Saturday, July 7, 2018

Six Degrees of Separation from Tales of the City to Divine Secrets of the Yahoo Sisterhood

Tales of the City (Tales of the City, #1)

 Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil  Death Comes to Pemberley  Mr. Darcy Presents His Bride: A Sequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice  Longbourn  The Help  Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood  



Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin is our beginning book this month.  Having researched Mr. Maupin as an author, we are surprised that Muse & Views Bookclub has never discussed one of his books. This first of a series book takes place in the city of San Francisco and though we have not read this book, it is our impression that the character of San Francisco is a big part of the story.

The character of the city of Savanah also has a significant role in the John Berendt book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.  A murder is the central part of this book and so it is in Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James.  Staying in the same era and with the same characters, and another book that is a sequel from Pride and Prejudice not written by Jane Austen, is Mr. Darcy Presents is Bride by Jane Halstead.  Staying with books of the Jane Austen era is Longbourn by Jo Baker. In this “sequel” to Pride and Prejudice we read the stories of the help, the servants of the kitchen and bedrooms, their dramas, love stories and scandals. Skipping several generations and a couple of centuries, the dramas, love stories and scandals in The Help by Kathryn Stockett in 20thcentury southern America are eerily similar to 18thcentury England.  And finally staying in the South of the good old USA, our last link is Divine Secrets of the Yahoo Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells, family drama that is often as hilarious as it is sad.  

We began in 1980’s San Francisco with the starter book Tales of the City traveled to 18thcentury England and finished in the 20thcentury southern America with Divine Secrets of the Yahoo Sisterhood.  We are still using only books that Muse & Views have read.  How long can we last??

If you wish to see how other avid readers and participants fared this month please go to  Six Degrees of Separation
 

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Six Degrees of Separation from The Tipping Point to La Prisonnière


     Front Cover
   
The starter book is The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, not at all a book that Muse & Views has read. Surprisingly, although we claim to read a wide variety of books, other than memoirs, we rarely read non-fiction. This is a book about change and how one idea, one thing, one person, one incident can generate change. Like Gladwell says, there are incidents such as one sick person that might generate a flu epidemic. An incident in a person’s life can cause dramatic changes in a life, turn a person’s life into a completely different direction.

So in our first linked book, Left Neglected by Lisa Genova, one split second of inattention while Sarah is driving to work causes her to lose control of her car and the consequences change not only her life but her whole family’s life and forces her to change how she lives her life, to slow down, to accept her limitations, to see life in a different light.

Now if we stay with Mr. Gladwell’s theories, more specifically the “broken windows theory” that neglected neighbourhoods generate more crime, we would then link to A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. Ove believes that their community must be kept as neat and clean as possible to prevent and discourage crime. 

Change, one idea can change a life completely. Such is the case in Voyage of the Northern Magic by Diane Stuemer.  This is a memoir of a family of five living in a suburb of Ottawa, Canada’s capital, who completely change their lives and the future trajectory of each of them when they decide to sell everything to sail around the world. 

Again using Mr. Gladwell’s theory that one incident in a person’s life can cause dramatic change, in The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, Harold writes a letter to a long-lost friend and colleague and leaves home to put it in the mailbox at the end of his street. Instead of putting the letter in the box he just continues to walk until he arrives at the letter’s destination. Harold is retired and has a mundane life, nothing changes from day to day but in one split second he changes his life, his habits, meets new people and delivers his letter in person.

In The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve, the pilot's wife, Kathryn Lyons, receives word that a plane flown by her husband, Jack, has exploded near the coast of Ireland. In that instant she must confront the unfathomable as she sets out to learn who her husband really was, whatever that knowledge might cost. 

While Muse & Views rarely reads non-fiction, we do read memoirs as in the case of La Prisonniere by Malika OufkirMalika Oufkir was born into a proud Berber family in 1953, the eldest daughter of the King of Morocco's closest aide. She was adopted by the king to be a companion to his little daughter, and at the royal court of Rabat, Malika grew up locked away in a golden cage, among the royal wives and concubines. But when Malika was eighteen, in 1972, her father was arrested after an attempt to assassinate the king. General Oufkir was swiftly and summarily executed. Once again we see how Gladwin’s theory of change, how one incident can generate change as Malika, her beautiful mother and her five younger brothers and sisters were seized and thrown into an isolated desert jail for fifteen years with no contact with the outside world, in increasingly barbaric and inhumane conditions. A definite Tipping Point.

If you would like to see the Six Degrees memes of others, go to Six Degrees of Separation.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Meeting of May 28, 2018



The May meeting of Muse & Views was hosted by Shirley.  Present were Carla, Colette, Jane, Janet, Linda, Michèle, Sharon and Shirley. Shirley prepared a wonderful picnic for us with vegetable, cheese and salami skewers and tea chicken sandwiches.  For dessert she prepared her wonderful lemon pot de crème (you can find the recipe here at the end of the post) and she presented wonderful "picnic cookies" made by a friend.  Of course we had the usual wine and tea.

This month's book presented by Linda was Flee, Fly, Flown by Janet Hepburn.  Ms. Hepburn is a Canadian poet and author. This is her first novel.   She comes from Port Dover, Ontario,  the best place in Ontario for fish and chips according to two of our members!

The story is about two elderly women, Lillian and Audrey who live with Alzheimers in a home for seniors in Ottawa.  Lillian is particularly tired of the boring life she lives, everything being a routine from when she can eat, what she can eat, when she can sleep and even when, as she says, she can poop!  They decide together to go on a vacation and plot how they will get out without being noticed, how they can get a car and money.  Once they have a car, it does not take them long to realize that they have no way of knowing how to get out of the city and what road to take to eventually get to the west coast.  They meet a young homeless man and Audrey convinces him to drive them west.  The story is their adventures as they drive out towards the mountains.

It does not happen often that everyone loves a book we read.  We all felt that the main characters, Lillian, Audrey and the young man Rayne as they call him are well developed.  Several parts of the book are Lillian's thoughts, her struggles to concentrate and remember who she is with, where she is and what she must remember.  She keeps a notebook and writes in notes to hopefully help her, "vacation", "taxi phone number", anything that she think will help jog her memory.  It was a realistic portrayal of thoughts helping us understand what is in a person's head, it was well done.

There were some parts that made us giggle, many parts and the book in general that made us sad.  There were some very poignant periods. As we each talked about our impressions of the book, most of us could relate to the story because of persons we knew who are or had lived with dementia.  It is evident that it is quite prevalent in today's society and since the "baby boomers" are now pretty well over 60, it will become more relevant to us all.

Many of us reflected on the life we subject our seniors to in homes.  We discussed different innovative living arrangements that are being tried here in Canada and elsewhere.  In the Netherlands there is Hogeweyk, a "dementia village" that allows clients with dementia to have a more normal life while still being properly supervised.

An excellent choice Linda, one that we all liked and one that gave us the opportunity for discussion.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Six Degrees of Separation from The Poisonwood Bible to A Town Like Alice

The Poisonwood Bible - Kingsolver, Barbara
Out of Africa - Dinesen, Isak   Chocolat - Harris, Joanne    A Year in Provence - Mayle, Peter    Under the Tuscan Sun - Mayes, Frances Random Passage - Morgan, Bernice   A Town Like Alice - Shute, Nevil



The starter book this month is The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. This is a book our club read in 2001 and still holds the title for most divisive book we have read. It was an equally divided group with half loving the book and the other half just as vehemently hating it.
This is the story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. It is the tale of one family’s tragic undoing and reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.  

Considering links that would take the main characters to other countries with the resultant effects on themselves or the new country, we might follow The Poisonwood Bible with Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen. 

Out of Africa is Isak Dinesen's memoir of her years in Africa, from 1914 to 1931, on a four-thousand-acre coffee plantation in the hills near Nairobi. She had come to Kenya from Denmark with her husband, and when they separated she stayed on to manage the farm by herself.  Her account of her African adventures was written after she had lost her beloved farm and returned to Denmark.

Then on to France with Chocolat by Joanne Harris. This is a timeless novel of a straitlaced village's awakening to joy and sensuality - every page offers a description of chocolate to melt in the mouths of chocoholics, francophiles, armchair gourmets, cookbook readers, and lovers of passion everywhere. The book illuminates Peter Mayle's South of France with a touch of Laura Esquivel's magic realism. 

Speaking of Peter Mayle, we might link to his humorous book, A Year in Provence. In this book, the British Peter Mayle moves into a 200-year-old stone farmhouse in the remote country of the Lubéron with his wife and two large dogs. He endures January's frosty mistral as it comes howling down the Rhône Valley, discovers the secrets of goat racing through the middle of town, and delights in the glorious regional cuisine.  

And in the spirit of A Year in Provence, we might link up with Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes. The American Frances Mayes entered a wondrous new world when she began restoring an abandoned villa in the spectacular Tuscan countryside. There were unexpected treasures at every turn: faded frescos beneath the whitewash in her dining room, a vineyard under wildly overgrown brambles in the garden, and, in the nearby hill towns, vibrant markets and delightful people.  

The next linking change of country might be found in Random Passage by Bernice Morgan. Forced to flee England, the Andrews family books passage to a fresh start in a distant country, only to discover a barren, inhospitable land at the end of their crossing. As the ‘distant country’ was Canada and the barren, inhospitable land was the east coast of Newfoundland, it was a particularly interesting read for our Canadian book club. 

Changing countries again, A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute follows its enterprising heroine from the Malayan jungle during World War II to the rugged Australian outback.

And thus we travel through the Belgian Congo to Kenya, to the south of France, to Italy, the east coast of Canada, the Malayan jungle and the Australian outback, all with books our club has read.

If you wish to read the memes of other contributors you can go to Six Degrees of Separation 

Meeting of April 23rd, 2018



The April meeting of Muse & Views Bookclub was hosted by Jane at Colette's home.  Present were Colette, Janet, Linda, Michèle, and Shirley.  Jane though she could not attend, provided us with very nice cheese from Québec, pickled vegetables and turkey sausage and of course wine.  Colette provided a very nice dessert, coffee and tea.

This month we discussed Michèle's book choice Kamouraska by the Québec author Anne Hébert. Born in 1916, in Sainte Catherine de Fossambault, about 40 km north-east of Québec City  Anne Hébert was the eldest of four children. Her father was a civil servant, of acadian descent.  Her maternal grandfather, Eugène Étienne Taché was the architect of Québec parliament buildings.  His grandfather was Lord Achille Taché of Kamouraska.  

Anne Hébert, in international French literature is a well known and respected author. She wrote 10 novels,  poetry,  plays and a book of short stories.  She also wrote 8 film scripts including those for Kamouraska and Les Fous de Bassan. She won 20 literary prizes in Canada and France including the Governor General’s Literary Award for poetry and fiction and the Prix Fémina in 1982 one of France’s most prestigious prizes for her novel Les Fous de Bassan.  Kamouraska, Les Fous de Bassan and a short story, Le Tourent were made into films.  

Kamouraska is based on a true story of the murder of Le Seigneur (Lord) Achille Taché of Kamouraska in 1839 by an American doctor George Holmes who was in love with Taché’s wife Éleonore d’Estimauville.  Anne Hébert took this fact  from her family history and created what many of us saw as a gothic novel about a young woman, Elizabeth who married a brute of man when she was 15, conspired to kill him with her lover doctor who was a childhood friend of her husband. The book begins with Elizabeth at the death bed of her second husband Monsieur Rolland.  He is afraid to be alone with her, he knows what happened to her first husband.  Elizabeth relives her life through nightmares and her thoughts.  

Most of us found this novel a difficult read.  One member felt she was in a nightmare belonging to someone else.  Beth gave a good description of how she read the book and many of us felt the same. "There’s the sense of isolation in the narrator’s painful, horrific experiences and frustrations, and the claustrophobia of the endless swirling vortex of her memories, nightmarish fears and justifications.  We keep trying to decipher what really happened.  We also keep trying to decide how we feel about her.  It’s a very vivid picture of the remote place and society as she experiences it, but exhausting and bitter to read.  Seems to me like a gothic novel  -  sort of like Wuthering Heights. "

We all found the novel frustrating to read, difficult to understand in some parts but as Carla said, "the book was well written and the nightmarish quality had a great affect on us as readers." 


Sunday, April 8, 2018

Six Degrees of Separation from Memoir of a Geisha to Medicine Walk

Memoir of a Geisha by Arthur Golden -  published in 1997, It is the only novel he published.  Mr. Golden studied Japanese Art in his undergraduate studies at Harvard an M.A. in Japanese history at Columbia. 

The first connection is to Japan and the link to this country. The Ginger Tree by Oswald Wynd - published in 1977 it is a story about an Scottish woman who scandalized the European community in Asia.  Mr. Wynd was a Scottish novelist born in Japan. He grew up speaking both English and Japanese.  

Staying with the theme of connections by country our next book is The Prime of Miss Jean Brodieby Scottish novelist Muriel Spark.  This novel, about a teacher in a private girls’ school is about coming of age and betrayal. 

The are many stories about coming of age but the most endearing is Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery.  An orphan girl full of spunk, imagination and wanting so much to be part of a family. As we all know, Ms. Montgomery is  an internationally known Canadian author. And skipping back to the beginning of this chain, Anne of Green Gables is wildly popular in Japan.  Japanese tourists, after the Americans, are the most frequent visitors of Green Gables in Prince Edward Island. 

Anne of Green Gables, considered a classic in Canadian literature, our next connection is to another Canadian classic, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler, a book about morality, materialism, alienation and greed among other themes.  It is a book about a Jewish boy as he grows up and his relationships with his family members. 

 

The Chosen by Chaim Potok is a story of a Jewish boy Reveun, his family and friends and his relationship with his father and friend Danny.  The pursuit of dreams and goals, father/son relationships and the strength of friendship are strong themes in this book.






Going back to a Canadian author, Richard Wagamese, an indigenous author wrote a beautiful novel Medicine Walk about a father/son relationship and despite conflict, the bond of family.







From Memoirs of a Geisha based in Japan, to Scotland, the U.S.A. and then to our native land Canada with Medicine Walk.  

 So there is our meme for this month.  This is our 12th contribution to Six Degrees of Separation (click on the link to see what others have contributed) and we are still using only books we have read.  Michèle is responsible for this month's work.   

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Meeting of March 26, 2018

The Piano Maker
The March meeting of the Muse and Views Book Club was hosted by Carla and attended by Beth,  Shirley, Sharon, Jane and Betty. As the majority of this month’s book, The Piano Maker by Kurt Palka, was set in Canada, Carla chose a selection of local cheeses and sausages. She also offered tastes of grapple, which is described as an apple that tastes like a grape and which is actually an apple that has been infused with artificial grape flavour. Grapple is also described as two species that have no business being together combined to produce something beautiful and odd and which definitely relates to our book. Her wine selection this month was in direct correlation with book scenarios. Not to give too much away, but one of the wines was called D’Ont Poke the Bear and another was Twist of Fate. Carla’s delicious Pavlova and tea completed the evening’s food, wine and discussion.
Betty presented this month’s book and provided interesting information about the author. Kurt Palka was born and educated in Austria. He began his working life in Africa where he wrote for the African Mirror and made wildlife films in Kenya and Tanzania. He has worked and written for American and Canadian publications and as a Senior Producer for the CBC.
It was while he was living in a rooming house in Johannesburg that Palka first learned about pianos. While travelling the hot, dry back roads of South Africa with a fellow roommate, an itinerant piano tuner, the impression of watching this master at work left a lasting impression on him. Years later Palka was working in France, staying at a pension in Nice where there was a Bösendorfer in the music room, and most evenings it would be played. This time, it was a young woman who came to tune the piano but this time not with tuning forks but with her highly sensitive ear.
Set in a fictional town on Nova Scotia’s French Shore in the 1930s, it follows Hélène Giroux, a mysterious French woman with a troubled past. When she arrives in town, she joins the church as a choirmaster and pianist, dazzling the small, insular community with her talent, refined elegance and stories of the piano factory her family owned in prewar France. After the Great War left her both widowed and destitute from the ruin of her family's piano-making business, Hélène had left France for England and, eventually, Québec. A series of weighty, enigmatic references – to a jail, an institution, dreams about an accident in a "cave of horror" – suggest Hélène is trying to escape some kind of trauma in her recent past.
The Piano Maker offers interesting characters and a story that goes from France to Canada, taking detours into Indochina and Africa. It illustrates the development of a piano-making company, the horrors of WWI, the market in the early 20th century for ancient treasures from exotic countries and the harshness of Canadian winters in Western Canada. There is an intrigue and you find yourself rooting for Hélène Giroux. Despite so much going on in the novel, it is not even 300 pages long, it is concise and has little irrelevant descriptions or scenes.
It was noted and appreciated that, reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird and Snow Falling on Cedars, part of the story was told by the use of a trial. There was a lyricism to the writing with the story being told as an onion being peeled. The discussion of the making of a piano with all the woods used and the processes was an interesting diversion.
While the general consensus was that this was an enjoyable, quiet and easy read, there were some distractions. A negative point was made with reference to the priest insisting Hélène go to confession which would definitely not have been done, particularly in that era. There was also a discordant note out of time where Hélène’s daughter who lives in England calls her ‘mother’ and then suddenly it becomes the American ‘mom’.
Questions remain. Why would Hélène go off with Nathan after he had bilked her of all her money? Would an unmarried couple travel together easily in that time period? 
Thanks Betty for another interesting read.