Monday, December 4, 2017

Six Degrees of Separation from It to The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz

Well we are a little late but here is our contribution completed this month by Shirley by herself!

It by Stephen King – story of children who see that which adults do not.

Keeping with ‘children’ as a link to the books, start with No Time to Wave Goodbye by Jacquelin Michard – the story of a child being kidnapped, a family in crisis.

Followed by A Map of the World by Jane Hamilton where one moment’s inattention ends with the death of a child.

Mercy Among the Children by David Adams Richards is the next link. After pushing a friend off a church roof, Sydney Henderson makes a pact with God that he will live a life without violence providing that the boy lives.

Davita’s Harp by Chaim Potok is told from young Davita's point of view and we often share her frustration as she understands that very important things are happening and all she can do is wait to be told or try to figure it out for herself. As the deprivations of war and depression take a ruthless toll, Davita unexpectedly turns to the Jewish faith.

Also by Chaim Potok, the next link might be to The Chosen. This tells of the relationship between two Brooklyn boys Danny and Reuven, the world they grow up in, and their relationship with their fathers. The two negotiate adolescence, family conflicts, and the crisis of faith.

And the final link is The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler. This is the story of the third generation of a Jewish immigrant family in Montreal. Duddy is combative, amoral, scheming, a liar, and totally hilarious.

This list makes the leap from the fright-inducing stories of Stephen King’s It to the hilarious Duddy Kravitz which is more in keeping with the Muse and Views book club selections.

Thank you Shirley!  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays for all! 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Meeting of January 27th 2017

We met a Beth's home to discuss Shirley's book choice Home Front by Kristin Hannah.  Present were Beth, Carla, Colette, Linda, Michèle and Shirley.  Beth offered us a very nice array of hot and cold canapés along with a variety of nuts and sweets.  Of course we had the usual wine, red and white and tea and coffee.

Kristin Hannah is an American author and former lawyer.  She has written 20 novels, Home Front and The Nightingale are the most popular.  She has received several awards, especially for The Nightingale.

Home Front is a timely and intimate look at the effect of a deployment on a family.  Jolene, a helicopter pilot in the Reserves is deployed to Iraq and Michael, her husband, who is a lawyer, finds himself with the responsiblity of taking care of his daughters and keeping the home going.  As Jolene is about to leave, Michael expresses his doubts about their relationship.

Jolene finds her deployment and work in Iraq much more challenging than she had anticipated and the uncertainty of Michael's love and commitment to their relationship weighs on her emotions.  Michael begins to realize the sacrifices Jolene has made, the work she has put into their relationship and the lack of responsibility on his part in their relationship.

We all found the book to be a pager turner and easy read as the writing style is very straight forward.  The characters were well described and we found our feelings towards them changed as the situation changed.  Life on an Iraq base was well described, the heat, the dust and sand, having to line up to call home, the line ups for showers all made the difficult life soldiers had real.

The author described well the anger the characters felt,  Jolene’s inablity to speak out and Michael's concentration in his work to the detriment of his family, his inability to understand what Jolene was doing and the importance of her work for her as a person and a soldier.  She did a good job of describing the transition Michael went through as he found himself responsible for his children and the effect it has on his feelings towards Jolene.  

One of our members remembered that Tolstoy's Anna Karina begins "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy it its own way." It is a good description of this family and its struggles.  

Thank you Shirley for an interesting read.  

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Six Degrees of Separation From Less Than Zero to the Language of Sisters

We missed last month but here we go again and I am surprised that we have been able to again use only books that we have read at the Muse & Views Bookclub.  

Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis – story about the young adults from priviledged families, a lost generation

Rules of Civility by  Amor Towes  - the priviledged , how they live and how they suck in others who aspire to their type of life

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark – a popular teacher in a boarding school who believed that the rules of society were not necessarily to be followed. Again young adults from a priviledged background and rules

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro,  a boarding school with special relationships between boarders and the dark secret behind the School’s facade.

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards – the impact of a secret on a family when a decision is taken to give away a sister

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult -  the impact on a family when a decision is taken to help a child by giving her a sister.

The Language of Sisters  by Amy Yurk – sisters and their relationships 

There we are, another completed.  Next month Stephen King's It is going to be a challenge! Our Bookclub has never read thrillers!  

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Meeting of October 23rd, 2017

We met at Shirley's home to discuss Jane's book choice The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan. Present were Beth, Colette, Jane, Janet, Linda, Michèle and Shirley.  As usual, Shirley had a wonderful array of food for us, crab rolled sandwiches, stuffed cherry tomatoes, pigs in a blanket and wonderful bacon and fruit tarts.  She had a wonderful clementine cake, a Nigella Lawson recipe.  Click on the link to get the recipe.

This is Jennifer Ryan's first novel.  She was born in England and now lives in Washington DC with her husband and children. She was a book editor specializing in non-fiction books such as economics, politics, health and biographies.  The Chilbury Ladies' Choir was inspired by stories her grandmother told her, who was 20 when WWII broke out and who lived in a small British village.

The story is told in the novel through letters written by some of the characters and journal entries by other characters.  It is similar to an epistolary novel Pamela; or Virtue Rewarded by Samuel Richardson told through a series of familiar letters. It could also be compared to Henrietta's War: News from the Home Front 1939-1942 written by Joyce Denny's and part of the Bloomsbury Group.

As we read the journal entries and letters we not only learn about what is happening in the village of Chilbury during 1940 from March to September but we become acquainted with the main characters, Mrs. Tilling, Kitty, Venetia and Edwina Paltry. In reading the letters and journal entries we become familiar with other characters in the novel such as Prim the choir master, the Brigadier, Kitty and Venetia's father, Colonel Mallard, Henry and his fascination with Venetia and Kitty's puppy love for him, and Mr. Slater who Venetia targets on a dare by her friend Angela.

Most of us enjoyed the novel and found it a nice light easy read with interesting characters and a good story line.  The map of the village and the descriptions of the different buildings and areas of the village allowed us as readers to imagine the characters in their environment.  The Ladies Choir is a good unifying tool, allowing us to observe the interaction between the characters and also showing how, when war left a village with only the women and older men, the strengths and backbones of the village came from the women.

Several members commented on how  characters such as Venetia, Mrs. Tillings and Henry evolve as events happen and the story line changes.  At the beginning though Hitler is taking over many areas of Europe, England is unaffected, it is almost like a phony war.  As events occur and Hitler begins to bombard southern England, Dover is constantly hit and Chilbury is bombarded, the deaths of husbands and boys and those of loved members of the village, Prim and Harriet changes the narrative in the journals and letters. Venetia matures, not only because of these events but also because of her growing love for Alastair Slater. Mrs. Tillings becomes less timid and develops as a strong supportive person.

Some felt that there were some areas where we were left hanging a bit.  What happens to Mrs. Tilling's son David?  Does Edwina really get away without consequences? Some also felt that Kitty's journal entries were not the narrative of a 13 year old.

Though we found the book to be an easy light read, it had excellent character development, good references to how WWII affected England and villages.  It had two good love stories and though many events were quite predictable such as the baby swap and Mrs. Tilling and Colonel Mallard's developing relationship, it was enjoyable to read.

Thank you Jane for a good choice.

Books and Meetings 2018

The list will be updated as members choose their books.

Monday January 22nd -  Janet's book choice, Still Life, by Louise Penny, Colette hosting

Monday February 26th - Carla's book choice, The Nightingale  by Kristin Hannah, Janet hosting

Monday March 26th - Betty's book choice, Carla hosting

Monday April 23rd - Michèle's book choice, Kamouraska by Anne Hébert, Jane hosting

Monday May 28th - Linda's book choice, Michèle hosting

Monday June 25th - Beth's book choice, Linda hosting

Monday September 24th - Colette's book choice, Shirley hosting

Monday October 22nd -  Jane's book choice, Betty hosting

Monday November 26th - Shirley's book choice,  Beth hosting

Monday, October 9, 2017

Meeting of September 25th, 2017

This is our first meeting since one of our founding members, Jolene, passed away.  We drank a glass of wine in her memory.  Members with us today are Beth, Betty, Carla, Colette, Jane, Michèle and Shirley.  Michèle served several cheeses and pâtés with grapes and figs, and with wine of course.  Naimimo bars, butter tarts and flourless chocolate cookies were served with tea and coffee. 

This month we are discussing Annie Proulx’s book, The Shipping News, Colette’s choice.  Annie Proulx, born Edna Ann Proulx in 1935 is an American author who began her writing career as a journalist.  She has written several novels and short stories.  Her latest novel is Barkskins.  One of her short stories, Brokeback Mountain, was turned into a very well-reviewed and received movie.  The Shipping News won several literary awards including the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.  It was also made into a movie with Kevin Spacey, Judi Dench and Julianne Moore.  Ms. Proulx wrote The Shipping News while staying in a cottage near l’Anse aux Meadows in northwest Newfoundland.

The Shipping News is a story about a New York reporter, Quoyle, who decides to move to Newfoundland with his aunt after difficult family life overwhelms him.  The aunt has an ancestral home in Newfoundland and together with  Quoyle’s daughters they move and slowly renovate the home.  Quoyle eventually finds work as a reporter writing about the shipping news on the island.  As in many of her books, there is little joy in this story; characters who are mean spirited, sexual abuse is rampant and very little kindness is apparent. Certainly Quoyle is very protective of his daughters and eventually Quoyle and Wavey get together but it is left to the last 15 pages.  One of our members who has read several of her short stories that are dark and depressing, described this book as her « happy » book.  One member who recently read her newest novel, Barkskins agrees that The Shipping News is not as dark.

Newfoundland’s depressed economy as the cod supply diminishes and Quoyle and his aunt’s stories are influenced by the impact the economy has on the people of Newfoundland.  She describes well life as it is on the island; it almost felt like flipping through an album or a scrapbook, seeing bits and pieces of lives and events that eventually fit together.

Her writing style, did irritate some of us: very short sentences with no verbs, sentences with no subject.  However her descriptions of the landscape and the sea, the rugged beauty were very well done.  Her descriptions of the sea and the weather were full, beautiful and scary in some parts.

She captured well all the characters, the meaness in some of them literally jumped off the page.  Quoyle was a very sympathetic person despite being downtrodden.  He is an ordinary, not particularly attractive person, who copes and perseveres. He is a patient man and as the story develops Quoyle moves closer to a life that offers him satisfaction and love. 

There was a sense in the story from the characters  and descriptions of the pull where we come from has on us as we grow older, how a very strong sense of place stays with us even if we move away. 

It was a worthwhile read, thank you Colette for an excellent choice that generated good discussion. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Six Degrees of Separation from Wild Swans to The Lotus Eaters - September 2017

One more time, the links are all connected from books read by our Muse and Views book club.

After reading about Wild Swans, the first linking book would definitely have to be our last book,  Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien, a book describing one part of Mao's cultural revolution.

Follow that with another view of Mao's cultural revolution in Waiting by Ha Jin which outlines the government control in the rural countryside during the cultural revolution.

Then a link to Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie which is the story of the illiteracy resulting from that same cultural revolution.

Perhaps one could form the link then to The Pearl that Broke its Shell by Nadia Hashimi as it is the story of powerlessness and what happens at the loss of control of one's fate or future.

The next link could take us to Snowflower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. This book is a story of hardship and betrayal in 19th century China. It is also the story of friendship between women.

And for the sixth book, one that describes women's friendships and struggles would then take us to Vietnam with The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli.