Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Meeting of January 29th, 2018

As we begin the 20th year of our Muse and Views Book Club, we met at Colette’s to discuss Still Life by Louise Penny. Attending were Jane, Janet, Shirley, Colette and our newest member, Sharon (Welcome to Muse and Views, Sharon!), plus Michèle and Linda who Skyped in to join the discussion. In keeping with the theme of the book, Colette served an array of Québec cheeses, stuffed mushrooms, and croissants followed by home-made mini lemon tarts, fit for any boulangerie.
The author, Louise Penny, came to writing later in life, having previously been a journalist with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Her husband, Michael, who she describes as ‘kindly, thoughtful, generous, a man of courage and integrity, who both loved and accepted love’, was her inspiration for Armand Gamache. She lives outside a small village south of Montréal, quite close to the American border, and has used the Eastern Townships for the setting of her imagined village of Three Pines and the Inspector Gamache series.
Still Life is Louise Penny’s debut novel and has garnered a number of awards; her subsequent books continue to win accolades. In 2013, she was made a Member of the Order of Canada "for her contributions to Canadian culture as an author shining a spotlight on the Eastern Townships of Quebec”. She has been compared to Agatha Christie in her writing style which features many hallmarks of the British whodunit genre, including murders by unconventional means, bucolic villages, large casts of suspects, red herrings, and a dramatic disclosure of the murderer in the last few pages of the book.
Although all felt that the book was an ‘easy read’, our reviews were mixed. The devices and red herrings used in the book seemed too obvious. Some felt that character development was weak however one of the members, who had read the entire series, explained that the characters do fully develop over the series.
The description of the very rural village of Three Pines was well done as was most instances of family dynamics. Meanwhile, the conversation Inspector Gamache had with Ben about the dwindling rights of Anglophones in Québec was off-putting and definitely one-sided. The portrayal of Gabri and Olivier, the gay owners of the bistro and bed and breakfast, was felt to be rudely stereotypical.
This month’s book discussion was as lively as usual and reading a Canadian author is never a bad thing.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Six degrees of separation -No. 1 Detective Agency to The Kite Runner

Okay, here is where Shirley went with this one - to Africa:

Starting book is No. 1 Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. From Goodreads: “Precious Ramotswe has only just set up shop as Botswana's No.1 (and only) lady detective when she is hired to track down a missing husband, uncover a con man, and follow a wayward daughter. However, the case that tugs at her heart, and lands her in danger, is a missing eleven-year-old boy, who may have been snatched by witchdoctors.”

Also set in Africa, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun tells the tale of Biafra’s struggle to establish an independent republic in Nigeria in the 1960’s.

Moving to Kenya, Unbowed by Wangari Maathai, recounts her extraordinary life as a political activist, feminist, and environmentalist in Kenya.

On to Somalia, Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Infidel is the story of one woman’s struggle to escape an arranged and forced marriage and assert her independence.

Staying in Somalia, A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout is her personal story of being abducted in Somalia, held hostage and her daring escape.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseini is a chronicle of thirty years of Afghan history and story of family, friendship, faith, and the salvation to be found in love.

Also by Khalid Hosseini, The Kite Runner is the unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant set in Afghanistan.

And thus, the Muse and Views books linked by place setting only.

If you would like to see what other participants have posted go to Six Degrees of Separation