Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Meeting of June 24th, 2019

The June meeting was hosted by Michèle.  Present were Beth, Betty, Colette, Jane, Janet, Linda, Shirley, Marg and Michèle.  Spicy cold cuts, cheese, a fig and walnut spread were served and Michèle made hot cross buns as was served at the family picnic in the novel.  Of course wine, coffee and tea were also offered.

We discussed Linda's book choice Requiem by Frances Itani.  Our meeting began with a FaceTime session with Ms. Itani who lives in Ottawa.  We had a wonderful discussion with her about the research she did for this book.  We were surprised to learn that she interviewed several Japanese Canadians who were forced to leave their homes and businesses on the British Columbia coast but she did not interview her husband's family.  Ms Itani does not allow anyone to read her books until they are sent to her editor.  Walking around her office with her computer she showed us the project boards of the two books that she is presently writing, not enough for us to see much about the books. She did tell us that one is an historical novel and the other is set in the present.  We are looking forward to reading her new books!

We asked why she had chosen Beethoven's music for the novel and she told us she had discussed it with her son who is a member of the Danish Symphony Orchestra.  Since the Japanese internment into camps was complete chaos, the loss of their homes and businesses, the lack of proper shelter in the camps, her son felt that Beethoven music was the best choice.

After our discussion with Ms Itani we shared our opinions of the novel Requiem.  It was well loved. Everyone enjoyed the book and as her other books that we have read, the writing is beautiful.  Itani's descriptions of the camps and how the people coped and survived is very visual. It is easy to imagine the shacks that they built, how they filled in the cracks, the gardens they created to help feed themselves and to give the community some revenue.  The community spirit that lived within the confines of the camp was palatable in her descriptions.

 The main character Bin Okuma is an artist with a love of classical music, especially Beethoven.  After the sudden death of his wife Lena, he decides to drive out to British Columbia to visit the site of the internment camp where he spent a part of his childhood and to visit "first father" with whom he has had little contact since his childhood in the camps.  As he drives, his thoughts go from his childhood in the camp and his life once they are freed with Okuma-san his second father and his adult life as an artist with Lena and their son Greg.  Even though the story alternates from the time period of the camps to the present, it is easy to follow.  The descriptions of the life in the camps are Bin's memories flooding back into his mind as he drives towards the site of the camps and the reunion with "first father".  It is a well crafted book, well worth the read.

Thank you Linda for this wonderful choice.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Six Degrees of Separation from Where the Wild Things Are to Family Matters

19543 The Tao of Pooh Pigs in Heaven (Greer Family, #2) The Bean Trees (Greer Family, #1) A Recipe for Bees Bee Season Family Matters

The starter book for July 2019 is Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. This is a favourite book for many children who see themselves in Max, the ‘Wild Thing’; however, like many children’s stories, there is a lesson to be learned. Home is where someone loves you best of all.

Our first link is to The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff. In this book, we enter the enchanting world of Winnie the Pooh while soaking up invaluable lessons on simplicity and natural living.

From bears to pigs, we now link to Barbara Kingsolver’s Pigs in Heaven. This is the story of Taylor Greer and her adopted six-year-old daughter, Turtle. The pair embark on a road trip from rural Kentucky and the urban Southwest to Heaven, Oklahoma, and the Cherokee Nation, testing the boundaries of family and the many separate truths about the ties that bind.

Our next link is to another Barbara Kingsolver book, The Bean Trees. This was a bit of a cheat because this is the prequel to the previous book where we are introduced to the main characters. It is the story about love and friendship, abandonment and belonging, and the discovery of surprising resources in apparently empty places.

From beans to bees, for our fourth link we go to A Recipe for Bees by Gail Andeerson-Dargatz. This story is saturated with bee lore, and is full of rich domestic detail, wondrous imagery culled from rural kitchens and gardens, shining insights into ageing, family and friendship. And, at its heart, is the life, death and resurrection of an extraordinary marriage.

Keeping with bees, this time we link to Bee Season by Myla Goldberg. This is the story of nine-year-old Eliza's journey to three-dimensional life. As she rises from classroom obscurity to the blinding lights and outsized expectations of the National Bee, Eliza's small pains and large joys are finely wrought and deeply felt. Not merely a coming-of-age story, the novel delicately examines the unraveling fabric of one family.

For our final link, we go to Rohinton Mistry’s Family Matters. The main character, Nariman Vakeel, already suffering from Parkinson’s disease, breaks an ankle and finds himself wholly dependent on his family. The decisions made by each of the family members test tolerance, compassion, integrity and faith.

And so we have gone from Where the Wild Things Are to Family Matters. Each of the connecting books examines some aspect of family.

It is summer here and the heat is definitely here! If you wish to see how others connected to the starter book go to Six Degrees of Separation.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Meeting of May 27th 2019

Our May meeting was hosted by Betty.  Present were Betty, Carla, Colette, Jane, Linda, Marg, Michèle and Shirley.  Betty served a nice array of cheese and crackers, olives, pepperettes and of course wine, coffee and tea.

We discussed Carla's book choice, a memoir, Lands of Lost Borders by Kate Harris.  Ms. Harris is a young Canadian writer and "wanderer" as she calls herself.  She is originally from Ontario and presently lives off the grid on the border between the Yukon and British Columbia.  She studied sciences and the history of science in Canada, Great Britain as a Rhodes Scholar and in the United States.  She abandoned her Ph.D. studies at M.I.T. to cycle the Silk Road with a childhood friend Mel Yule. The book chronicles their voyage that lasted almost a year.  Beginning in Turkey they travelled through Georgia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, China, Nepal and India.  At the beginning of the book she describes her childhood with her family and her goal to eventually visit Mars.  She is well read, quotes philosophers and well-known writers and historians.

She received many honours and prizes for Lands of Lost Borders including the most prestigious Canadian prize for non-fiction the RBC-Taylor Prize in 2019.  She was a Rhodes scholar and a recipient of the Morehead-Cain Scholarship, an American version of the Rhodes Scholarship.

The reviews were definitely mixed.  Many found that her writing, descriptions and stories of this adventure were very introspective.  She wrote a lot about how she felt, how she experienced the journey.  Though she rode with her childhood friend Mel Yule, we do not come to know Mel well.  She does not go into great detail in describing the families that helped them along the way, those who allowed them to pitch their tent on their property or actually sleep and eat with them.

However her descriptions of how she lived this adventure, her descriptions of the terrain, the problems they encountered are very vivid and easy to understand.  Certainly for us as women of a certain age and family status, the adventures she described and her enthusiasm for them is very foreign to us.  Not many if any of us have dreamt of an adventure of this magnitude!

There are lots of photos and videos on her website Kate Harris that help us visualize what she described.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Six Degrees of Separation from Murmur to A Good House


Us Conductors The Rosie Project (Don Tillman, #1) The Best Laid Plans
Whelan : the man in the green stetson : Whelan, Eugene F., 1924- : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive  Waiting for Time (Random Passage, #2) A Good House

Starter Book – Murmur by Will Eaves. This is published as a novel; however it is based on the life of Alan Turing the English mathematician, computer scientist, cryptanalyst and theoretical biologist, amongst other careers. He was highly influential in the development of theoretical computer science and he worked with the British government during World War II.

Our first link is to Us Conductors by Sean Michaels, a novel based on the life of Lev Termen, the Russian scientist, inventor and spy who invented the musical instrument, the theremin. As Alan Turing did for Great Britain, Termen worked for his government, Russia, during WW II. We also learn of his love interest and yearning for a normal life.

Staying with highly educated men, let’s turn to The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, a novel again but this time based solely on a fictional character. Professor of Genetics, Don Tillman sets out to find the perfect partner and creates the Wife Project in an evidence-based manner. The story is highly entertaining and very funny.

Moving on with a highly entertaining book and plans, we go to The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis. This is a humorous story about a political aide who must find a last-minute candidate for a Canadian election in a riding that is not apparently winnable. He bargains with an engineering professor, convincing him to file candidate papers by agreeing to teach in his place,  the required introductory English class to first year engineering students. The story is based in a small town just east of the Canadian capital of Ottawa. 

Now that we are immersed in Canadian politics we can now link to the autobiography of a former Canadian politician who was a Member of Parliament and a Senator, Whelan: The Man in the Green Stetson by the Honourable Eugene Whalen.

So away from politics but staying in Canada, we go to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador to find Newfoundlander author Bernice Morgan’s beautifully written story Waiting for Time, the continuing story from her first novel Random Passage about the Andrews family forced to flee from England to find themselves on the forbidding shores of Newfoundland. 

Waiting for Time is a family story told over several years, we can then connect next to A Good House by Bonnie Burnard. This chronicles 50 years of an ordinary family, the Chambers, living in Ontario, through the joys, tragedies and disappointments of their lives.  

With the exception of The Rosie Project, we have used books written by Canadian authors and books read by Muse & Views Book Club over the last 21 years. 

If you wish to see what others connected to the starter book go to Six Degrees of Separation. and read  first of all, the meme that our fearless leader Kate has written and others posted in the comments.  

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Meeting of April 29, 2019

If Beale Street Could Talk

Our April meeting was hosted by Jane.  Present were Beth, Carla, Colette, Jane, Janet, Linda, Michèle and Shirley.  Jane had a very nice variety of cheeses, parmesan crusted cold cuts, her great pickled veggies and baguette stuffed with olives.  In honour of Tish's given name, Jane made a Clementine cake that was quite wonderful.  As usual red and white wine was served and tea.  

We discussed Beth's book choice If Beale Street Could Talk written by the American author James Baldwin.  Mr. Baldwin, having had a difficult childhood growing up in Harlem with a demanding step-father and multiple siblings escaped his family life when he could, going to Greenwich Village where he met artists and writers.  He wrote several short stories and published his first book Go Tell it on the Mountain in 1953 when he was 29 years old.  This first book was semi-autobiographical and referred to religion and life as a black person in Harlem.  Mr. Baldwin published over 20 books, novels, essays and plays,  He was also well known as an activist travelling back to the United States from France where he lived for several years, to participate in activities of the civil rights movement.  He was well known and considered an important American author.

If Beale Street Could Talk was published in 1974 and is the love story of Fonny and Tish. Fonny is falsely accused of rape and finds himself in jail as Tish waits for the birth of their first child.  Strong family ties and the love between the young couple and their family allow them to survive even though racism flourishes in New York and leaves Fonny jailed and his family desperately trying to find hard, believable evidence to free him.  There is despair and rage in the writing of this novel but there is also love and hope.

Everyone liked this book, found the story beautiful but emotionally raw.  Many found that the story tore at their soul, showed us how injustice was prevalent in the U.S. and still is.  We also discussed how, though more hidden and less reported, such injustices existed in our own country, notably in Nova Scotia's Africville in the 1900's and now in many areas of our large cities such as Toronto.  We also talked about the injustices towards our own indigenous people.

The ending is ambiguous.  We are not sure if Fonny is set free or has to stay in jail.  It is an ambiguity that mirrors life in the black community.

Thank you Beth for a great book choice that brought a lot of discussion and reflection.  We also talked about the differences between the book and the movie that came out in 2018. 

Friday, May 3, 2019

Six Degrees of Separation from The Dry to Rebecca's Tale

The Dry (Aaron Falk, #1)

 Still Life (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #1) Still Alice  Wide Sargasso Sea
Jane Eyre Rebecca Rebecca's Tale
This is our 24th participation in the Six Degrees of Separation hosted by Kate at “booksaremy favouriteandbest” blog. It has been enjoyable and sometimes challenging! More often than not, the Muse & Views Book Club has not read the starter book, as is the case again this month, but that has not stopped us from taking up the challenge to link to a book that our club has read.

The Dry by Jane Harper is her debut novel, a mystery with police investigator Aaron Falk returning to old stomping grounds. Our first reaction this month was that Muse & Views Book Club has not read many mysteries. However, the first to come to mind is Still Life by famed Canadian mystery writer Louise Penny. As it happens, it was also a debut novel for Ms. Penny and several more mysteries have followed with Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. Ms. Penny is a favourite author and friend of the former American President Bill Clinton and his equally famous wife Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The next connection by similar title is to Lisa Genova’s Still Alice, though the word ‘still’ has a very different meaning. It is the moving story of a University professor who develops early onset Alzheimer’s. Though this tragic novel is not a mystery, the mysteries of such a terrible disease are evident in this novel.

Going back to a ‘real’ mystery, Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys tells the story of the mysterious person in the attic from a classic novel of the 19th century. She reveals to us why the young Antoinette Cosway, Edward Rochester’s wife, became the “mad woman” of such a classic and famous novel.

So, you will certainly have guessed that our next connection is to that classic Jane Eyre written by Charlotte Brontë. Jane, hired by Mr. Rochester to care for the young Adèle, falls in love with Edward. She wonders about the mysteries of Thornfield Hall, the strange noises at night, the screams. It is not just a love story but also very much a mystery.

Staying with a classic novel, though more modern, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier has a similar theme of a young orphaned woman involved, in this case married with an older man, living on the large English estate of Manderley. When she arrives with her new husband, she finds that her husband’s late wife’s shadow is everywhere. Rebecca is considered a gothic novel but there are mysteries that scare Rebecca and the reader!

While Wide Sargasso Sea is a prequel to Jane Eyre and we now go to a sequel to Rebecca with the novel Rebecca’s Tale by Sally Beauman. This novel, set 20 years after Manderley Estate burns to the ground, is a true mystery as a young scholar, Terrence Gray, searches for the truth behind Rebecca’s mysterious death.

We have gone from a true mystery debut novel The Dry to a super Canadian debut mystery novel Still Life, deviating to a tragic story of an illness and back to mysteries in classic novels.  All books have been read by the Muse and Views Book Club. How long will we be able to last? See you next month.

If you wish to see how others have linked their books beginning with The Dry,  go to Six Degrees of Separation

Friday, April 5, 2019

Six Degrees of Separation from How to be Both to Tuesdays with Morrie

How to Be Both 

Annabel The Shipping News The Light Between Oceans
Where the River Ends Twelve Golden Threads: Lessons for Successful Living from Grama's Quilt Tuesdays with Morrie

This month’s starter book is How to be Both by Ali Smith, a story told two ways in two different time periods. This is not a book any of our club members is familiar with so going from Goodreads reviews and descriptions we find that it is of the interplay of life and art, how we tell stories and create art, gender and sexuality, and how past decisions affect the present.

The book description brought to mind Annabel by Kathleen Winter. The story, set in Newfoundland and Labrador on Canada’s far east coast, is of the dual identity of the main character, a mixed-gendered child who appears to be neither fully boy nor fully girl, but both at once. The mother makes the difficult decision to raise the child as a boy named Wayne, while continuing to quietly nurture the boy’s female side. And as Wayne grows into adulthood within the hyper masculine hunting society of his father, his shadow-self, a girl he thinks of as ‘Annabel’ is never entirely extinguished.

In Annie Proulx’s Pulitzer prize-winning book, The Shipping News, when Quoyle's two-timing wife meets her just deserts, he retreats with his two daughters to his ancestral home on Newfoundland’s rocky coast. As Quoyle confronts his private demons and past decisions, he begins to see the possibility of love without pain or misery.

For our next link we go with M.L. Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans. Set in 1918 Australia, it is the story of a lighthouse keeper and his wife who make one devastating choice that forever changes two worlds.

Once again, a story of life decisions in Charles Martin’s Where the River Ends, the idyllic life of fishing guide and artist, Doss, and his beautiful model wife, Abigail, is tested when she is diagnosed with cancer. Abbie makes a list of ten things she wants to accomplish before she loses her battle. The most daring on her list is a 130-mile trip down the St. Mary’s River, a trip down the river that had such an influence on her husband growing up.

In Aliske Webb’s book, Twelve Golden Threads: Lessons for Successful Living from Grama’s Quilt, we once again find the interplay of life and art. The grandmother who, while teaching her two granddaughters the basics of the art of quilting, passes on the wisdom of traditional truths necessary for a meaningful life.

And life lessons are the mainstay in Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie. Here the author chronicles his own interactions with his mentor and professor, Morrie Schwartz. As Morrie faces his final days fighting ALS, Mitch visits him every Tuesday when they take time to discuss life, aging, love and death.

Life lessons and life-changing decisions has been the principal link to take us this month from How to be Both to Tuesdays with Morrie.

To see what others have submitted go to this link Six Degrees of Separation Enjoy!