My sister and I and our dog walking friends have started a book group. We had our first meeting last Sunday and all agree it was a raging success. This is despite choosing a book that 3 out of the 6 of us hated and only 2 really felt pleased they'd read. It was Joan Didion's (left) The Year of Magical Thinking which is not the jolliest text you will ever encounter, dwelling as it does on the aftermath of her husband's sudden death from a massive heart attack right on Christmas and when their adopted daughter lay critically ill in hospital. You can't fault the authenticity of the way Didion renders her experience. You FEEL each tremor of pain, doubt and delusion. So powerful a writer is she that she replicates grief and its accompanying disorientation. It does your head in. It was a brave first choice especially as our group includes women who have suffered sudden and catastrophic bereavement. Turned out to be a book we could admire though maybe not like. It does succeed as a great monument to John Gregory Dunne (her partner of 40 years) as her portrait of him and her quotes from his work have inspired me to seek out his books! Our next choice is safer, fiction by David Malouf, the novella Child's Play I am already romping through it and enjoying every phrase and image. If the others feel like I do it should be a joyous December meeting.