Friday, October 26, 2012

Books and Meetings in 2013

This list will be updated as members choose their books.

Monday January 28, 2013 - Betty's choice, Still Alice by Lisa Genova, Janet hosting

Monday February 25, 2013 - Janet's choice, Alone in the Classroom by Elizabeth Hay, Betty hosting

Monday March 25, 2013 - Jolene's choice, The Help by Kathryn Stockett, Carla hosting.

Monday April 22, 2013 - Michèle's choice Rules of Civility by Amor Towles, Jane hosting

Monday May 27, 2013 - Linda's choice, No Time to Wave Goodbye by Jacquelyn Mitchard, Michèle hosting

Monday June 24, 2013 - Beth's  choice The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, Linda hosting

Monday September 23, 2013 - Shirley's choice, Deafening by Frances Itani, Janet hosting

Monday October 28, 2013 - Jane's book choice, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie, Michèle hosting

Monday November 25, 2013 - Carla's book choice,  Little Bee by Chris Cleave, Beth hosting

Meeting of October 22, 2012

This meeting was hosted by Shirley.  Present were Betty, Carla, Colette, Jane, Janet, Jolene, Linda, Michèle et of course Shirley. Shirley had some lovely English cheese, spicy lamb sausage with mint sauce and a wonderful chutney, wine of course, coffee and tea.  And she had a sublime dessert, pots de crème citronée.  The recipe is at the end of this post.

The book discussed this month is Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by author Helen Simonson.  Ms. Simonson, originally from England lives in Brooklyn, New York.  This is her first novel.  Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is a story of a retired gentleman, Major Pettigrew and the clash between the traditional and sometimes rigid values and customs of a small English village and the new modern England.  Major Pettigrew, the vicar and his wife, other original residents members of the village golf club and the local manor owner seem to live in the past, shooting parties, restricted membership at the golf club and little connection to the new ethnic Brits who are moving into the village.  The Major's son Roger, his girlfriend and the younger generation have no respect for tradition.  The balance is further upset when Major Pettigrew's friendship with Mrs. Ali, the owner of a local shop and a British born of Pakistani origin grows to a love interest.  He finds himself torn between his traditional values and customs and his growing concern for the disdain his friends and neighbours have for those unlike themselves.

We all enjoyed the book and found it to be a good sumer read. The characters are well-developed, we can picture not only the main characters such as Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali but minor characters such as his neighbour who "steals" some of his plants and participates in the protests against shooting parties, Mrs. Ali's nephew who has decided he must follow the traditions of his Pakistani origins.  Many of the characters are given exaggerated personalities that highlight the perceived negative characteristics of traditional Brits, immigrant families who refuse to moderate their traditions and customs inappropriate to modern day England and younger generations such as Roger, the Major's son who is obsessed with climbing the corporate ladder, exploiting all connections.

We had a discussion about racism.  Core values, cultures, religion and/or life style are so different.  Is it  just racism or a lack of flexibility and knowledge that keep people from understanding and accepting the differences?  We saw the lack of acceptance not only amongst the people of the village but also in the actions of Mrs. Ali's family.

Some thought that the second part of the book lacked structure and felt that some of incidents were not plausible.  However others liked the predictability and that you could telegraph what would happen.  The incidents at the annual golf club gala were easy to predict and Major Pettigrew's paralyzing non-action when Mrs. Ali is humiliated is evident.  He well knows that the actions of his neighbours and friends are inappropriate but he is unable to react appropriately right away.

We all knew that the decision the young couple Abdul and Amina made to live separate lives was wise and we all wondered if Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali's relationship would survive the differences in their culture and the reactions of neighbours and family.

A good choice Jane. Thank you!

Here is the recipe for Shirley's sublime dessert from the book "Three Chefs, the Kitchen Men" by Michael Bonacini, Massimo Capra and Jason Parsons.   A White Cap Madison Press Book. 

Pot de crème citronée avec petits fruits

2 1/4 cups of whipping cream
2/3 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of lemon juice

In a medium pot, combine the cream and sugar and bring them to a simmer, stirring  until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice.  Pour the mixture into 6 ramekins or bowls  and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Garnish with fresh berries, mint and a bit of icing sugar.

It takes less than 15 minutes to prepare and is absolutely sublime!  I have made it already for company and it was a big hit. Thanks Shirley. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Meeting of September 24, 2012

This meeting was hosted by Jolene.  Present were Beth, Betty, Carla, Jolene, Linda, Michèle and Shirley.  Jolene made a lovely ham and cheese pastry roll.  The book discussed this month's was Shirley's choice Left Neglected by Lisa Genova.  Ms. Genova who is a neuroscientist, has written two other novels, all related to the functions of the brain,  Still Alice whose main character has Alzheimers and Love Anthony about an autistic child.

Left Neglected is the story of Sarah and her family and how they cope with a neuropsychological condition she is left with after a car accident.  Left neglected is a condition in which deficit in attention to and awareness of one side of space is observed.  Sarah and her husband are type A personalities and organize their life in a "type A atmosphere" with three children, two homes and plenty of activities scheduled around their high-powered work lives.  When Sarah has a car accident, her husband tries to continue the same lifestyle with the help of Sarah's mother.  Sarah in a rehabilitation centre and with physiotherapists tries to get back all her physical and psychological abilities so she can jump back into their type "A" lives.

Generally the book was enjoyed by all members.  We all felt that Ms. Genova's medical background made the description of the condition and its impact very realistic and the rehabilitation Sarah had to go through credible.  However we also found the writing style a bit choppy and the stream of consciousness with Sarah was sometimes too much.  This can be because of Ms. Genova's scientific background and better editing could have corrected it.

There were several relationships that were well developed, Sarah and her mother, Sarah and her son Charlie, her relationship with her therapists.  Hoewever, some of us would have liked to see better development of Sarah's relationship with her husband Bob.  All found that Ms Genova's desciption of their family life before Sarah's accident was well done and gave us a good picture of life on a treadmill.  Ms. Genova also did a very good job of describing Sarah's difficulities coping with the limitations her condition caused, the step by step therapy she experienced and the humbling experiences she went through because of her condition.  A good example of this is their night out to their favourite restaurant to celebrate their anniversary.

The story has a happy ending and though some of us thought the end of the story was too quickly wrapped up, most were particularly pleased to have read a book with a happy ending!

Linda reminded us that a lesson learned from this story is that we must all appreciate what is important in life and not neglect our family, friends, and the life around us.  She has given us a challenge for our next meeting to report back about at least one thing we have done that we keep putting off that would give us or someone else some satisfaction.

Another book was suggested for those who would like to read on similar topics, My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor.

Thank you Shirley for an interesting read!