack of detailed knowledge of the politics of the time which detracts from the thrust of the story. I certainly felt it was anti-climactic. Perhaps American readers appreciate it more? {American readers, who are following this thread, please share your thoughts.} Other than the yellow card man character, which was underdeveloped, I noted no glitches or glaring inconsistencies. We do have to suspend belief - it is King, after all.

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  24. 50 pages to go, dear other Readers. Thanks for you patience - its a marathon read

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  25. Persevere Madeleinea. Nearly home and hosed.

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    1. Sounds like you are finding it a slog, Madeleinea?

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  26. Well, what do I say? No Sanmac - not a slog. But the concentration needed to complete the book for me was intense. I am still confused about the Orange/Green man. Was he the predecessor of the Green Card ... or merely an Irish man unsure if he came from Northern or Southern Ireland?
    I did enjoy the book, and although I agree with Moi Epping was difficult to identify with, his presence therefore did not interfere with the plot.
    I realise I am not critical enough to be a book critic - but who wants to be? Books are for enjoyment... and thus read for same.
    I am now an avid Stephen King fan, and I think I will be reading many other books by him.
    Who wants to do a PhD when there are books like this around?

    So what's next? No dear Jaywalker - not a Ruth Rendall! I have been eyeing every tradesman who comes into the house - thinking 'all these years and I didn't realise you had other skills!'

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    1. Madeleinea, you do make me smile. King's written dozens of books, so you'll be set for reading material for a long time..:)

      I, too, am unsure of the significance of the yellow/green card. Perhaps it's peculiar to the US?

      Next? we've been suggesting titles for our next group read on the Peter Ackroyd post. His book, First Light, may be difficult to source and Jaywalker has suggested Heat Wave, by Penelope Lively. Please tell us what you think.

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  27. Tell us some more about Penelope Livrly. Novel? Mystery? What?

    P.S. AND I found 'The Green Mile' marked down in a bookstore......first of many....I think my son would like King too - we were both addicted viewers of 'Lost"

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  28. Madeleinea

    I think you will enjoy "The Grewen Mile " very much. It is a beaut story. Think it will be interesting for you to compare one King novel with another as well....

    I have just bought a copy of "The Shining " by King . It is on the list of 1001 Books to Read Before you Die. I saw the movie back in the 80's and am looking forward to making a comparison.

    Bring on the next book Enjoy sampling new genres. This IS agood thing!

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  29. Penelope Lively is English, has written over 20 novels and recently been made a Dame for her contribution to literature, has won both the Carnegie and Booker prizes. However, her novels are a very easy read, relatively short and deal with relationships, families, love and life. She also writes children's books.

    Wikipedia: As with all of her fiction, Moon Tiger is marked by a close attention to the power of memory, the impact of the past upon the present, and the tensions between 'official' and personal histories. She explored the same themes more explicitly in her nonfiction works including A House Unlocked (2001) and Oleander, Jacaranda: A Childhood Perceived (1994), a memoir of her Egyptian childhood.

    if we don't read one of hers this time, perhaps another time. I'm not bothered either way.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/penelope-lively

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  30. Is it 'Heat Wave' or 'Moon Tiger'? I*'m happy with your choice Jaywalker!
    (But I am not happy with my spelling - sorry everyone. I tend to hit the wrong key a lot!)

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    1. I don't have a preference either. I've read & enjoyed Moon Tiger and wouldn't mind rereading it. Heat wave is not in the library system but is available as an ebook. Adultery should make an interesting discussion point! Moi, yours is the deciding vote :)

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  31. Ok, I'm all for adultry. Let's go the Heat Wave

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    1. LOL. I've just finished it and I think there will be lots of scope for discussion.

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    2. Heat Wave it is! Sounds great. I'll set up a specific post this weekend. You're right, Moi, about the variety in our group reads.

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