Thursday, February 28, 2019

Meeting of February 25, 2019

The February meeting was hosted by Janet.  We were a small group, Colette, Janet, Marg, Michèle and Shirley.  Janet provided us with a good array of cheese, crackers and smoked salmon and individual pavlovas with whipped cream and beautiful red strawberries from Mexico.

This month's book presented by Janet was On the Up by Canadian author Shilo Jones.  This is his first novel. Mr. Jones worked in several areas and along the way earned a B.F.A. from Simon Fraser University and an M.F.A. from the University of British Columbia.  He lived many years in Vancouver and now lives with his family in Kelowna, B.C.

It is safe to say that this book presents a very different side of Vancouver than that promoted by the Vancouver Tourist Board. Through the three main characters, the brothers Mark and Carl and the young journalist Jasminder it provides a very violent, seedy and criminal picture of the real estate market, mainly condo, of Vancouver or VanCity as it is often referred to by the characters in the book.  Several of the chapters begin with a stream of consciousness rant by one of the characters. The story is filled with scenes of racism, violence, misogyny that Shilo Jones admitted were hard to write but he felt necessary to the story line.

It made the book difficult and for some impossible to read.  It is the first time in the 21 year history of the Muse & Views Bookclub that the majority of our members did not read the book to its conclusion. The book is well written and if you can get through the first two hundred pages, the latter half is easier to read and you become intrigued and those who finished it, say you want to find out what happens.

Janet was brave to assign us this book.  I don't think we will be reading any future novels by Shilo Jones.

At our last meeting we chose, Shirley's book of 2018, A Gentleman in Moscow is the recipient for the first Jolene Bale Award.  We were pleased to present Shirley with the certificate at this month's meeting.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Meeting of February 4, 2019 (replaced January meeting cancelled because of weather)

Our January meeting, held February 4th because of weather, was hosted by Colette.  Present were Betty, Colette, Jane, Marg, Michèle and Shirley.  Colette had a great array of cheese, crackers, a dip and wonderful warm stuffed pastry rolls.  She served a pecan pie for dessert and of course, wine, coffee and tea were also available.

In January of each year we choose the best book of the previous year.  This year A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles presented by Shirley won.  We also awarded the Jolene Bale Award named in honour of our dear friend and original member of the Muse & Views Bookclub who passed away in August 2017.  It also went to Shirley for A Gentleman in Moscow.  Congratulations Shirley!

This month's book presented by Michèle was The Stars are Fire by Anita Shreve.  Ms. Shreve was born in Boston in 1946 and died in March 2018.  This was her last of 19 books.  Muse & Views read one of her most popular books The Pilot's Wife in 2002.

We all agreed that this book is an easy read and most of us wished she had given more information about the fires that are a historical fact.  A few of our members enjoyed the book, one member found it to be almost like a thriller.  Would Grace and Rosie survive the fire huddled in the ocean?  Was Gene dead, would he come back? Would Grace find her mother?  Several of our members found the book a bit like a Harlequin Romance and felt that there were just too many coincidences. When the whole village burnt to the ground, Grace's mother-in-law's house survived. When Grace's daughter became ill, she found a job with the new doctor who treated her daughter.  She found the jewels  hidden in the hems of her mother-in-law's glamorous clothing that permitted her to buy a car and help her feed her family.  As Grace's confidence grew, everything seemed to fall in place, even after Gene came home and set her back she found the strength to improve her life.

We discussed the title The Stars are Fire that comes from a quote in Shakespeare's play Hamlet.  Marg had done some research and in a letter to Ophelia, Hamlet begins by saying Doubt the Stars are Fire, Doubt that the sun doth moves... trying to convince her that she should not doubt his love for her.  The title could have to do with the pianist Aidan's love for Grace.

So we had mixed feelings about the story. For those of us who have read several of Ms. Shreve's novels, it is certainly not her best.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Six Degrees of Separation from Fight Club to The Orenda

Fight Club
The Last King of ScotlandThe Count of Monte CristoA Man Called IntrepidAlone in the ClassroomThe Other Side of the BridgeThe Orenda

February starts with Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. This is not a book read by the Muse and Views Book Club and we adhere to our own rules when it comes to Six Degrees of Separation – we must have read the book as a club to be included in the game.

According to Goodreads, ‘This is a gloriously original work that exposes the darkness at the core of our modern world.’ In looking over twenty years’ worth of books, it is difficult to find a lot of darkness which may say something about our members and their taste in books. To that end, one title stood out and that also was a time that we deviated from the norm. We chose a movie, The Last King of Scotland, which is based on a 1998 novel by journalist Giles Foden. For those unfamiliar with it, this is the story of the rise of Ugandan President Idi Amin and his reign as dictator from 1971 to 1979.

Perhaps we could leave the modern world and into the classic world of The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Here we have Edmond Dantés thrown in prison for a crime he has not committed. There he learns of a great hoard of treasure hidden on the Isle of Monte Cristo and he becomes determined not only to escape, but also to unearth the treasure and use it to plot the destruction of the three men responsible for his incarceration.

A tenuous link perhaps but A Man Called Intrepid could be our next book. Bill Stephenson, known as Intrepid, is the Canadian-born World War II spymaster whose story brings with it politics, intrigue, heroism and espionage. Once again it is a fight against the darkness.

Darkness rears its ugly head in Alone in the Classroom by Elizabeth Hay. A Canadian book, set in 1929 in Saskatchewan and the Ottawa valley, it’s a book not easily defined – part murder mystery, part historical memoir, part travelogue, part character study. It probes the roots of obsessive love and hate, how the hurts and desires of childhood persist and are passed on as if in the blood.

Next we link to another Canadian book, The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson who is a master of character development with an eye for detail. It has all the darkness of a story of sibling rivalry, jealousy, duty, guilt, obsessive infatuation, personal choices and the weight of expectations.

Our final link is to TheOrenda by Joseph Boyden and is perhaps the darkest of the novels linked to Fight Club. Fight Club details fights in after-hours boxing matches where two young men fight ‘as long as they have to’ while The Orenda begins with a brutal massacre and the violent kidnapping of a young Iroquois girl which re-ignites a deep rift between two tribes. It is not an easy or comfortable read; it is provocative, demanding that we examine our Canadian history with an unflinching eye.

So it turns out that Muse and Views Book Club has read a few dark passages over the years, linking books set in Uganda, France, Britain and back to our home country, Canada.

If you would like to see what other book lovers are presenting, click on Six Degrees of Separation . As we suffer through a horribly frigid winter, I know that summer in Australia is suffering through extreme heat.