Literary Award Winners Fiction Book Club discussion

Billy Bathgate
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Past Reads > Billy Bathgate (Chs 1 to 10)

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message 1: by Janine (new)

Janine | 100 comments Mod
George is leading our discussion for this month - our June NBCC winner. Apologies for the delay in starting the lead post for our read.

I know there are a few members who are interested in this read - so looking forward to the discussion.


George (georgejazz) | 462 comments Mod
What E.L. Doctorow books have you read before? I am curious to know what you have read and your Doctorow reading experience. A couple of years ago I read The March, a very good read about the last months of the American Civil War, following the march of General Sherman. After that I read Ragtime. It's about a family in the 1900 to 1920 period. Very original. Lots of history interwoven into the story. Another worthwhile read. The other night I started Billy Bathgate and am already up to page 101. It's in the first person narrative. A coming of age story set in the 1930s in New York. It's a very good read. I am becoming quite a fan of Doctorow. He is very descriptive but doesn't overdo the detail. If you have read a Doctorow novel and enjoyed his writing style then Billy Bathgate should be a very enjoyable experience.


Mary (maryingilbert) | 67 comments This is the first book I've read by the author. I finished the book, loved it so much that I've downloaded "Ragtime", haven't started that one yet.


George (georgejazz) | 462 comments Mod
Mary, what did you love about the novel? (Without giving the whole plot away).

I loved the first chapter on the boat. It was so vivid and real. It was an interesting way to start the novel, that is, not from 'beginning', but from a more current time, leaving the reader guessing as to where the episode fits in his story timeline.


message 5: by Janine (new)

Janine | 100 comments Mod
I've had some troubles tracking this book down. It's not in any of my local libraries or nearby bookshops. I also don't seem to have had any luck with online versions - any suggestions?

I'll keep exploring options - very inspired by the comments of others in the group. It sounds like a great read!


George (georgejazz) | 462 comments Mod
You can purchase a second hand copy from Marlow's bookshop, Brisbane for $7.80 plus shipping $6.50 making a total of $14.30. If you purchase more than one book from the website I think the shipping price is still $6.50 but don't hold me to that! In Adelaide the Lions Club second hand bookshop and the Auxfam bookshop always seem to have at least one or two Doctorow books on their shelves (for $3 or $4 dollars a book).


message 7: by Janine (new)

Janine | 100 comments Mod
Thanks for the tips George - I'll look into those options.


Mary (maryingilbert) | 67 comments As an aside ... I get most of the books I read from the library. I download them (for free) to my tablet and have them for 2 weeks. For those who read many books, this certainly saves $$

It took me awhile to get used to the writing style -- the VERY long sentences from our narrator Billy. After I decided to treat "commas" as periods, I was able to get into the rhythm of the novel. Billy was an engaging young man; an innocent who endeared himself to the inner circle of Dutch Schultz's gang.


Irene | 526 comments I am 75% of the way through this book. Doctorow is a wonderful wordsmith. His vocabulary is impressive and I love his turn of phrase. But, I am hung up on wondering how a 15 year old with a 5th grade education living in poverty could speak like this.


George (georgejazz) | 462 comments Mod
Without giving anything away, I think the ending of the novel will answer your issue satisfactorily!


Irene | 526 comments I finished it last night and it did.


Penny | 17 comments Am going to try and keep up with this group better so I can read comments and post in real time. But thought it worth adding that as an American Literature major, I remember studying Doctorow (and saw him portrayed recently in some Hemingway movie - same circles, but I think Hemingway hated him) but had never read this book and couldn't remember too much about him except that he was a major figure of the early 20th century and liked documenting "real life". Glad I read it. Thanks for the good suggestion.


Irene | 526 comments Early 20th century? Didn't he just publish Andrew's Brain 2 years ago? I think of him with the second half of the 20th century or am I wrong?


George (georgejazz) | 462 comments Mod
Yes, Andrew's Brain was published in 2014.

E.L. Doctorow: Born 1931, died in 2015. First novel published in 1960. An interesting character:
Here are some of his best quotes, copied from The Guardian, 22 July 2015:
"The historian will tell you what happened. The novelist will tell you what it felt like.
I like commas. I detest semi-colons – I don’t think they belong in a story. And I gave up quotation marks long ago. I found I didn’t need them, they were fly-specks on the page.
Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.
Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."


Irene | 526 comments Great quotes


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