Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Meeting of October 27, 2014

This month's book choice Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese was Jane's choice. Colette is hosting and present were Beth, Colette, Jane, Janet, Jolene, Linda, Michèle and Shirley.  Colette had some wonderful hors d'oeuvres, meatballs, cucumber slices with herbed yogurt and smoked salmon, puffed pastry squares with caramelized onions and a wonderful raspberry pie made by Dan.

The story is about a 16 year old boy Frank of aboriginal descent who lives on a small farm with an "old man". Frank's father Eldon left him at the farm when he was one week old. The "old man" raises Frank as if he was his own son also taking care to teach him as much as he can of the traditions coming from his aboriginal roots. Throughout Frank's young life, his father appears every once in a while, always disappointing him. When Frank is 16 his father sends for him.  He is dying and he wants to be buried as an Objibway warrior sitting upright facing east and he has a particular place on a cliff overlooking a valley where he would like to be buried. He asks that young Frank take him there. Frank sees this journey as his responsibility and as they journey towards the cliff, his father tells him the story of his life and the circumstances of Frank's birth.

Jane begins the meeting by explaining to us the four sacred medicines, sweetgrass, sage, cedar and tobacco, their significance and their use.  Jane also gave us a graphic of the The Seven Grandfather Teachings  that is often used to teach the traditions and ways of aboriginal people.  We each left with a small pouch of tobacco that she prepared for us.

Richard Wagamese is Objibway originally from Northern Ontario.  He now lives in British Columbia. He is a journalist, having written many articles and books.  Medicine Walk is his 11th book. He has recently written an essay Speaking My Truth  in which he explains the impact Residential Schools has had on his life.

Everyone enjoyed the book and found it very well written.  The descriptions allow us to "see" the scenes, "smell" the woods, the farm, the taverns and the description of the journey toward Eldon's final burial allows you to travel with them.  The landscape becomes a character, it is a part of everything in the story. The prose is beautiful, with a rhythm that is not rushed. We sense and understand the ravages that Eldon's alcoholism has on his life and on Frank's, the complications it brings to their father/son relationship.  Those of us who have recently lost a parent, found Frank's observations of the ravages of illness on his father particularly poignant and sad.

This was an excellent choice, thank you Jane.

Books and Meetings in 2015

The list will be updated as members choose their books.

Monday January 26th - Betty's book choice, The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman, Betty hosting at Colette's

Monday February 23rd - Carla's book choice,  The Pearl that broke its Shell by Nadia Hashimi, Janet hosting

Monday March 23rd - Jolene's book choice, An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything, Chris Hadfield, Carla hosting

Monday April 27th - Michèle's book choice, Ru by Kim Thùy, Jane hosting at Colette's 

Monday May 25th - Linda's book choice, Tell by Frances Itani, Michèle hosting

Monday June 22nd - Beth's book choice, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark, Linda hosting

Monday September 28th - Colette's book choice, Us Conductors by Sean Michaels. Jolene hosting

Monday October 26th - Jane's book choice, All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Colette hosting

Monday November 23rd - Shirley's book choice, The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli. Beth hosting

Friday, October 17, 2014

Meeting of September 22, 2014

The first book of our Fall season is The Orenda by Joseph Boyden, Colette choice.  Jolene is hosting and present are Carla, Colette, Jane, Janet, Jolene, Michèle and Shirley.  Jolene prepared salmon roll-up sandwiches with quinoa, maple cheddar cheese and a wonderful bison and foie gras pâté among other goodies, wine of course, coffee and tea.

Each year CBC has a Canada Reads competition to determine the Book of the Year. This year the theme was "One novel to change our Nation" and The Orenda that was defended by Wab Kinew, a journalist and aboriginal activist, won.

Joseph Boyden, born in 1966 in Toronto is of Irish and Métis descent.  He was educated at York University and now teaches part time at York and at the University of New Orleans. The Orenda is his third novel. His novel Through Spruce Black won the Giller Prize in 2008.  The Orenda is set in the 17th century in what is now Ontario and Québec and recounts the beginning of French colonization and the downfall of the Wendat-Huron Nation.  The story is told through the eyes of three people, Bird a Wendat warrior, Snowfall a Haudenosaunee girl adopted by bird and Christophe a Jesuit missionary (character based on canonized martyr Jean-de-Brébeuf).  The novel details the interactions of these three characters with the French.

All who read it found that the book was well worth reading.  Not only was it very well written, it also had well developed characters and a rhythm between the three voices thoughout the story.  All thought that there are some very violent scenes described in the book and some read quickly through those passages finding they were hard to read, but none felt that the depiction of the violence was an unnecessary part of the story. The novel also chronicles the impact of disease on the tribes brought by the colonizers and the impact of droughts on crops and the survival of villages.

The Orenda received some very positive reviews, touted as a classic and must read to understand part of Canada's early history.  Some however have criticized it saying that it gives a skewed vision of aboriginal nations as savages.  We all felt that it is certainly worth reading and an important book in English Canadian literature.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Meeting of June 23, 2014

We are discussing Linda's choice this month A Man called Intrepid by William Stevenson. Linda is hosting at Shirley's home. Present are Betty, Carla, Colette, Jane, Jolene, Linda, Michèle and Shirley. Pinwheel sandwiches, British cheese and a wonderful chocolate cake with ice cream and strawberries is served with of course wine, coffee and tea.

It is important to distinguish between the author of this book, Bill Stevenson and the Intrepid himself, William Stephenson. William Stephenson was born William Stranger in Winnipeg and took his adopted parents' name Stephenson.  Bill Stevenson was a British born author who met the Intrepid while training as a pilot in Canada.

The book, published in 1976 is a bit of a biography of William Stephenson but much more an account of the creation of the world's first coordinated Secret Intelligence Service by Winston Churchill and how its first chief, William Stephenson, operated.  It documents how the BSC (British Security Coordination) was able to get from Poland the German's Enigma Coding machine and was then able to obtain information about the German tactics and many other operations that eventually helped the Allies win WW II.  It also documents the creation of a training centre in Ontario near Oshawa.

We learn about campaigns such as Dieppe that Allies knew would be a massacre but that it was a means to an end. We learn about how so many people at first did not understand what Hitler was doing.

Everyone enjoyed the book especially since we learned a lot about World War II secret campaigns and the connections between Britain and Canada during the War and also the connections between British and Canadian Secret Intelligence Services after the war.