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
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.
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
Join us on Wednesday, July 15 at 10AM for a discussion of The Good Lord Bird by James McBride
Mistaken for a girl on account of his curly hair, delicate features, and sackcloth smock, 12-year-old slave Henry Shackleford realizes that his accidental disguise affords him greater safety and decides to remain female. Dubbed “Little Onion” by his liberator, abolitionist John Brown, Henry accompanies the increasingly fanatical Brown on his crusade to end slavery — a picaresque journey that takes them from Bloody Kansas to Rochester, New York, where they attempt to enlist the support of such notables as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman before embarking on the infamous, ill-fated 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry. — from NoveList