Book Club: See How They Run by Tom Bale

So it was book club again this week. I love book club. Even when everyone enjoyed the book, the discussion always reduces to a bitch-fest of which characters we didn’t like and who did something stupid. It’s fun. Even without the bitch-fest, it’s always satisfying to talk to people who agree with us and interesting to talk to those who don’t. The best book club meetings are those when there is a range of opinions on a book – lovers and haters. That can really get a debate going.

See How They Run by Tom Bale didn’t quite manage that level of debate, but it did get the conversation flowing. There were some who absolutely loved the book while others thought it was okay, but there were no out-and-out haters this month. Certainly, as it proclaims on its cover, it’s a fast-paced novel. Right from the outset, the action gets your heart pumping and your curiosity jumping. It gets your eyes running across the words and stumbling as you try to take the story in too soon. You need to know what’s going to happen next.

Bale’s short, snappy chapters make it a quick read and have a tendency to induce that ‘just one more chapter’ feeling when it’s 2am and you really need to get to sleep – it’s only a couple of pages after all, right? Yeah…and then a couple more. The fact that Bale switches perspective between each chapter is a great technique too – you don’t have to wait too long before you know what happened to Harry or what Alice is up to now.

The plot, too, is undeniably exciting. A twisting, topsy-turvy roller coaster, Bale certainly knows how to tell a tale. Everyone in book club was in agreement on that front, at least, although some parts were far-fetched and a little unbelievable – like the fact that Harry turns into some sort of Arnold Schwarzenegger style action-hero by the end of the novel, as my dad pointed out, and a few other details from the end (that I won’t spoil for you!)

There was a lot of discussion about character though and most agreed that character development is lacking. The characters were flat and unlike-able at best (Ruth) or downright contradictory at worst (Michael – I mean, come on, are you rapey and evil or wimpy and pathetic?). Jules found a special place in her heart for Nerys, as did a few others, and she certainly is the character who is easiest to envisage. Even she is somewhat of a caricature, though. The character who dominated the evening, though, without a doubt, was Alice. Despite a few protestations, most agreed that she is one of the most irritating, insipid, frustrating characters that we have had the pleasure (or should that be displeasure?) of meeting since book club began! Even those protestations were more “she was alright,” than “I loved her”.

It’s not a bad book, that much is clear. In fact, it’s a pretty good one. Despite its failings, the plot is strong enough to pull you along and keep you reading. As long as you can overlook the bland and unappetising characters, you’ll enjoy this novel. It scored quite well (Michelle’s impress 9.5/10 pushing the average up) and it currently sits at fourth out of the ten books we’ve done so far. Not bad that, not bad at all.


Anna: 6, Frank, 7.25, Jules: 6.5, Emma: 8.5, Michelle: 9.5, Me: 6, Lesley: 6.5, Mandy: 6, AVERAGE: 7.03125

Book Club Book Rankings

  1. 8/10: The Running Man by Stephen King
  2. 7.68/10: The Second Life of Amy Archer by RS Pateman
  3. 7.5/10: The Retribution by Val McDermid
  4. 7.03125/10: See How They Run by Tom Bale
  5. 6.7/10: Twisted by Jeffery Deaver
  6. 6.6/10: Tell it to the Skies by Erica James
  7. 6/10: The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Decker
  8. 6/10: Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
  9. 4.75/10: The Mandibles by Lionel Shriver
  10. 4.6/10: Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Larson

Want to read along with us? Our next book is Lion: A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley and we’ll be meeting on February 23rd.


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