The York Festival of Ideas, in partnership with the University of York’s Department of English and Related Literature, hosts a virtual book club named after the Quiet Place on the University’s Campus West.
The Quiet Place Book Club invites members of the public, staff, students and graduates to join their reading group on Instagram.
We announce one book each month throughout the year and experts in the Department of English and Related Literature will provide comments and thought-provoking questions to encourage debate and guide our shared reading. There will also be posts providing expert reactions to literary news headlines, national events, and seasonal topics.
Books in the book club will be related to areas of teaching and research in the Department of English and Related Literature, across all genres and age-ranges, as well as literary events in the York Festival of Ideas each year. To join the book club follow @quietplacebookclub on Instagram.
Find any books you might have missed in our archive.
When Anne Enright warns you not to read Emilie Pine’s debut collection of essays, Notes to Self, in public because “it will make you cry,” she is not wrong. Emilie gave a searing and spellbinding reading as part of the ‘Writers at York’ series at the end of November, which left many of her former colleagues at the Department of English and Related Literature - as well as many of its students - wiping away their tears, captivated by her prose. From tracing her ‘wild child’ years and the relationship with her alcoholic father to reflections on overworking and motherhood, Emilie deftly handles each topic she addresses, leaving the reader to ponder their own lives as much (if not more so) than the life of the writer.
Join us on Instagram to enjoy the discussion.
This month we welcome the iconic Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. As Doris Lessing argued, Carson “was the originator of ecological concern” and is rightly credited with alerting the public at large to the damage inflicted through the widespread use of pesticides. This is as much a literary text as it is a scientific treatise; a call to action that continues to resonate more than half a century since it was first published in 1962.
Just as Carson writes in her author’s note, this text (and our pick for the month) is dedicated to those “who first spoke out against the reckless and irresponsible poisoning of the world that man shares with all other creatures, and who are even now fighting the thousands of small battles that in the end will bring victory for sanity and common sense in our accommodation to the world that surrounds us.”
Han Kang’s hypnotic novella, The Vegetarian is our October read. Published in South Korea as three novelettes before being compiled as ‘Chaesikjuuija’ in 2007 (but retaining its triptych structure), The Vegetarian was translated into English by Deborah Smith in 2015. A tremendous (and tremendously contentious) piece of fiction with matters of ecology and sexuality, Kang’s work defies summary but makes for a truly memorable reading experience.
Grief is the Thing with Feathers, Max Porter’s debut novella, is a hybrid fable / prose poem / ‘play for voices’ (and even the occasional comprehension question) that playfully explores the themes of bereavement, love and obsession. ‘Dad’ and the ‘Boys’ are visited by ‘Crow’ (part psychotherapist, part Mary Poppins) in the wake of their mother’s death: magic realism, darkness and much hilarity ensues.
Introducing our August pick, Annie Ernaux’s magnum opus The Years (translated by Alison L. Strayer). Ernaux’s “years” as a working-class woman in post-war France run parallel to her narration of “les années” of her country; fusing photographic cues with political ruminations and personal recollections. At once intimate and impersonal, The Years resides at the confluence of autofiction and collective autobiography, although Ernaux herself has resisted such labels, interested as she is in ‘the truth of experience’.
Our book for July is Lucky Button by Michael Morpurgo. A lonely boy struggles with school bullies and caring for his mother, until a mysterious encounter reveals what life was like in the eighteenth century.
Our book for June is Moy Sand and Gravel, a poetry collection by Paul Muldoon. In his ninth volume of poetry, Muldoon take us on a journey from County Armagh where he grew up, to suburban New Jersey, his home as an adult.