Why select Slippery When Wet for your reader’s group?
The writer Sara Maitland says of it:
“I’m not sure how Martin Goodman has pulled this extraordinary novel off – so moving and so funny; so sharply acute and so generous hearted; so translucent and so intelligent; so honest and so hopeful. Should work for both sunny days and cold nights.”
It’s a brilliant ‘older woman meets younger man’ story. Maggie, the 60 year old matriarch of an English stately home, is the older woman. Sepen, aged 21, scraping a living by meeting visitors at Dhaka airport in Bangladesh, is the young man.
Love across so many divides – age, religion, culture – give plenty of scope for heated conversation. Cheer it along with a glass of wine and see what hopes and thoughts it inspires in your group.
Is it a tough read? No, it glides past. Martin Goodman’s novel On Bended Knees was shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award. The Daily Post said it ‘heralds a new dawn for British fiction”. The Times: ‘Goodman writes with flare and panache, and the narrative fizzes along’. The Observer said ‘it slips down like a milky cuppa’!
For armchair travellers, the trips through the streets of Dhaka, the coastline of Cox’s Bazar (the world’s longest beach), the temples of Bangkok and the Bridge over the River Kwai are real treats.
It’s affordable – a 2006 novel, sparklingly new, at a top price of £7.99 and less than half that on some offers.
And if you want questions to kickstart your reader’s group conversation, here are a few. Martin’s own ‘viewpoint’ is there to get each one started.
1. Can a male writer create a female character?
Maggie’s utterly real to me, and Flick too. They are women, and Sepen is a young orphaned Bengali, all different from my own direct experience. Characters grow until they become themselves. Maggie’s now so independent she’s marching out of my book and into other readers’ heads. I’m intrigued to know how she behaves.
2. Does travel broaden the mind?
For me, it has been vital. Travel in Muslim countries has been especially illuminating. Many women friends, for example, loved Turkey, and feel unusually safe there. It’s a question though with Maggie – did travel change her, or simply let her loose on a wider and more varied landscape?
3. Is Maggie likeable? Does a lead character need to be?
She’s tough. I love her. Is she likeable? Hmmm.
4. What sense of Bangladesh do you get from this book? Would you ever want to go there?
I came to know some Bengali families in Britain, and was keen to discover the country which had made them – so travelled out there for a couple of research trips. It felt important to engage the reader with Maggie in England first, then have the reader travel with her perspective.
5. Should we become ‘more responsible’ with age?
Flick has the most ‘responsible’ lines in the book. The young have the confidence of knowing what’s right. Wisdom maybe dims all such certainties.
6. What aspect of Maggie and Sepen’s relationship most challenges you?
Their relationship simply exists for me, it grew naturally and I charted it. The part that I found hardest to discover was how a relationship can grow when one person is sick.
7. What might you like to do which would shock younger members of your family?
The question arises from the relationship between Maggie and Flick. My own answer? Tell everything as it happened.
8. Who would you have play Maggie in a film?
Maggie Smith could voice the lines. There’s a host of great actors of around 60.
9. Who else would you see enjoying this book?
I reckon anyone of any gender or age, providing they’re open, could have a great time with it. Jane Austen used to be marketed to men, and now she is marketed to women – fashions change, Jane Austen stays eternal.
10. What does Slippery When Wet tell you about Englishness?
You can understand Englishness by carrying it overseas, seeing it in a different light. Englishness is a quality that isn’t fixed. It’s always absorbing different cultures.
11. What’s the most vivid scene in the book?
It’s interesting just to go quiet with this question a moment, and see what different scenes you come up with. Then maybe wonder why.
12. What happens next?
The book once ran beyond the point where it now stops. I was reading the manuscript one day, and knew with a flood of truth down the spine that it must stop where it does. But how would you see it continuing?
Why not call in the Author?
Feel free to get in touch with Martin Goodman ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) if you want any extra help in setting up your readers’ group session. He’s happy to phone and chat to the group if you get a speaker phone, or visit if he can be in the area. Email him on: email@example.com