Saturday, June 3, 2017

Six Degrees of Separation - from Shopgirl to Never Let Me Go

Well this month's meme was a challenge for Muse & Views Bookclub members.  Here is our participation and again (don't know how long we will be able to chose only from our reading list) all from our reading list with the exception of Shopgirl.


Shopgirl  by Steve Martin

"Lonely, depressed, Vermont transplant Mirabelle Buttersfield, who sells expensive evening gloves nobody ever buys at Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills and spends her evenings watching television with her two cats. She attempts to forge a relationship with middle-aged, womanizing, Seattle millionaire Ray Porter while being pursued by socially inept and unambitious slacker Jeremy." (Taken from Goodreads)

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

A young woman from a poor background in a large city full of money, gets involved with a multi-millionaire from Upper East Side in the 1930’s .  Not all is great and good in High Society

Clara Callan by Richard B. Wright (read in 2002)

Tale of  two sisters in the 1930’s one who goes to find her fortune in New York city and discovers that not all can be great and good in high society .

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult (read in 2006)

Here is another story about sisters, this one much more troubling.

The Language of Sisters by Amy Yurk (read in 2004)

One sister finds herself helping a disabled sister, despite her misgivings. 

The Boy in the Moon By Ian Brown

How a father copes with his disabled son who came into this world with challenges for his family and society.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

When and how we came into this world, has an impact on us and those around us and society.

There it is.  Those without a link were read before we began the blog. If you would like to see the links others have found beginning with Shopgirl, go to the blog Six Degrees of Separation.





Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Meeting of May 29, 2017



This month's meeting has been very special.  Linda's book choice for this month was Matrons and Madams by Her Excellency Sharon Johnston.  Our charming Linda through her connections, got us an invitation to Rideau Hall to meet with Her Excellency in person.  Present were Beth, Betty, Carla, Colette, Jane, Janet, Linda, Shirley and Michèle along with guests we were able to bring with us. We were 23 persons all together, including the original organizer of the Bookclub Marilyn Dow.

Bookclub members and their guests with Her Excellency Sharon Johnston

Muse & Views Bookclub members with Her Excellency Sharon Johnston


Her Excellency Mrs. Johnston was extremely gracious and gave us a lot of information about the research she did to write this historical novel and she read two paragraphs from the book, one about Matron Clara Durling and one about Lily Parsons.  During the discussion we learned that Clara Durling is based on Mrs. Johnston's grandmother who had been the Matron at the Galt Hospital in Lethbridge, Alberta.  Mrs. Johnston did a lot of research in Lethbridge, returning seven times and reading all the minutes of the Board of Governors of the Galt Hospital and newspaper accounts of activities and events that involved the Galt Hospital and the Matron of the hospital.  By reading the minutes she was able to acquire a fair amount of knowledge on the interaction between different board members and Matron Durling.  She was able, for example to better understand the animosity  one particular physician/surgeon had for her grandmother and incorporate this difficult relationship in the novel.

From questions that our members asked we learned that the process of taking this information about her family history and turning it into a historical novel was difficult and sometimes emotionally painful.

We also learned that this is the first of a trilogy of historical novels based on her family history.  The next book will probably be out in the Fall of 2018.  Though Mrs. Johnston was reluctant to go into great detail about the future novels, she did tell us, as we can guess from the end of this novel that the next book will be set in part in residential schools for indigenous children, a difficult and controversial topic in our country.

During the discussion, His Excellency Governor General David Johnston sat down with us for a short while to listen to Mrs. Johnston discuss her novel with us and he also put in his two cents about the research and writing process.

After the discussion, tea, coffee and apple cider along with some wonderful cookies were served and Mrs. Johnston signed her book for members who had a personal copy.  She was very generous with her time and the members and our guests were very appreciative of the time and information she gave us.

The Tent Room

We were afterwards, given a tour of the public rooms of Rideau Hall along with the Monck wing that is not always open to the public. We were also able to visit the Green Houses that are attached to Rideau Hall.  Our tour guide Sophie gave a us excellent history of Rideau Hall as we toured and were able to admire the impressive quantity and quality of Canadian Art that is displayed in the rooms.
Sophie our very informative guide and our Bookclub member Shirley


A bird's eye view of the Green Houses


The Green houses were filled with wonderful plants and flowers, many of them in pots to allow them to be used as decor when special events are held or special guest come to visit.  Their Excellencies Mr. and Mrs. Johnston have several grandchildren and we saw peaking under some plants, dinosaurs hidden by the Governor General himself!



It was an extraordinary meeting of the Muse & Views Bookclub and we thank our member Linda and her friend Norma for organising it for us.  We also thank Her Excellency Sharon Johnston for hosting such a memorable meeting for us.  Lastly of course, this being the home of the Vice-Regal couple of Canada, our member Janet gave us a Royal wave at the end of our meeting!

Janet giving us a Royal wave! 


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Six Degrees of Separation from The Slap to The Forgotten Garden

This is the Muse & Views Bookclub participation in this month's Six Degrees of Separation meme.  Three suggestions from our members were discussed at our last meeting and we settled on a combination of Shirley's and Beth's.  All books are part of those read by our Bookclub with the exception of the first book The Slap. 


The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas  is the story where a slap and its consequences force them all to question their own families and the way they live, their expectations, beliefs and desires. It is told from the points of view of eight people who were present at the time of the slap.

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett is the story where a kiss has consequences on two families and is told from the points of view of some of the family members.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. Here the link is the author. This is the story of a South American hostage-taking.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The setting is once again South America and the author uses magical realism to tell his tale.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel. A story that begins in India, also told with magical realism featuring a small boy and a tiger.

Secret Daughter  by Shilpi Somaya Gowda, a story also set partly in India.


TheForgotten Garden by Kate Morton, also about a mother and daughter and their struggle to find their missing history.

Voilà our contribution for this month!  

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Meeting of April 24, 2017



We met at Colette's with Jane hosting to discuss Michèle's book choice Maman's Homesick Pie by Donia Bijan.  Jane provided some lovely cheese, pâtés, olives and very nice dolma.  As Donia made while training to be a chef, Jane made a cherry clafoutis and madeleines.  Of course wine, tea and coffee was also served.

Michèle did not go into great detail about Donia Bijan as author since this book is a memoir, however, she did tell us that Ms. Bijan has written a novel which came out in March called The Last Days of Café Leila.

This book is a memoir that begins when Ms. Bijan has to clean out her mother’s home after her death.  She discovers in a kitchen drawer, her mother's recipes and as she goes through them memories of  her childhood in Iran, her family’s escape when the Shah was overturned, their life in the United States and her path towards becoming a chef come to her and she writes about their life through stories, often related to these recipes.

Her father, a physican in Iran along with her mother who was a nurse, built a hospital in Iran.  They were well known and her father was a well-regarded physician.  They lived with Donia and her two sisters in apartments above the hospital.  Donia describes well their life, their school life and family outings. 

Donia’s mother became involved in politics and campaigned against the revolutionary movement.  During a family vacation on Malta, the  revolutionary movement ousted the Shah.  Donia and her family were not able to go back to Iran and eventually emigrated to the United States.  Donia’s mother who had studied nursing in England adapted well to their new situation.  However, her father, who was unable to practice medicine in the U.S., did not adapt well.  Eventually he went back to Iran and his hospital. 

Each chapter finishes with recipes her mother used beginning with a cardamon tea,  Often in the chapters, Donia tells stories of their life in Iran and when some of the recipes were made.  

Donia’s style of writing was very easy and pleasant to read. Some of us described it as gentle.  We learn a lot about the Iranian and Persian culture.  We get to know her parents and Donia well. 

The book was well liked by all members,  everyone finding it easy to read and enjoyable.  We were saddened by the fate of her parents when eventually they find themselves living separate lives in separate countries.  We were astonished to learn how difficult it is to become a chef, the non-paying jobs, the menial jobs, the long and crazy hours that aspiring chefs, including Donia, have to endure to hopefully achieve success.  The only criticism some of us had about the book was how little we learned about Donia’s sisters. 

Donia describes well her relationship with her mother and this reminded members of others books with mother/daughter relations, What My Mother Gave Me by Elizabeth Benedict and They Left Us Everything by Plum Johnson.  Both relate mother/daughter relationships.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Six Degrees of Separation - From Room to The Book Thief

So this is my first participation in the Six Degrees of Separation game and I not sure I have understood it completely, but here goes.  I am using my Muse & View Bookclub list to link books to Room. We have not read Room but I have.

So the first link is obvious, we just read The Wonder by the same author Emma Donoghue.  As you will see from the summary of our meeting, not everyone like it.

The next link is by title to Year of Wonders By Geraldine Brooks.  A story that can be considered historical fiction with strong women as characters.

The next link via historical fiction and strong women is The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill.  This book is also about the struggle of a minority to be free and be considered full members of society.

So there are other books we have read about the struggle of minorities, the one that stands out the most I think is The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

The next link is maybe a bit of a stretch, but in Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay, we witness the struggle of the jewish minority in Europe during World War II.

We have read several novels that take place during World War II and I think the best link to Sarah's Key is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

So there is my contribution.  Would love some feedback!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Meeting of March 27, 2017



We met at Carla's to discuss Jolene's book choice The Mockingbird Next Door - Life with Harper Lee by Marja Mills.  Present were Carla, Colette, Beth, Betty, Janet, Jolene, Michèle and Shirley.  Carla served some wonderful cheese and a nice variety of crackers along with a kale dip, a warm artichoke dip and spicy jellies.  Of course there was wine and with tea and coffee Carla served a wonderful pavlova.  We are spoiled!

Some changes to our schedule were made and Linda, who is enjoying the warmth of Florida has proposed along with her book choice for May, an excursion!  Take a look at our 2017 list of book choices and see if you can guess where we are going!  Make sure you check back in May to read about our great outing!

One of Jolene's favourite books and for many of us, is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  So a memoir about Harper Lee was an obvious choice for her this year. The author, Marja Mills is a journalist who has worked for the Chicago Tribune.  As part of a Chicago project to encourage citizens to read To Kill a Mockingbird, Ms. Mills requested and received permission to interview the Lee sisters Harper and her older sister Alice.  After the article appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Ms. Mills sent it to the Lee sisters and then developed a friendship with them eventually renting the house next door to them for 14 months.

The Mockingbird Next Door is a memoir of Ms. Mills' experiences and the friendship that developed with the Lee sisters over those 14 months and not a biography of Harper Lee.  Alice, Harper's older sister and their friends that she meets are the bigger source of stories about Harper Lee.  Harper, known much more as Nelle, told some stories, took Ms. Mills along with he on excursions such as fishing at a friend's farm but always refused to be taped and often said, this is not to be printed.  Both sisters were very good storytellers and the book has many stories about life in Monroeville and its residents.

When Penguin Press announced that the book would be published and later when it was  published in 2014, a statement from Harper Lee was published in which she said that she had never authorized the publication.  The statement created a controversy and there were questions as to who had pressured Harper Lee to send out the statement.

Most of us enjoyed the book though many thought that it could have used more editing.  Many found the stories of their daily lives, relationships with friends and family endearing.  It was also interesting to read about Nelle's friendship with Truman Capote and her involvement in research for Capote book In Cold Blood.  We also learn a bit about Nelle's friendship with Gregory Peck who played Atticus Finch in the movie To Kill a Mockingbird..  A couple of us did not find it particularly interesting and thought the author wrote too much about herself.

In the end, this book generated a lot of discussion about new genres in memoirs and biographies, that not only speak of the subject of the memoir but also the author of the book.  As always, we enjoyed our discussions.  Thank you Jolene for the book choice and thanks to all members of the Muse & Views Bookclub, the best there is!


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Meeting of February 27, 2017



We met at Janet's home to discuss Carla's choice The Wonder by Emma Donoghue.  Present were Betty, Carla, Colette, Janet, Jolene, Michèle and Shirley.   Janet was tempted to serve us just 2 teaspoons of water and porridge but lucky for us relented and served some wonderful cheese including an irish  cheddar,  sausage rolls and a quite wonderful Irish whisky cheese cake.  Of course wine, coffee and tea were also served.

Carla gave us a short biography of Emma Donoghue who is the author of the very popular novel Room.  She was born in Ireland and lived in England and has settled in London, Ontario.  Ms. Donoghue has written several books and will publish this coming Spring her first YA book.

The novel is set in the Irish midlands in the 1860's not long after the potato famine in a village steeped in superstitions and the mysteries of the catholic faith. A young 11 year old girl, Anna O'Donnell, has stopped eating and after four months the curious and believers have begun to visit to witness this "miracle" or "medical anomaly" since she seems in good health.  The notable men of the village, the priest, the doctor and others decide that there needs to be proof that she is not eating and hire an English Nightingale trained nurse Elizabeth Wright and a nun to watch Anna over a two week period.  Lib, the nurse decides immediately that this is a hoax and in a couple of days she will be able to discover how Anna is secretly fed.

It is safe to say that this is not the most popular book we have read as a group.  Only two of our members present actually enjoyed the book.  It was for these two members a page turner, a suspense novel with an interesting plot line and believable characters.  The bleakness of the countryside and the difficult lives of the poor in villages just coming out of the potato famine were well described.

However, the majority were more critical of the book.  Many felt that there was too much of the book described Lib, the Nightingale trained nurse, watching Anna O'Donnell the 11 year old child who refuses to eat.  They felt that it was very repetitive and that not much happened until the last third of the book when we discover why Anna is fasting and what Lib does to save Anna.  All of us found the ending unbelievable.  Could Anna really get her health both physical and mental back and live a happy life with these new parents in a new country?  Some also criticized the writing style using a third person narrative but allowing only the thoughts of Lib to be described.

Carla did some research on catholicism and purgatory and how you could get someone out of purgatory.  Anna prayed to get her brother to heaven and she envisioned them both in heaven together.  She repeats 33 times the same prayer hoping it will be enough to get her brother Patrick out of purgatory.

As is usual with a book that our members have mixed opinions, the discussion was lively and interesting.