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
Today we met in the Morris County Library conference room to talk about the YA novel everyone has been buzzing about, We Were Liars. We had our biggest discussion yet, but there’s still room for more of you! We’d love to have you.
Overall, people really liked this book, with many giving it 4 or even 5 starts. I don’t know if that’s happened before, so this was a definite favorite. A couple of people gave it a low of 3, mostly because even the significant characters were fairly flat and undeveloped. However, a case could be made for that actually being the way teenagers actually view other kids their age who they only see every summer.
First, we will not spoil the ending of the book, so don’t worry! If you haven’t read it yet, it’s a doozy, and no one saw it coming. Aside from the ending and its emotional impact, we discussed the themes of wealth in society. Cadence and her cousins are from the “keep a stiff upper lip” upper crust of society, and nothing breaks into that shell. As teenagers, they rebel against it, of course.
Today we met at the Morris County Library to discuss the sci-fi classic Kindred by Octavia Butler. We had several new Book Clubbers, and it was a really fascinating hour and a half. We started by talking about why Butler chose to take a modern (well, modern in the 1970s) woman and transport her back to the Antebellum south, instead of just writing a more straightforward slave narrative. Some people didn’t feel like that worked for them; they didn’t like the time travel because it wasn’t realistic. Once we discovered how she came up with the idea of this novel, however, most of the book club members appreciated her reasoning, even if they still didn’t necessarily think it worked. As she stated in an interview:
I wanted to take a character, when I did Kindred, back in time to some of the things our ancestors had to go through, and see if that character survived so very well with the knowledge of the present in her head.
This morning we had a very interesting discussion on the book Someone by Alice McDermott. Many of our regular Book Clubbers found it a great read. Even those who thought it somewhat disjointed gave it three stars (out of five), but for the first time, we had more than one person rating it a five star book! So congratulations, Ms. McDermott. Rave reviews!
A lot of the discussion revolved around the meaning of vision and sight. Marie has had problems with her eyesight her entire life. This lack of ability to see clearly is echoed in the many relationships Marie has – including her brother Gabe, her parents, and Walter, among others.
On a related note, we talked about the meaning of people falling throughout the book. Not only does the book begin and end with the story of Pegeen and her fatal fall, but several other characters take serious tumbles throughout the novel.
Today we had a thoroughly engaging discussion of the nonfiction book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. Our discussion reached beyond the bounds of introverts and extroverts – we discussed education, politics (politely!), and parenting as well. All our discussions touched on the introversion/extroversion scale, however, as we considered the implications of being more introverted in a world that typically promotes extroversion.
We discussed how a good pairing of an introvert and extrovert can lead to amazing things – whether it’s Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, or a marriage between compatible types. We talked about some of our own experiences feeling introverted at times, but also how we pushed through to success. We also discussed some of our own career choices, and how they were influenced – consciously or unconsciously – by our level of extroversion.