Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Meeting of May 28, 2018

The May meeting of Muse & Views was hosted by Shirley.  Present were Carla, Colette, Jane, Janet, Linda, Michèle, Sharon and Shirley. Shirley prepared a wonderful picnic for us with vegetable, cheese and salami skewers and tea chicken sandwiches.  For dessert she prepared her wonderful lemon pot de crème (you can find the recipe here at the end of the post) and she presented wonderful "picnic cookies" made by a friend.  Of course we had the usual wine and tea.

This month's book presented by Linda was Flee, Fly, Flown by Janet Hepburn.  Ms. Hepburn is a Canadian poet and author. This is her first novel.   She comes from Port Dover, Ontario,  the best place in Ontario for fish and chips according to two of our members!

The story is about two elderly women, Lillian and Audrey who live with Alzheimers in a home for seniors in Ottawa.  Lillian is particularly tired of the boring life she lives, everything being a routine from when she can eat, what she can eat, when she can sleep and even when, as she says, she can poop!  They decide together to go on a vacation and plot how they will get out without being noticed, how they can get a car and money.  Once they have a car, it does not take them long to realize that they have no way of knowing how to get out of the city and what road to take to eventually get to the west coast.  They meet a young homeless man and Audrey convinces him to drive them west.  The story is their adventures as they drive out towards the mountains.

It does not happen often that everyone loves a book we read.  We all felt that the main characters, Lillian, Audrey and the young man Rayne as they call him are well developed.  Several parts of the book are Lillian's thoughts, her struggles to concentrate and remember who she is with, where she is and what she must remember.  She keeps a notebook and writes in notes to hopefully help her, "vacation", "taxi phone number", anything that she think will help jog her memory.  It was a realistic portrayal of thoughts helping us understand what is in a person's head, it was well done.

There were some parts that made us giggle, many parts and the book in general that made us sad.  There were some very poignant periods. As we each talked about our impressions of the book, most of us could relate to the story because of persons we knew who are or had lived with dementia.  It is evident that it is quite prevalent in today's society and since the "baby boomers" are now pretty well over 60, it will become more relevant to us all.

Many of us reflected on the life we subject our seniors to in homes.  We discussed different innovative living arrangements that are being tried here in Canada and elsewhere.  In the Netherlands there is Hogeweyk, a "dementia village" that allows clients with dementia to have a more normal life while still being properly supervised.

An excellent choice Linda, one that we all liked and one that gave us the opportunity for discussion.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Six Degrees of Separation from The Poisonwood Bible to A Town Like Alice

The Poisonwood Bible - Kingsolver, Barbara
Out of Africa - Dinesen, Isak   Chocolat - Harris, Joanne    A Year in Provence - Mayle, Peter    Under the Tuscan Sun - Mayes, Frances Random Passage - Morgan, Bernice   A Town Like Alice - Shute, Nevil

The starter book this month is The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. This is a book our club read in 2001 and still holds the title for most divisive book we have read. It was an equally divided group with half loving the book and the other half just as vehemently hating it.
This is the story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. It is the tale of one family’s tragic undoing and reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.  

Considering links that would take the main characters to other countries with the resultant effects on themselves or the new country, we might follow The Poisonwood Bible with Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen. 

Out of Africa is Isak Dinesen's memoir of her years in Africa, from 1914 to 1931, on a four-thousand-acre coffee plantation in the hills near Nairobi. She had come to Kenya from Denmark with her husband, and when they separated she stayed on to manage the farm by herself.  Her account of her African adventures was written after she had lost her beloved farm and returned to Denmark.

Then on to France with Chocolat by Joanne Harris. This is a timeless novel of a straitlaced village's awakening to joy and sensuality - every page offers a description of chocolate to melt in the mouths of chocoholics, francophiles, armchair gourmets, cookbook readers, and lovers of passion everywhere. The book illuminates Peter Mayle's South of France with a touch of Laura Esquivel's magic realism. 

Speaking of Peter Mayle, we might link to his humorous book, A Year in Provence. In this book, the British Peter Mayle moves into a 200-year-old stone farmhouse in the remote country of the Lubéron with his wife and two large dogs. He endures January's frosty mistral as it comes howling down the Rhône Valley, discovers the secrets of goat racing through the middle of town, and delights in the glorious regional cuisine.  

And in the spirit of A Year in Provence, we might link up with Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes. The American Frances Mayes entered a wondrous new world when she began restoring an abandoned villa in the spectacular Tuscan countryside. There were unexpected treasures at every turn: faded frescos beneath the whitewash in her dining room, a vineyard under wildly overgrown brambles in the garden, and, in the nearby hill towns, vibrant markets and delightful people.  

The next linking change of country might be found in Random Passage by Bernice Morgan. Forced to flee England, the Andrews family books passage to a fresh start in a distant country, only to discover a barren, inhospitable land at the end of their crossing. As the ‘distant country’ was Canada and the barren, inhospitable land was the east coast of Newfoundland, it was a particularly interesting read for our Canadian book club. 

Changing countries again, A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute follows its enterprising heroine from the Malayan jungle during World War II to the rugged Australian outback.

And thus we travel through the Belgian Congo to Kenya, to the south of France, to Italy, the east coast of Canada, the Malayan jungle and the Australian outback, all with books our club has read.

If you wish to read the memes of other contributors you can go to Six Degrees of Separation 

Meeting of April 23rd, 2018

The April meeting of Muse & Views Bookclub was hosted by Jane at Colette's home.  Present were Colette, Janet, Linda, Michèle, and Shirley.  Jane though she could not attend, provided us with very nice cheese from Québec, pickled vegetables and turkey sausage and of course wine.  Colette provided a very nice dessert, coffee and tea.

This month we discussed Michèle's book choice Kamouraska by the Québec author Anne Hébert. Born in 1916, in Sainte Catherine de Fossambault, about 40 km north-east of Québec City  Anne Hébert was the eldest of four children. Her father was a civil servant, of acadian descent.  Her maternal grandfather, Eugène Étienne Taché was the architect of Québec parliament buildings.  His grandfather was Lord Achille Taché of Kamouraska.  

Anne Hébert, in international French literature is a well known and respected author. She wrote 10 novels,  poetry,  plays and a book of short stories.  She also wrote 8 film scripts including those for Kamouraska and Les Fous de Bassan. She won 20 literary prizes in Canada and France including the Governor General’s Literary Award for poetry and fiction and the Prix Fémina in 1982 one of France’s most prestigious prizes for her novel Les Fous de Bassan.  Kamouraska, Les Fous de Bassan and a short story, Le Tourent were made into films.  

Kamouraska is based on a true story of the murder of Le Seigneur (Lord) Achille Taché of Kamouraska in 1839 by an American doctor George Holmes who was in love with Taché’s wife Éleonore d’Estimauville.  Anne Hébert took this fact  from her family history and created what many of us saw as a gothic novel about a young woman, Elizabeth who married a brute of man when she was 15, conspired to kill him with her lover doctor who was a childhood friend of her husband. The book begins with Elizabeth at the death bed of her second husband Monsieur Rolland.  He is afraid to be alone with her, he knows what happened to her first husband.  Elizabeth relives her life through nightmares and her thoughts.  

Most of us found this novel a difficult read.  One member felt she was in a nightmare belonging to someone else.  Beth gave a good description of how she read the book and many of us felt the same. "There’s the sense of isolation in the narrator’s painful, horrific experiences and frustrations, and the claustrophobia of the endless swirling vortex of her memories, nightmarish fears and justifications.  We keep trying to decipher what really happened.  We also keep trying to decide how we feel about her.  It’s a very vivid picture of the remote place and society as she experiences it, but exhausting and bitter to read.  Seems to me like a gothic novel  -  sort of like Wuthering Heights. "

We all found the novel frustrating to read, difficult to understand in some parts but as Carla said, "the book was well written and the nightmarish quality had a great affect on us as readers."