We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Book Club Meeting: Wednesday, October 21 @ 10:100 AM
Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her uncle Julian. Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods—until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night. Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the curiousity and hostility of the villagers. Their days pass in happy isolation until cousin Charles appears. Only Merricat can see the danger, and she must act swiftly to keep Constance from his grasp. – from Goodreads
This morning we met to discuss The Little Stranger, the 2009 novel by Sarah Waters. There were a range of responses to the book, with several people disliking it and several people enjoying the creepiness of the Gothic horror story.
One of the most prevalent discussions of the book revolved around class. The crumbling class structure of British 1940s is everywhere in the book, from the very obvious decaying Hundreds Hall to Dr. Faraday’s unspoken but clearly obvious desire to better his own class.
We also discussed who or what the “little stranger” of the title really was – was it supernatural, or was it mental instability of people who were losing their entire lives in front of their eyes? Was it possibly Faraday himself, who is certainly unreliable in his telling of the story? Because the author leaves the question deliberately ambiguous, the consensus of the Book Clubbers was that it was a somewhat unsatisfying end. We all wanted to know the answer! Continue reading
Join us Wednesday, September 16 at 10AM for a discussion of The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters.
The Little Stranger follows the strange adventures of Dr. Faraday, the son of a maid who has built a life of quiet respectability as a country doctor. One dusty postwar summer in his home of rural Warwickshire, he is called to a patient at Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for more than two centuries, the Georgian house, once grand and handsome, is now in decline-its masonry crumbling, its gardens choked with weeds, the clock in its stable yard permanently fixed at twenty to nine. But are the Ayreses haunted by something more ominous than a dying way of life? Little does Dr. Faraday know how closely, and how terrifyingly, their story is about to become entwined with his. – from Goodreads
Today at the book club, we discussed Wave, the memoir by Sonali Deraniyagala about surviving the 2004 tsunami that killed her two sons, her husband, and her parents. This was a very good discussion because we had a number of different opinions about the author. Some people found her very selfish and self-involved, and others felt she responded in a way that was reflective of the devastation that she had survived. A number of people felt very removed and detached from the author in a way they weren’t expecting, given the story she was telling. However, it was also noted that the author herself seemed very detached from the story. Her grief is overwhelming and non-stop; there is no hopeful ending here. She has survived, and written this book, but even at the end, she still yearns for her lost family.
One of the most compelling parts of the book is the way she talks about some of her actions after the tsunami. She recounts these events, seemingly without emotion. For example, when a Dutch family moves into the renovated house she lost her entire family in, she takes it upon herself to harass them into leaving. How dare they get to live in that house when Deraniyagala’s family died there, she thinks. They never leave, but they do change their phone number, and soon the author falls back into a stupor of Ambien and alcohol.
Join us Wednesday, August 19 at 10AM for a discussion of Wave by Sonia Deraniyagala
On the morning of December 26, 2004, on the southern coast of Sri Lanka, Sonali Deraniyagala lost her parents, her husband, and her two young sons in the tsunami she miraculously survived. In this brave and searingly frank memoir, she describes those first horrifying moments and her long journey since. She has written an engrossing, unsentimental, beautifully poised account: as she struggles through the first months following the tragedy, furiously clenched against a reality that she cannot face and cannot deny; and then, over the ensuing years, as she emerges reluctantly, slowly allowing her memory to take her back through the rich and joyous life she’s mourning, from her family’s home in London, to the birth of her children, to the year she met her English husband at Cambridge, to her childhood in Colombo; all the while learning the difficult balance between the almost unbearable reminders of her loss and the need to keep her family, somehow, still alive within her. – from Goodreads
The book club met yesterday morning to talk about The Good Lord Bird by James McBride. The discussion was spirited and far-reaching, including discussions of current events as well as the historical realities of John Brown’s time.
One of the most interesting parts of the discussion revolved around comparisons to Huckleberry Finn, which many reviews have noted. Some of the book clubbers thought this was a valid comparison, given the dialect, the humor, and the satire, but some didn’t quite see it.
One book club member brought a biography of John Brown in order to talk about the accuracy of the book’s portrayal of Brown. Most of the broad strokes of Brown’s life were true to all accounts, but some of the specific actions of secondary characters were embellished or completely created by McBride.
Because this book was based on real events and real people, we also discussed some of the additional secondary characters, such as Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. Douglass does not get a particularly positive treatment in the book, but we discovered no basis in reality for these descriptions. Continue reading
Tomorrow morning, July 15, at 10 am, we will be meeting to discuss John Brown and Henry (Onion) Shackleford in the novel The Good Lord Bird. What did you know about John Brown, aka the “Old Man,” before reading this book? Did it change your views at all?
And if you get a chance, watch this interview with the author James McBride before then. He has a lot of interesting things to say about the book.