The Book Club: June 7


This month The Book Club‘s Jennifer Byrne, Marieke Hardy and Jason Steger are joined by writer performr Alan Cumming (The Good Wife, X-Men2) who has just released his memoir Not My Father’s Son, and poet and author Helen MacDonald whose book H is for Hawk won the Samuel Johnson Award in 2014.

The panel will be discussing Peruvian Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Discreet Hero which follows two characters whose lives are destined to intersect: Felícito Yanaqué, a small businessman who finds himself the victim of blackmail; and Ismael Carrera, owner of an insurance company whose lazy sons want him dead. Each man is determined to live according to his own personal ideals at whatever cost and the results are unexpected. A light, frothy romp that evokes a very diverse Peru, The Discreet Hero tackles themes of loyalty, integrity, the bond between father and sons, sex, religion and mysticism and much more in between.

The classic for discussion this month has been chosen by Alan Cumming and is volume one of Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five series – Five on a Treasure Island. Originally published in 1942, it was the first of 21 Famous Five books and introduced the world to Julian, Dick, George, Anne and Timmy the dog. When the Five decide to investigate a shipwreck and try to find its missing treasure, they are thrown into the kind of adventure readers have come to expect from this plucky group. But will Five on a Treasure Island stand up to the test of time?


Alan Cumming is an award winning Scottish actor of the stage and screen. He recently starred in an acclaimed one-man staging of Macbeth on Broadway and also appears in the television series The Good Wife. His film credits include X-Men2, Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion, Spy Kids, The Anniversary Party (which he co-wrote and co-directed), and The Smurfs 1 & 2 in which he voiced Gutsy Smurf. He is the author of a novel Tommy’s Tale, and most recently of his memoir Not My Father’s Son.

Helen MacDonald is a naturalist, poet, illustrator, historian and an affiliated research scholar at the Dept of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge. She is also a professional falconer and her most recent book H is for Hawk tells of her experiences of training a goshawk as a way of dealing with the grief of her father’s death, and was awarded the Samuel Johnson Prize in 2014. Her other works include The Falcon and the Hawk (2011), Falcon (2006), Human Remains (2005) and Shaler’s Fish (2002).

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