Saturday, November 2, 2019

Books and Meetings 2020

This list will be updated as members choose their books.

Monday January 27th - Carla's choice, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, Marg hosting.

Monday February 24th -  Betty's choice, Educated by Tara Westover, Janet hosting.

Monday March 23rd - Janet's choice, Bush Runner: The Adventures of Pierre-Esprit Radisson by Mark Bourrie, Carla hosting.

Monday April 27th -  Marg's choice, Jane hosting.

Monday May 25th -  Linda's choice, The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman, Shirley hosting.

Monday June 22nd - Beth's choice, Linda hosting.

Monday September 28th - Colette's choice, Michèle hosting

Monday October 26th - Jane's choice,  Betty hosting

Monday November 23rd - Shirley's choice, Beth hosting.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Meeting of October 28, 2019

Our October meeting was hosted by Shirley. Present were Betty, Colette, Jane, Janet, Linda, Marg, Michèle and of course, Shirley.  As usual we ate very well. Shirley presented us with a menu inspired by the three sisters of the Fall Harvest,  pickled green beans enrobed in prosciutto, a wonderful corn and cheese dip with corn chips, and for dessert, a pumpkin (squash) & carrot cake with a divine cream cheese icing!  Of course wine and tea were also served.

This month we discussed Jane's book choice Starlight by Richard Wagamese.  He was a Canadian Ojibwe author and journalist.  He wrote several novels and books that could be considered as memoirs or books reflecting on life.  His most noted novel is Indian Horse which was adapted to film.  Starlight was his last novel, a continuation of Medicine Walk that we read in 2014.  Richard Wagamese died in March 2017 before finishing Starlight. His literary agent and the publisher McLelland & Stewart, opted to publish with little editing and as is unfinished,  the story ends abruptly, letting the reader wondering what happened.

As Medicine Walk, everyone loved the book.  We found his writing poetic, descriptive and strangely calming and touching.  Many of us did not want the book to end, slowing our reading down so it would last longer.  A continuation of Medicine Walk, the old man has died and left his farm to the young boy he raised, Frank Starlight.  Frank has hired a man, Roth, to help on the farm and they become friends.  We meet Emmy and her daughter Winnie when Frank rescues them in town and brings them home to live with him.

Frank has become a well-known photographer. At the beginning of the book he describes Frank Starlight's night outing to photograph a pack of wolves.  His description of Frank running with the wolves leaves us breathless.
He ran easily. Like a wolf. He bent closer to the ground and loped, the slide of his feet skimming through the low-lying brush without a sound, and when he found the pace of the pack he angled off through the trees and took a parallel tack to them, keep them on his right and dodging the pine and spruce easily, his night eyes sharpened by use. He ran with them, the scuttling pace easy after the first three hundred yards. (page17)
The main characters, Frank himself who we knew from Medicine Walk, Emmy and Roth are well developed, we easily understand the relationship between them.  Cadotte, the man Emmy was running from gives us shivers, "He was a brute and he simmered in a palpable silence and stillness that could fill a room with its sweeping malevolence." (page 11)

None of us found the abrupt ending disappointing.  We could each of us, imagine how it ended and thinking back to Mr. Wagamese's other novels, it is likely that the story ended well.  We are all sad that no other novels will come from this wonderful storyteller and writer.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Macmillan Publishers embargo on eBooks

In response to recent coverage of Macmillan Publishers eBook embargo for libraries, it’s important to recognize the impact on libraries like ours, the Ottawa Public Library, which serves almost 238,000 active members in our community. 

Digital content is fast becoming the preferred - or only - access to books for many readers. A single copy of a new title in eBook format for a period of two months is not sufficient nor is it acceptable. In some instances, this embargo will force readers to wait a year or more to borrow an eBook.  

Readers and other Book Clubs are invited to join us in urging Macmillan to reverse their new policy by joining the #eBooksForAll campaign.  Visit to ensure access to information and content for all here in the Ottawa area.
Libraries bring together authors, publishers, teachers, and readers for the purpose of boosting knowledge, creativity, literacy, ideas, and imagination.  We need more people reading, not barriers that limit access. 
Muse & Views BookClub

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Meeting of September 23rd 2019

Our September meeting was hosted by Linda. We spent a wonderful half hour catching up on our activities over the summer. Present were Beth, Betty, Carla, Colette, Janet, Linda, Marg, Michèle and Shirley.  There was a nice variety of cheese, sausage and crackers along with of course, wine, coffee and tea and Linda had two types of cheesecake!

This month we discussed Colette's book choice, The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett, a classic detective mystery. Dashiell Hammett is often considered as the "dean" of hard-boiled detective fiction. He began writing when he worked for the Pinkerton National Detective Agency.  He wrote not only novels, but also short stories and was a screenwriter.  He was a political activist and did prison time for refusing to name members of the communist party.

Most members enjoyed the book.  The Maltese Falcon was originally published as a serial in the magazine The Black Mask.  Sam Spade the main character and detective re-appeared in lesser known novels but became well known when the movie came out and Humphrey Bogart played Sam Spade. The style of the book read very much like a a script.  There is considerable description of the environment, what rooms look like, the style of a car, the clothes characters wore, how they held a cigarette, how they wore a hat.  There is very little about the thoughts or emotions of the characters themselves.

A couple of our members did not enjoy the book as much and though it was published in 1931, felt that women were type cast and not at all equal to the male characters.

Members however, appreciated reading a classic detective story giving us some context for more modern novels of the same nature.  

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Six Degrees of Separation from Three Women to Blood Letting and Miraculous Cures

Three Women 
Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus Far From the Madding Crowd The Woman in White Perfume: The Story of a Murderer The High Mountains of Portugal Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures

Starter Book – Three Women by Lisa Taddeo is the true story of the sex lives of three American women within long-term and short-term relationships, some as short as one night of passion.

Our first link will have to be Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray. This is a non-fiction account of how women and men view relationships (very differently) and the importance of sex in a relationship. 

If we continue on the theme of sexual relationships, we find a classic, Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy, the story of Bathsheba Everdene, a woman farmer, and the three suitors she attracts from neighbouring estates and villages – the farmer, the soldier and the devoted shepherd. Hardy describes the rural life and passionate sexual relationships between Miss Everdene and her suitors.

Going from a very modern book, to a ‘guide on relationships’, to a classic, we stick with classics and link next with The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, a classic gothic horror story, including madness and intrigue.

Many who have read Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind see it also as a horror story and a descent into madness. Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born in the slums of Paris with the gift of a sublime sense of smell. As he learns the trade of perfumer he becomes obsessed in finding the ‘ultimate perfume’ created from the scent of a young virgin. Perfume can be seen as a story far from reality - Grenouille was born under a stall at a market, spent part of his life in a cave in France’s deserted Cévennes region, then his search and obsession for the ultimate scent. 

Yann Martel’s The High Mountains of Portugal with three incredulous stories is also far from reality. Three linked stories, each told separately almost like novellas, take us through Portugal in the 1930’s to modern day Portugal in the 1980’s. Written as fables, you must suspend your search for logic and reality to fully appreciate these stories.

Going to another book of linked stories, this one well grounded in reality, is Vincent Lam’s Blood Letting and Miraculous Cures which takes the reader through twelve interconnected stories following four young doctors through the challenges of medical school and the world of practice and hospitals.

This meme has been quite a challenge since the list of books read by Muse & Views Book Club that have not been used is getting shorter and shorter! 

If you would like to see how others have composed the Six Degrees go to Books are my Favourite .

Friday, September 6, 2019

Six Degrees of Separation from A Gentleman in Moscow to A Widow for One Year

A Gentleman in Moscow

 An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth Flee, Fly, Flown The Rosie Effect (Don Tillman, #2)
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont A Widow for One Year

This month’s starter book, A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, was read in 2018 by our Muse and Views Book Club and was declared the favourite of the year. The book tells the story of an aristocrat, Count Rostov, who is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol Hotel across the square from the Kremlin. The Count’s life changes drastically as he now lives in an attic room with limited resources and limited entertainments. He proves up to the task and with astounding ingenuity becomes fully integrated in the workings of the hotel.

So with the thought of ‘ingenuity’ in mind, we first link to a very Canadian book, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me about Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything by Colonel Chris Hatfield. In this first-person account of becoming an astronaut, Hatfield explains how conventional wisdom can get in the way of achievement-and happiness.

So perhaps we can stick with a bit of the unconventional as well as a bit of ingenuity with our next link of Flee, Fly, Flown by Janet Hepburn. This is the story of two funny, brave women, Lillian and Audrey, as they hatch a plot to escape from the Tranquil Meadows Nursing Home. As both ladies are beginning to have memory problems, the mental contortions necessary to make their escape are definitely entertaining.

Another book that entails some mental contortions was The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion. This book is a follow-on to The Rosie Project and once again we find Don Tilman wrestling with life as he sees it through the eyes of someone with Aspergers Syndrome. As Rosie is now pregnant, Don has a lot to process in his own, somewhat unconventional way.

The relationship of Don and Rosie bring to mind that of Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali in Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonsson. Major Pettigrew is the quintessential Englishman who believes in honour, duty, decorum, and a properly brewed cup of tea while Mrs. Ali will always be viewed by the community as the foreigner. They were brought together by their shared love of literature and the loss of their respective spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship blossoming into something more.

In Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor, the recently widowed Mrs. Palfrey arrives at the Claremont Hotel where she will spend her remaining days. Along with her eccentric and endlessly curious fellow residents, they fight off their twin enemies - boredom and the Grim Reaper. Then one day Mrs. Palfrey strikes up an unexpected friendship with Ludo, a handsome young writer, and learns that even the old can fall in love.

And for our last link, we go to A Widow for One Year by John Irving. This a multilayered love story of astonishing emotional force about the passage of time and the relentlessness of grief.

Our links have passed from ingenuity to mental gymnastics to falling in love and the passage of time, all with books read by the Muse and Views Book Club since 1998. A Widow for One Year was the first book read by the group.

If you would like to see how others have composed their Six Degrees, go to Books are My Favourite

Friday, August 2, 2019

Six Degrees of Separation from Family Matters to Call the Midwife

Family Matters

Such a Long Journey The City of Joy. Dominique Lapierre The Poisonwood Bible
Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots The Red Tent Call the Midwife (The Midwife Trilogy, #1)

We begin this month where we finished the July Six Degrees of Separation with Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry. In this book, 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.

The easiest link is to another book by the same author, so we go to Such a Long Journey which was Rohinton Mistry’s first novel published in 1991. He had previously published a book of short stories in 1989. It is the story of a family man who struggles to keep his family out of poverty during political turmoil in India. Trying to find ways to keep his family together he finds himself drawn into government corruption. 

Staying in the same country City of Joy written by Dominique Lapierre takes place in the slums of Calcutta. In this book, a young Polish priest lives as a missionary with the people of the slums, a farmer and his family who move to Calcutta for a better life after their farm is ruined by drought, a young American doctor comes to the City of Joy to save as many lives as possible and local residents of the slums sacrifice everything to help the priest and the doctor.

If we concentrate on the religious mission, we can go to The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. This is the story of an evangelical Baptist Nathan Price who takes his family on a mission in the Belgian Congo. 

Nathan Price in The Poisonwood Bible tries to rule his family of daughters with religious fervour. We find a similar atmosphere in the memoir of a young woman trapped in the traditions of the sect of Hasidic Judaism in Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of my Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman.

Staying with the religious theme and the struggles of women in religious fervour, we can leap to The Red Tent by Anita Diamant that chronicles the story of Dinah, the only daughter of Jacob and his four wives. Dinah is supported and loved by Jacob’s four wives as they sustain her through her hard-working youth. It is a different and enlightened look at the biblical women’s society.

Dinah, in The Red Tent follows her calling into midwifery. So our last link can be to Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth. This popular story is of a young trainee midwife in London in the 1950’s. It became a popular BBC television series. 

Beginning in India and going to Africa, America, the Bible and finishing in England we have travelled the world in this month’s Six Degrees, all books read by the Muse & Views Book Club.

If you would like to see the Six Degrees meme go to Kate W's blog .