For April’s meeting we read Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham. The group deemed that it is a good example of sci-fi writing and, unlike other sci-fi works, it has a connection to real life, and the era it is set in, rather than being pure fantasy. From those who commented, it was determined that there is a definite similarity between this story and that of Wells’ War of the Worlds. And surprisingly, given Triffids was written over 60 years ago, the majority opinion was that the book isn’t out of date (with the obvious exception of any computer or phone technology therein), but it did – appropriately – contain sexism, which was felt to accurately reflect the time period.
In further consideration regarding the writing of the time, we mentioned that not once did the author comment on the mental state of any of his characters. Perhaps this would seem lacking in today’s writing, not least given the trauma that the characters faced, but we felt this accurately represented the lack of openness, and perhaps every-day knowledge and interest, regarding mental health at the time of writing. It was also pointed out that the book was written shortly after the second World War (1951), which perhaps had a bearing on how people dealt with and gauged catastrophe and disaster.
Whilst it is generally suggested that Bill is the hero of the book, one member felt that she would have classed Josella as the hero, given her strong character and pragmatic approach to facing the situation they found themselves in. The book is written showing individual character’s different attitudes and practical solutions to their own survival.
It was fascinating to hear the range of different opinions and outcomes that Wyndham’s writing had enabled in the Book Club members, that his one set of words has taken people’s imaginations in so many different ways. For example there were differing opinions of whether or not the triffids were responsible for the blindness overcoming the population. And were the triffids responsible for the comets and/or did they simply make use of them? Were the blindness and the comets linked? We felt this to be proof of quality writing, in that it encouraged our own imaginations so much. Indeed one member said that she’d been unable to put the book down, and that its ramifications where still making her think now, some time after finishing the book.
As a follow-through to that we briefly thought about how it would be if the book’s scenario happened in real life today, with our biggest question being who would end up at the top of the food chain? Would humans still ‘rule’?
In summary, a surprisingly thought-provoking book, which impressively showed the fragility of human society and our attitudes to our own survival.