Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Meeting of May 29, 2017

This month's meeting has been very special.  Linda's book choice for this month was Matrons and Madams by Her Excellency Sharon Johnston.  Our charming Linda through her connections, got us an invitation to Rideau Hall to meet with Her Excellency in person.  Present were Beth, Betty, Carla, Colette, Jane, Janet, Linda, Shirley and Michèle along with guests we were able to bring with us. We were 23 persons all together, including the original organizer of the Bookclub Marilyn Dow.

Bookclub members and their guests with Her Excellency Sharon Johnston

Muse & Views Bookclub members with Her Excellency Sharon Johnston

Her Excellency Mrs. Johnston was extremely gracious and gave us a lot of information about the research she did to write this historical novel and she read two paragraphs from the book, one about Matron Clara Durling and one about Lily Parsons.  During the discussion we learned that Clara Durling is based on Mrs. Johnston's grandmother who had been the Matron at the Galt Hospital in Lethbridge, Alberta.  Mrs. Johnston did a lot of research in Lethbridge, returning seven times and reading all the minutes of the Board of Governors of the Galt Hospital and newspaper accounts of activities and events that involved the Galt Hospital and the Matron of the hospital.  By reading the minutes she was able to acquire a fair amount of knowledge on the interaction between different board members and Matron Durling.  She was able, for example to better understand the animosity  one particular physician/surgeon had for her grandmother and incorporate this difficult relationship in the novel.

From questions that our members asked we learned that the process of taking this information about her family history and turning it into a historical novel was difficult and sometimes emotionally painful.

We also learned that this is the first of a trilogy of historical novels based on her family history.  The next book will probably be out in the Fall of 2018.  Though Mrs. Johnston was reluctant to go into great detail about the future novels, she did tell us, as we can guess from the end of this novel that the next book will be set in part in residential schools for indigenous children, a difficult and controversial topic in our country.

During the discussion, His Excellency Governor General David Johnston sat down with us for a short while to listen to Mrs. Johnston discuss her novel with us and he also put in his two cents about the research and writing process.

After the discussion, tea, coffee and apple cider along with some wonderful cookies were served and Mrs. Johnston signed her book for members who had a personal copy.  She was very generous with her time and the members and our guests were very appreciative of the time and information she gave us.

The Tent Room

We were afterwards, given a tour of the public rooms of Rideau Hall along with the Monck wing that is not always open to the public. We were also able to visit the Green Houses that are attached to Rideau Hall.  Our tour guide Sophie gave a us excellent history of Rideau Hall as we toured and were able to admire the impressive quantity and quality of Canadian Art that is displayed in the rooms.
Sophie our very informative guide and our Bookclub member Shirley

A bird's eye view of the Green Houses

The Green houses were filled with wonderful plants and flowers, many of them in pots to allow them to be used as decor when special events are held or special guest come to visit.  Their Excellencies Mr. and Mrs. Johnston have several grandchildren and we saw peaking under some plants, dinosaurs hidden by the Governor General himself!

It was an extraordinary meeting of the Muse & Views Bookclub and we thank our member Linda and her friend Norma for organising it for us.  We also thank Her Excellency Sharon Johnston for hosting such a memorable meeting for us.  Lastly of course, this being the home of the Vice-Regal couple of Canada, our member Janet gave us a Royal wave at the end of our meeting!

Janet giving us a Royal wave! 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Six Degrees of Separation from The Slap to The Forgotten Garden

This is the Muse & Views Bookclub participation in this month's Six Degrees of Separation meme.  Three suggestions from our members were discussed at our last meeting and we settled on a combination of Shirley's and Beth's.  All books are part of those read by our Bookclub with the exception of the first book The Slap. 

The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas  is the story where a slap and its consequences force them all to question their own families and the way they live, their expectations, beliefs and desires. It is told from the points of view of eight people who were present at the time of the slap.

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett is the story where a kiss has consequences on two families and is told from the points of view of some of the family members.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. Here the link is the author. This is the story of a South American hostage-taking.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The setting is once again South America and the author uses magical realism to tell his tale.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel. A story that begins in India, also told with magical realism featuring a small boy and a tiger.

Secret Daughter  by Shilpi Somaya Gowda, a story also set partly in India.

TheForgotten Garden by Kate Morton, also about a mother and daughter and their struggle to find their missing history.

Voilà our contribution for this month!