I love book clubs. It's daft. They buy your book, invite you along to their meeting, talk to you about your work for three hours and then thank you for coming. It's such a selfish pleasure, it's not true!
Patricia invited me to her book club a while back, the meeting seemed miles away and then suddenly it was upon us, this club meets monthly at each other's houses in rota - the hostess picks the book for the next meeting and Patricia picked Olives. And so I found myself in a taxi in Dubai's Al Safa area trying to find the (rather lovely) villa of a lady called Emma. We were ten in all, I was the only chap - but that's book clubs for you, the pastime seems to be dominated by the fair sex. I can't say that spending an evening eating, drinking and talking about my book to a group of interested ladies is the worst way to pass time.
And so to Olives, which all professed to have enjoyed immensely. The group had read Sarah Abulhawa's 'Mornings in Jenin' previously, which all had also enjoyed, and it came up in the context of books that highlighted the conflicts of Palestine being all too rare and eye-openers, particularly for the European members of the group. Paul was the subject of great debate, his motivations and personality coming under the spotlight, as did Aisha's behaviour and that of her family. Unusually, a great deal more sympathy for Paul was expressed than I usually hear - as well as a deal more cleverness invested in decrypting the names of the characters in the book than ever went into naming them!
As the evening went on we sat around a table in the garden (the weather in Dubai being just about perfect for that kind of thing right now) and talked about the water issues in Jordan and the West bank, publishing and bibliophilia in general. Was the water issue based on research? Could Daoud's scheme be considered realistic? Would Nour really have been so approving of Paul's relationship with Aisha? Why would Anne even bother her head coming out to visit Paul? Is there a 'real' Aisha anywhere? We talked around all of these, as well as morality, alcohol, pre-marital sex and all the other stuff you find to talk about when you're chatting about books.
A truly convivial gathering, in short, with a group of people representing a uniquely Dubai mixture of nationalities and viewpoints.
I love book clubs...