December 14, 2013

November and December

Our November book club selection was Anne Frank's The Diary Of A Young Girl, our classics selection for the year. It was suggested that we reread something we should have read for school when we were younger but maybe didn't. Turns out almost no one had actually ever read this.

Jill actually visited the home where Anne's father had his business and where the family hid for over two years when she was in Holland and shared photos from her visit. Although the book had a map of the building's layout, it was much easier to imagine what life must have been like for the people hiding with pictures.

For Lisa it was a reread of a book she had read as someone Anne's age and it was almost like reading an entirely different book. This time she was impressed, as was Ann, by how intelligent and self-aware Anne was. Ann read a most recent edition of the book where Otto Frank had approved for some passages previously not included to be added. These included Anne's thoughts about her mother but for Ann, she was particularly struck by Anne's burgeoning sexuality and exploration of her own body. Anne talked about there being two Anne's and we found that to be true in many ways - the face she put on for the others versus her internal feelings, the way her writing sometimes felt very much like an average teenage girl versus her writings about world events and the relationships between the people in the attic.

We also talked about how modern Anne was; she was not at all interested in being like her mother, instead hoping to be an author one day. How eerie that one of the most widely read books ever is her own diary, a book she was certain no one would ever read.

In December we read and discussed Anna Quindlen's Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake. Lisa chose this one based on rave reviews. We had a range of ages at the meeting to discuss the book and it was clear that your age played a role in how much you liked this book. Those of us closer to Quindlen's age found it much easier to relate to her thoughts, particularly when talking about aging. We liked her positive attitude and idea that there is a lot of life left for those of us in our fifties.

In writing about learning to do a head stand in her fifties, Quindlen showed us that it's not too late to learn something new and to keep pushing ourselves. Her discussion about faith and religion led us to discuss the reasons behind Quindlen's decision to stopped practicing her Catholic faith.

Linda's book was chock full of sticky notes and one of them was marking the passage where Quindlen wrote about estrogen replacement medication. This sparked a discussion about the benefits of estrogen replacement, the dangers, and the accuracy of tests and research.

A lot of us felt that Quindlen's column-writing past shone through in her writing style in this book. Some felt that she got a little long-winded and maybe even preachy. Overall, regardless of how we felt about the book, it definitely sparked a good discussion.

October 24, 2013

October - The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

And we're back! What a great meeting we had this month. We welcomed a new member (we hope we didn't scare you off, Ann), Mary made a rare appearance (not her fault...entirely...with her schedule!), and all but one person had read the book. Which everyone liked and found plenty to talk about.

M.L. Stedman's writing impressed the group, particularly her ability to make life on a small island with only two or three people seem full and rich. A couple of us thought living on a lighthouse island would be great although most of us couldn't imagine what life would have been like being so isolated for such a long time. We talked about how people were more accustomed to less interaction at the time the book was set and how much busier they would have been with daily chores.

Linda was particularly taken with the details of life on the island as recorded by Tom and the impression that blank page on the day the boat washed ashore made on Tom and the reader. We were surprised that never really came back to play later, especially given the amount of foreshadowing that Stedman included. None of us were surprised, for example, when the fact that Bluey had seen Lucy's (Grace's) rattle came back to be a key point.

Cheryl recommended reading it on the NOOK as she was able to readily pull up resources to pin point where the book was set and to look up some of the Australian slang. Her greatest source of help there, though, was through friends overseas. It's a small world these days when you can go straight to people you "know" in other countries to get information!

We discussed whether or not what Tom and Isabel did made them good or bad people and how the town of Partaguese treated them when everything came out. The consensus was that they were good people who had made their decision based on the facts at hand at the time. For Tom, it was also a matter of doing what needed to be done to help the person he loved most. Once the decision was made, it was hard to imagine undoing it.

We talked a long time about what else we've been reading. Mary was excited about some nonfiction she's read recently, Ann told us about the kinds of books she's read (very excited that she's open to all kinds of books!), and Linda talked about trying to balance three books at once. Linda brought up graphic novels, something several of the ladies had not seen before. Lisa brought  out a copy of Alan Moore's The Watchmen so they could see what graphic novels were all about but it looks like we'll be passing on those for a while! Some members thought the drawings would be distracting and others said they'd rather be able to create the picture in their own heads.

It's time for our classic selection in November so we talked some more about what we wanted to read for that. Last month Diana suggested that we reread something that we were supposed to have read when we were younger. It turned out that more than half of the group had never read Anne Frank's book "The Diary of a Young Girl" when they were younger so we've chosen that for November.

September 18, 2013

August and September Meetings

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple was our August selection and a hit with everyone. Often when a book is one the whole group likes, there ends up not being much to talk about but we found plenty to discuss with this one: the kind of mother Bernadette was (surprisingly good, although she was utterly incapable in so many other ways), the way the book was written, what we thought had happened to Bernadette, and what we thought about the other characters (loved Bee, mixed opinions on Franklin). Talking about Galer Street School got us going on education in general and we shared some of our own history when it came to discussing Bernadette's having a trailer in her backyard. Quite a few of us had grown up with trailers we could hang out in to find some privacy. Did we end up liking Bernadette? We weren't too sure but we certainly found her to be an interesting person who was much maligned by people who thought they were better parents. And we all hate those people!

The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel was our September selection for our multigenerational meeting. Unfortunately, with illnesses, new grandbabies, and other commitments, we were a small group - but still multigenerational! Lisa's parents, who weren't able to attend, shared their thoughts by email and Diana's mom was able to join us. Both she and Cheryl expressed how surprised they were to find out how famous the astronauts were not having been that aware of them or their families at the time of the Mercury and Apollo missions.  Lisa's Dad had been aware of the public image of squeaky-clean heroes and their doting wives but chalks that up now to naivete at the time. We all felt that it was too difficult to keep track of who was who and that our interest in the wives that came later definitely fell off. Lisa's mom didn't care for the way the book was written at all but did think that some of that had to do with reading it on the Kindle. Her dad did feel that there was too much detail about the houses, the neighborhoods, the clothing, the stores, saying that he was far more interested in reading about their feelings and emotions regarding their husbands' careers. We talked about interaction between the women, the men's reactions to their space flights, and the women's reactions to the deaths of their husbands. While we agreed that it took a certain kind of man to meet both the physical and mental aspects of the job, we were disappointed to find out that only a couple of the astronauts turned out to be good husbands and real heroes.


July 25, 2013

July - Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles, takes its title from a book by the same name by George Washington, actually rules to live by...if you happened to live 200 years ago. For a change, almost everyone had read the book, although several of us had read it so long ago, it was difficult to recall specifics about the book. Our two far flung members who joined us on speaker phone, our two new members and the regulars who had read the book, all enjoyed this one. We had a good conversation about the book, including the type of girls Katey and Eve might have been, living as a single woman in the time period the book was written in, Agatha Christie, and a man writing from a female point of view. We were all impressed with Towle's chutzpah at choosing a female narrator and with his ability to carry it off.

We had great fun discussing the actual rules of civility as well. We will probably bring up cleaning your teeth with the table clothe at every meeting from now on!

Our book for August is Maria Semple's wildly popular Where'd You Go, Bernadette? which made a lot of "best of" lists in 2012 and will be a much different read from anything we've read recently.

In September, we'll have our second annual multi-generational read. Last year's choice, Laura Hildenbrand's Unbroken was a huge success and we had a wonderful discussion. I've chosen Lily Koppel's The Astronaut Wives Club for this year's book, sticking with a non-fiction choice We read Koppel's The Red Leather Diary a few years ago and enjoyed it and this one is getting excellent reviews.

March 26, 2013

Talking With Cathy Marie Buchanan

What a great evening we had last night talking to Cathy Marie Buchanan about her wonderful book, The Painted Girls. It was fascinating to learn about what inspired her to write this book and about how the book and the book has really changed our impressions about artist Edgar Degas and the ballet world. We talked about why she chose to write the book from only two of the sisters' points of view, the difference in attitudes about the ballet prior to this period and the Belle Epoque period as well as the Russian ballet at this same time.

We're all excited to learn that Cathy is at work on a third novel and have already penciled her in to talk about it - after all, we're two for two with her books, enjoying both the books and our conversations with her.

Next month's book is Sarah Vowell's The Wordy Shipmates. I'm looking for a host!

February 18, 2013

February Meeting Cancelled

We'll be "meeting" with Cathy Marie Buchanan in March instead of this month - she had a scheduling conflict. Our March selection has been moved to July.