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Book Clubs

Want to join a Mayo Library book club? We have a few! Here are details on where they are held and what they are reading. If you are passionate about books and reading, you’re welcome to come along!

  • Ballinrobe

    Ballinrobe Library Book Club meets on the first Tuesday of every month at 7pm in the library.

    Check Events page for next meeting.

  • Ballyhaunis

    The Book Club meets once a month (usually the first Wednesday of the month) in Ballyhaunis Library at 8:00pm. 

    Go to Ballyhaunis Book Club for a full list of books read and discussed.

    Check Events page for next meeting.

    Currently Reading:
    February 2020: Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
    March 2020: Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

  • Castlebar

    Castlebar Library meets on the second Tuesday of every month at 8pm upstairs in the library.

    Check Events page for next meeting.

    Currently Reading: 

    The World Without Us by Mireille Juchau


    Literature seems to be mainly about absences: giving words to what we can’t quite grasp, to what we wish were there, to what we fear we’ve lost. The Latin expression “verba volant, scripta manent” (“the spoken word flies away, the written word remains”) can be read as a profession of faith in the power of the text to hold on to what is fleeting. And yet, there are presences that every literary text seems to require: the writer who describes these absences and the reader who acknowledges them. To imagine the word or the world without us as witnesses is an almost impossible exercise.

    This unbearable absence lies at the heart of Mireille Juchau’s third novel. In an idyllic Australian landscape, now polluted by the chemical emissions of a gas mining company, a family falls apart. Stefan, a Jewish immigrant from Germany, and former artist, and Evangeline, his wife, are the survivors of a commune called The Hive, founded by a psychotic leader in the aptly named Ghost Mountains of New South Wales and destroyed by an unexplained fire. The couple have three daughters: two adolescents, Tess and Meg, and the infant Pip, who has died of leukaemia before the novel begins. Pip is the central absence of the story. Around her ghost, the other family members mourn: Tess by refusing to speak, Evangeline by constructing a totemic monument hanging Pip’s medicine bottles and boxes from a tree, Stefan by drinking. Meg alone attempts to lend coherence to her crumbling family, knowing that she cannot but fail.

    Other characters form a fragmented tragic chorus around the protagonists: Jim, Tess’s teacher who left Sydney under a cloud; Tom Tucker, an apocalyptic figure warning his neighbours of impending ecological disaster.

    These absences – of language, of art, of reason, of cohesion – are set in a natural framework that is also failing. Monstrous creatures such as a double-headed fish appear in the waters, clear-cut logging turns once verdant areas into deserts, the air itself appears to become poisonous. Above all, the bees are disappearing. Stefan is a beekeeper. He inherited the vocation from his grandfather, harvesting honey in a bombed Berlin after the war. Now, like a public emblem of his private loss, his bees are swarming but fail to build new colonies, the queens become feeble and cannot nourish the hive, the workers and drones can’t seem to fulfil their tasks. When Meg asks her father whether the vanishing bees were theirs, Stefan can only answer in broken English and in cosmic terms: “The bees are belonging to the earth and then came the interfering of man. We should give up trying to control them.” And then Stefan, in the voice of God, quotes from the Midrash, the Jewish traditional compendium of biblical stories: “And everything that I created, I created for you. Be careful not to spoil or destroy my world – if you do, there will be nobody after you to repair it.”

    As befits a book whose theme is so explicitly absence, mysteries abound: hints of unanswered questions, clues to unasked riddles. Whose body is it found in an abandoned car wreck? What tragedy caused Jim to leave Sydney and seek refuge in the wilderness? What incident during her time at The Hive left such terrible scars on Evangeline? What deep connections seem to bind all the many characters together?

    Juchau’s style is perfectly poised, elegant and restrained. Almost any page of this astonishing novel offers proof of a writer of great poetic power. Here is Evangeline, pregnant with Pip, leafing through Tess’s school notebook: “Evangeline stands at the table now, head bent, wet hair glued to her neck, and turns the pages. She gnaws a fingernail, shifts from foot to foot, redistributing baby weight, easing the sacral muscle spasms. She’s ticking, on the verge of a cry or a scream, full of anticipatory restlessness. She reads it over again, lips moving, one finger travelling beneath each word, this account of a time she’d not been part of, this glimpse of Daughterland.”

    There is a term from the visual arts, “reserve”, that denotes the empty space on an otherwise populated canvas or paper, kept by the artist for a later completion that is often never realised. This visible absence, the promise of something essential and as yet unfulfilled, allows viewers to construct their own mental picture and in a sense collaborate on the work presented to them. The World Without Us is built around just such a “reserve”. The result is an extraordinarily vivid novel, elegant, convincing, intelligent and profoundly moving.

    -The Guardian

    It has been six months since Tess Müller stopped speaking. Her silence is baffling to her parents, her teachers and her younger sister, Meg. But the more urgent mystery for both girls is where their mother, Evangeline, goes each day, pushing an empty pram. When their father Stefan discovers a car wreck and human remains on their farm, old secrets emerge to threaten the fragile family. A storm is coming and the Müllers are in its path.

    - Amazon

    A bright, bracing marvel of a book.

    - The Australian

    The World Without Us is an impressive, memorable novel, the work of a writer in command of her craft.

    - The Sydney Morning Herald

    About the author

    Mireille Juchau is a Sydney-based writer of novels, short fiction, essays, scripts and reviews. Her third novel, The World Without Us is published internationally by Bloomsbury in Australia in August 2015, the UK and US in 2016. Her second novel, Burning In (Giramondo Publishing, 2007), was published in France – Le révélateur (Mercure de France, 2012) and Croatia – Potamanjivanje (Hrvatsko filolosko, 2013). In Australia Burning In was shortlisted for the 2008 Prime Minister’s Literary Award, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the Age Book of the Year Award and the Nita B. Kibble Award. Mireille’s first novel Machines for Feeling (University of Queensland Press, 2001) was shortlisted for the 1999 Vogel/Australian Literary Award. Mireille’s short fiction, plays, art reviews and essays have appeared in international and Australian anthologies and journals including the Times Literary Supplement, Picador New Writing 4, Meanjin, Heat Magazine and The New Orleans Review. She has a PhD in writing and literature and teaches at universities and in the community.


    Past reads:

    Book Club previous selections (star rating 1 - 5)

    January 2020
    Akin by Emma Donoghue  3 stars

  • Kiltimagh

    Kiltimagh Library Book Club meets on the third Wednesday of every month at 7pm in the library (this is occasionally subject to change).

    Check Events page for next meeting.

  • Previous Book Club Selections
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