Thursday, October 27, 2011

Meeting of October 24th 2011

Our host for this month was Shirley.  Present along with Shirley were Beth, Carla, Colette, Jane, Jolene, Linda and Michèle.  Shirley served wonderful sausage, chorizo and a sweet sausage with an apple chutney.  She also served apple quesadilla and cream cheese and crab quesadilla.  She had a wonderful fruit dessert with vanilla ice cream.  Very nice.

The book choice this month presented by Jane was Sanctuary Line by Jane Urquhart.  Ms. Urquhart is a Canadian writer and this is her 8th novel.  She has also written 4 books of poetry, edited a Book of Canadian Short Stories and a biography of L.M. Montgomery.  In 2001 she was nominated for the Giller Prize for The Stone Carvers.  The Book Club read it in 2006.

In Sanctuary Line, the narrator Liz Crane is an entomologist who specializes in monarch butterflies.  Jane who is a member of the Monarch Teacher Network, gave us an enthusiastic explanation of the life of a monarch butterfly and its migration patterns from Canada to Mexico.  She also explained the goals of the Monarch Teacher Network in using monarchs as a learning tool in science, geography, about change and the need to use our environment responsibly.

Most members liked the book, however found it slow at the beginning and found it difficult to settle into the book. There are several themes in the book, migration, immigration, cultural differences, oppression of migrant workers among others.  As in The Stone Carvers Ms. Urquhart is very good at describing landscape.  There is a definite sense of place in her books.  The story of Sanctuary Line takes place mainly in south western Ontario along the shores of Lake Erie.  Those of us who know the area could easily imagine it and others could easily picture the flat farm lands of the area and the shoreline of the lake.  She has given fictitious names to many locales but the area was still quite identifiable.

The book has a melancholy feel to it and memories of loss and tragedy are what moves the plot along.  Many of Liz's  memories of her summers on the farm with her aunt and uncle describe awkward experiences such as her uncle's attempt to have all square dance, the tension between Uncle Stanley and Aunt Sadie palpable, especially when Stanley urges Teo and his mother to join.  The visits to the old school where Uncle Stanley once taught have a very melancholy feel.  Stories from the past that Stanley recites are often tragic, the barn fire, the Butler lighthouse keepers.  One member noted that none of the "couple" relationships lasted, Stanley and Sadie,  Stanley and Dolores, Mandy and Vahil and Liz herself and Teo.

Some members like the ending and other did not.  However, all in all, we all felt it was a good choice. Thank you Jane.


  1. I sent my comments to Shirley but I am not sure she shared them. I nicknamed this book "Five quarters of the apple" as I thought it was similar in style to "Five Quarters of the Orange". It had the same approach: from the very start refer to some great event and build the whole book towards giving the answer to the mystery in the last few pages. Both books move rather slowly to the conclusion and take many twists and turns. While it was not my favourite style of writing, I did learn lots about monarch butterflies and Mexican migrant workers.

  2. I finally finished the book and even though I sort of knew how it ended by the conversation at our meeting, I still enjoyed it tremendously. Janet' I am not sure I agree with you about it being a similar style to "Five Quarters of the Orange". For me the Joanne Harris books read more like doomed fairy tales. I think this book is very similar to "A Good House" by Bonnie Burnard. Neither of us were members of the Muse and Views Book Club when Ms. Burnard's book was read but both these books are family saga novels in small town Ontario, about ordinary lives with tragedy intertwined into their lives.



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