Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

As, I sit here, and wait with the patience of a 4-year old to open my gifts, I am thinking of all of you, and wishing you all, and all of your families, a Merry Christmas! I assume that many of you were up and opening gifts much earlier than we are here at my house, but I think around age 25 it became less acceptable to wake my mom up at 5:00 a.m. because Santa had been to my house. So instead, I wake her and my brother up at 8:00:)

So, Merry Christmas Elena, Lynn, Darline, Trisha, Paddy, Sue, Jeanette, Vanessa, our sometimes member Janine, our new member Helen, (Did I forget anyone?) and lastly—if we have any readers that visit this blog to read about the adventures of the Third Tuesday Book Club—we wish you a Merry Christmas as well!

Here's to a 2010 that full of (even more) good books, good friends, and good times!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

November – The Elegance of the Hedgehog

In November, we met and discussed Muriel Barbury's The Elegance of the Hedgehog. Let us start with a quote from one of our members, Lynn: "This book sucked the life out of me." Well, simply stated, this book was kind-of a life-sucker. Why? The first half waxes philosophical. It was an extremely trying read for the first half. I might actually go as far to say that it was more difficult at times to read than my first-year philosophy text, and I had to look up more words when I read this book than when I read Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin. Our members each admitted that there was a lot of skimming going on during the first half of this book.

However, Barbury, in my opinion, redeems herself in the second half of this book. A sweet little story actually manages to emerge. We get to see Madame Michelle awkwardly fall for the dashing Mr. Ozu, and we get to see Paloma turn from an immature little brat, to a slightly less immature little brat.

However, many of the members felt very negatively about Madame Michelle's attitude toward the rich and/or educated people for whom she works. And I agree. Madame Michelle is terrified as being judged, and yet, she one of the most judgmental characters in a novel that I have encountered in a very, very long time. Her opinion of the rich as shallow, hollow, unthinking, unfeeling snobs is downright offensive. Personally, I was even further offended by her clandestine nature when it came to her own autodidactism. I say, if you're smart—you're smart. Who cares if you're a concierge for a living? There are garbage men out there with PhDs, my friend, and I highly doubt that they ferociously hide their education for fear of being lambasted. Especially considering that the book was fairly modern. We all know that the woman who serves us at Tim Hortons could hold a Master's Degree in literature, and that the next time we get into a cab, the driver may very well hold a Doctorate in physics. It is just the way it is in today's society. Education or smarts is no longer defined by the position you hold in society. It is defined in the way you carry yourself, present yourself, and defend yourself. Madame Michelle, for being as smart as she was, was actually a gigantic idiot. Ugh.

Let's talk Paloma. BRAT. Immature little brat. Her intellect was about 350 years older than the rest of her. However, Paloma is responsible for the most beautiful passages in the book, and one of the funniest passages as well. I just loved hearing her talk about the captive lives of the dogs that lived in the building, and her description of the humping dogs and the owners' horror and subsequent accidental fall were just too funny. However, these gems were rare in this book. One other such anecdote stands out: Mme. Michelle's experience in Mr. Ozu's bathroom. Her anxiety about even asking to use the restroom, followed by the flushing episode was, for me, the high point of this novel.

Lastly, I often take issue with authors who end their novels with a death that does not accomplish or teach anyone anything. Barbury is guilty. Mme. Michelle is unexpectedly hit by a drunk driver at the conclusion of this novel, but why? I assume Barbury would defend it by saying that it was necessary to kill Mme. Michelle so that Paloma could learn the value of life. I would argue that Paloma learns almost nothing, and remains socially stunted. However, she does decide not to off herself, which I guess is a mature decision for a 12-year old. (Can you sense the sarcasm dripping off of the last sentence?)

Overall, not the best novel I have ever read. Most of it is slow, dull, and worthy of only skim-reading at best. However, Barbury did manage to pepper the book with a few beautiful passages, and some very entertaining episodes. Sadly, it was just not enough. Paloma remains a brat in my mind, and MMe. Michelle was hardly likable. As a matter of fact, the only likable character in this book was Ozu, but he hardly gets any story at all.

In January, we will be discussing Sue's choice: The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher, by Kate Summerscale. I picked this book up already and read the synopsis and checked out the first few pages. It looks like it's going to be really interesting! Hopefully it will be better than The Elegance of the Hedgehog. It won't have to try hard!

Admin:

Dinner on Dec 15th at 7:00. Be there or be square! Details are already in your inboxes! Reservations are under "Lynn."

January meeting is on the 19th at the usual location at 7:30.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

October – We Need to Talk about Kevin

Well, this certainly takes the cake on late posts, doesn't it? There was a moment where I was worried that this still wouldn't be up by the time we meet this Tuesday! In a way, I have to wonder if there wasn't a small part of me that didn't want to write this post all, because this novel leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk about Kevin was an incredibly disturbing novel. You could say, it's a haunting tale of motherhood.
For those of you who have not read this novel, it is a novel about the nature-vs.-nurture argument. Written through a series of letters from the point of view of Eva Katchedorian, it tells of a Mother's struggle to raise the son she wasn't sure she wanted, and then of Eva's heartache that follows a violent event. A violent event masterminded and executed by her teenage son, Kevin.
Some of our members wondered whether or not Eva was suffering from post-partum depression. The book never explicitly confirms or denies, and the reader is left wondering. Eva's feelings toward Kevin when he was born are questionable. But can they be fully explained by post-partum? Who can say for sure?
We also wondered if there was something wrong with Kevin—biologically speaking—that caused him to act out in the ways that he did. Most of our members agreed that there very well might have been an underlying issue. However, Kevin's father's stubborn refusal to accept or acknowledge that there was anything wrong with Kevin likely prevented Kevin to get any help that he may have needed. Kevin's father's blindness and negligence is an absolute mitigating factor in the tragic events perpetrated by Kevin. For crying out loud—Kevin's Dad provided the murder weapon as a Christmas gift!
Eva's ability to unbiasedly narrate her story is also questionable. It is hard to trust her because we never get to peer into the minds of anyone else. How can we be sure that Eva's accounts of the terror Kevin put her through are accurate, or not grossly exaggerated? Truth be told, we cannot be sure at all. Eva is hyper-critical and snotty. It seemed to the members that although Eva by trade writes books for the masses, her own language is so hoity-toity that it's repellent.
This leads me to a critique of Shriver's novel as a whole. The language was inaccessible. We were not allowed to like, or even sympathize with for that matter, any of the characters because Shriver's language was grossly over-the-top.
In the end, we find out that Eva keeps a room for Kevin to return to when he has finished serving his sentence. We wondered why Eva was taking him back. The answer is simple. Despite the fact that Kevin tortured her, killed her daughter and her husband, and a number of his classmates, Eva plans to take Kevin in upon his release. Why? Because I guess a mother's love never dies.
This was an intense novel, and despite the lofty language, I do recommend it. It brings to the fore discussions about things that people generally don't talk about.
Lynn called this novel uncomfortable, and I think that's the point. This novel is supposed to make you feel uncomfortable. There's nothing about this novel that should make you feel warm and fuzzy. It should make you feel uncomfortable, and that's why I am recommending it. Sometimes we need to feel uncomfortable.

Our next meeting is this Tuesday at 7:30 in the usual location. We are reading Muriel Barbury's The Elegance of the Hedgehog. Some of you have contacted me about this novel already—sorry I had no idea that the first half of the novel read like a nightmarish text from Philosophy 101. (Dr. Conter, anyone?) However, I actually did end up actually sort of enjoying this novel—so keep on reading! A cute little story emerges in the second half of the book, and the ending is a shocker, I can say that much.

See you all on Tuesday!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Septemeber

This blog is tad late. Sorry about that. I've been quite busy. However, better late than never, yes? Right then! In September, we read Andrew Davidson's The Gargoyle. I was quite shocked at how many members didn't think this book was as great as I did. I thought Davidson's tale was epic, but I realized during our discussion that it had flaws. Don't all epic romances, anyways?

The main conflict in this novel is whether or not we believe Marianne. Do we? Don't we? We may not, because Marianne came across the narrator when he was in the hospital, recovering from injuries sustained in a car accident (more to come on this). She was patient at the time as well. While it is never explicitly stated that Marianne was in the psych ward, I believe it is alluded to. That leaves readers wondering if Marianne was a bit off her rocker—finding the narrator and creating the stories she tells him.

Why might we believe Marianne? The proof is in the books. The proof is in the books left in the safety deposit box after her death. The proof is in the scar on the narrator's chest that Marianne, and her past identities, know exists. The proof is the fact that Marianne's predictions about her own fate come true (more to come on this).

I always enjoy when a writer leaves you with subtle evidences that support each side of an argument. That means (to me, anyways) that the writer believes in his readers. He has enough faith in you and your intelligence. He believes that you can make up your own mind. In our book club, we were allowed to explore both sides of the argument. Was Marianne crazy? sane? Who knows?

That begs the question. If Marianne's story is, in fact, accurate and true, how did she know where to find the narrator? Members suggested that if all facets of the story were true, that she would know. There would be forces stronger than the explained at work, pulling her toward him like a magnet. If we are to believe that she chanced upon him, then we may be left doubting other—or all—parts of Marianne's story.

As promised, more about Marianne's fate. One of the strongest arguments that supports our belief in Marianne is that fact that she died upon completing her last gargoyle, as she predicted she would. However, she died at her own hand. It is unclear whether we can use the death as solid proof because of the fact that she willingly walked into the water. Perhaps she was compelled so strongly that she was unable to stop it? The reader doesn't really know. That's the joy of writing like Davidson's. Again, we are left to our own devices, and rest assured, we are each smart enough to make our own inferences regarding Marianne's death.

Marianne's death by water is allegorical. In classical literature, water often represents rebirth, or a cleansing. As a liver of many past lives, death by water is especially symbolic. Perhaps it is not the end, as suggested by the heart left to the narrator.

Fire = Hell. That's nothing new. But Davidson's description of the fiery hell that consumed the narrator is groundbreaking. Davidson takes descriptive literature to whole new level. It is horrifying to read the narrator's description of being burned alive in his own personal hell—one that he practically hand-built for himself. However, there is something hauntingly beautiful about it. Classically, fire sometimes represented cleansing too.

I LOVED the tie-in the Dante's inferno. Dante's journey through Hell is reflected in the narrator's journey. The first letter of every chapter in The Gargoyle spells "All things in a single book bound by love." This is derived from Dante's line in the Paradiso Canto: All things in a single volume bound by love. The last letter of every chapter spells "Die liebe ist stark wie der tod, Marianne." That translates into: Love is as strong as death, Marianne.

This book was heavy on repeated imagery and themes. Repeated themes included faith, energy, infertility, absentee fathers, abandonment, waiting for a loved one's return, belief vs. doubt, and sanity vs. insanity. The book also played very heavily on both the themes and images of the elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Another image that continued to come up was arrows. The narrator, according to Marianne, had been shot with a arrow in a past life, resulting in the scar on his chest. The narrator also hallucinated arrows, causing the fiery crash. Another image that kept coming up was food. The author describes the many food spreads created by Marianne in great details. Many members of the book club did not like the food descriptions much! They were pages long, and at times, I agree, a bit much. However, Davidson's strength as a writer certainly seems to be in his ability to write scrupulous descriptions!

Love it or hate it, I believe everyone should read The Gargoyle. If not for anything else, at least for the chance to decide for yourself if Marianne's story is true.

Admin:

Thanks Lynn, for hosting in September. You have a lovely home, and you "make" insanely delicious lemon-coconut bars. Special thanks to Lynn's husband, who allowed our book club to invade his home, and steal his wife on his birthday.

October's meeting is on the 20th. We will be discussing Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin. We will meet at the usual Chapters/Starbucks location. See you all there!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

August

This month we met and discussed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. A really interesting fact about this dual-authorship is that one of the authors passed away while this book was still being written. I wonder i the two women were working together before death to create a more authentic "letter-writing" experience for the reader, or if one just picked up where the other left off.

This was, to my surprise, a really interesting and enjoyable novel that explored life on Guernsey Island after it was occupied by German forces during WW2. Our Book Club is proud of our collective heritages, and many of us have family members who lived in England during the war. Yet, we were all surprised to hear that the Channel Islands had been occupied at all. This book, through it's letter-writing format, did an excellent job of telling a great story and developing memorable and lovable characters, all while delivering a mini history lesson.

As one of our members pointed out, this book is a great example of how the post office used to work. In today's "IM-Text-Email-Cell Phone" society, information can be passed almost in real time. However, we tend to forget that with the evolution of instant communication came the downfall of traditional post. During the novel, Juliet's communications are made rather quickly. Much faster than you'd expect, and some of them mirror IMs of today! (In particular, the series of letters that fly through the post in a matter of hours where Juliet is coyly playing hard to get with her dinner date—whose name escapes me.) We also saw great example of this in Emma Donaghue's The Sealed Letter. It was delightful to see how fast things went through the post, and how it was used almost in the same sense as IM is used today.

Juliet was a lovable main character. You couldn't help but love her no-nonsense attitude. She was strong-willed and smart, making her a wonderful female protagonist. One of my favourite episodes that sums up Juliet, is the way she broke it off with her first fiancée. Upon moving in together, he boxes all of her books so that he can use the shelf space for his trophies. "Where will my books be kept?" she wonders. When she discovers he plans to keep them permanently boxed and put in the basement—she's had it! She kicks him out. What a great anecdote!

This book was full of hilarious characters, suck Isolda who reads the lumps on one's head to get an accurate reading of character, or Adelaine, who spews gossip about the members of the society (possibly because she's jealous she's not 'in'). But the book can develop a very serious undertone when it comes to discussing the fate of well-loved Guernsey resident Elizabeth. She was one of the brightest and best-loved women on the island, but she ended up in a concentration camp, and just before the war was over, she was executed. The folks of Guernsey took the news of her death hard, not just because she was well-loved, but because she represented hope, and love, and life. She was also mother to a spirited little girl called Kit, who had been adopted by the Book Club during Elizabeth's absence.

Kit was born of a relationship between Elizabeth and Christian. Christian was a German sent to aid with the occupation. After hearing Christian's story, we know that he was a good man, who had had good intentions for Elizabeth and Kit. Sadly he died as well. It is in characters like Christian that we are reminded that war was hell for everybody—not just the Allies.

Each character in this novel is unique, interesting, and his his or her own special story to tell. But no secondary characters stood out more than Dawsey and Sydney.

Dawsey started the correspondence with Juliet because he interested in reading more books by Charles Lamb. He'd seen Juliet's name in the back of the one book by Lamb that he owned. He requested more. There starts the Juliet's interest and eventual journey to Guernsey. We all thought at first that Dawsey was very old. His voice seemed to project that of a lonely old guy, just looking for some good reading to pass the time on the slow Island. However, upon reading more, we find that Dawsey is in fact quite young. When the spark between Juliet and Dawsey starts to ignite, the members of our book club we unsure of how a love story could evolve. However, in the end, Dawsey is shown to be a sweet love interest for Juliet. He values many of the same things that she does, and he also loves Kit.

Sydney was just a wonderful and witty character. At first it is hard to imagine that Juliet and Sydney are not in love, but upon discovering Sydeny's homosexuality, it's easy to see how the friends' relationship survives on a platonic level. The novel's tie-in to Oscar Wilde coupled with Sydney's story line implies that this group of people—so different from one another—accept each other's differences. The authors of this story really did an exceptional job of showing how a group of people from all different walks of life can truly come together and form a sort-of suedo-family. Stunning.

Overall, this book was very well-liked by all of the members of the Third Tuesday Book Club. I highly recommend this character-driven look at the occupation of the Channel Islands during WW2.

Administration:

Movie—Sept. 4: We have decided to go see The Time Traveler's Wife on Sept. 4. Please check your inboxes closer to the day for theatre and time specifics. We know that some of you can't make it that day, but for those of you who can…see you there!

Meeting—Sept. 15: Lynne has graciously offered to hold this meeting at her home. Please check your inboxes for directions. (Coming Soon!) We will be discussing Andrew Davidson's The Gargoyle.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

July

This month we met and discussed Kahled Housseni's A Thousand Splendid Suns. Just like his debut, The Kite Runner, this novel provided an eloquent look at life in Afghanistan. Housseni explores the female voice is this follow-up. The results are stunning and horrifying.

The major topic of discussion was Housseni's commentary on men. The male characters in this novel are all deeply flawed in some sense. Miriam's father is weak. He allows himself to be controlled by his wives to the point of damage. Miriam is forced to live in squalor with her unfit mother because his wives wish it so. Rather than manning up to his mistakes, Miriam's father ignores them, and refuses to acknowledge them. He is a constant source of disappointment, and during the episode when Miriam shows up at his house and is forced to sleep outside while he hides from her inside the house, Miriam's father is shown not just to be weak, but also to be a coward of the worst type.

Miriam's "salvation" in Rasheed sees a weak, cowardly father replaced with a disgusting, manipulative pig of a husband. Fearing that she has no other choice, Miriam remains in Rasheed's home despite his constant belittling, advance, and abuse.

Housseni depicts Rasheed and Miriam's father very unfavourably. But what about Layla's father? He is good in his heart, values education, and encourages his daughter to be a strong and independent woman. But, he is killed. Is Housseni suggesting that he is also weak?

We also discussed Miriam's sacrafice. It was beautiful, and seemed to serve a two-fold purpose. Miriam knew that Tariq and Laila would never be free if she chose to run away with them. Laila was the only person who Laila felt had ever really loved her, or that she had loved, and so she wanted to ensure that Laila's life would be a good one. Miriam's sacrifice also allowed Miriam to escape her life. Nothing good ever happened to Miriam. Nothing. Miriam was done. Finished. Tired. Miriam's sacrifice allowed her to give Laila the chance to be happy; happiness was something that had always eluded Miriam. The sacrifice also allowed Miriam to put an end to a life that had always been filled with hurt, pain, violence, and hate.

Lastly we discussed Laila's decision to return home. It is very much like Aminata's idealization of Africa after being absent for decades. Home always looks good when we are not there. We forget about all of the bad things and focus on the (perhaps) false sense of safety we get from the idea of "home." However, Laila knew Kabul before the war, so it is possible that she believes that the freedoms she once took for granted will be restored. Hindsight is always 20/20 though. Today, the progress in Afghanistan seems to be going backwards, with introductions of rape laws and other misogynistic diatribes, I believe that Laila would be disappointed.

Housseni's treatment of the female voice in A Thousand Splendid Suns is poignant and beautiful. Once again he delivers a story that tugs at the heart.

Administration:

• Thanks for hosting July's meeting Trish! The food was fantastic, and your backyard is lovely! Next July, your place again?

• We will be meeting at 7:30 p.m. on August 18 to discuss The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Anne Shaffer and Annie Barrows at the usual Starbucks location. See you all there!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Chapters ~ New Closing Time

I thought it would be a good idea to put a quick post up in case any of you had heard about the new hours implemented at Chapters.

It's true—Chapters now closes at 9:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday. While this would not bode well for the Third Tuesday Book Club, the good news is that Starbucks WILL REMAIN OPEN until 10:00 p.m. I called today to double-check. Phew! I was having nightmares about our book club being homeless again!

So, at this time, it seems the Third Tuesday Book Club is safe in its new home. The only thing we'll have to remember is that book purchases will have to be made before 9:00 p.m. No big deal.

See you all on the 21st, not at Starbucks, but at Trisha's!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

June

In June, we met and discussed Lawrence Hill's The Book of Negroes.  Let me start by saying that this was an excellent book—one of the best I've read in a while.  I think I speak for everyone when I say that this book was both powerful and poignant.  

This book encompasses many themes.  The idea of property is one.  We know that during the Slavery Era, slaves—and African Americans in general—were generally regarded as property and nothing more.  When we discussed the family who took Aminata's daughter, I suggested that they were able to do so with such ease because they hardly considered Aminata human, let alone a human with property rights.  To the family, Aminata's daughter was right for the taking.  Some other members felt that perhaps the family—which did show an affinity toward the little girl—took her because they knew they could provide the stability that Aminata could not.  I am not so convinced that altruism was the motivating factor.  I believe it was selfishness.

Another resonant theme throughout this novel is education.  Education is power.  Aminata knew that, and used that knowledge as a means for survival.  Aminata is extremely smart, and in so many instances it is her knowledge that saves her.  In the episode where Aminata overhears the men in the boat discussing their plans to betray her, she is able to understand what is being said, and has the knowledge and smarts not to let on that she can speak their language.  Without the knowledge of the language and the so-called street smarts enough to keep the knowledge secret, Aminata would have been sold right back into the life she was escaping.  This novel is hugely focused on knowledge and the power it lends.

Aminata is also exceptionally beautiful; did this help or hinder her?  As readers, we are in fear for Aminata all the time.  While her beauty seemed to work in her favour at times, it would appear that, in general, it worked against her by often attracting unwanted attention.

The idea of home is an overarching theme that occurs throughout Aminata's tale.  Stolen from her home at the age of 11, Aminata dreams of her return for the rest of her days.  She remembers home vividly, but perhaps also naively, as she expects that some day she will return that is unchanged—the home that exists in her memories.  The idea of home is often romanticized, and in Aminata's case the idea of home as she remembers it likely does not exist at all.

Identity is important in Hill's novel.  Aminata fights to keep her identity throughout the story. She continues to stay true to herself and her beliefs, even during the times in her life when she must act differently.  As she moves through life, I believe that survival becomes so much a part of Aminata's identity that anything said or done in the name of survival is characteristic of Aminata and who she believes she is.  We see the importance of identity in the episode in which the captives call out their names.  It is their way of stating: This is me!  We also see a frustration grow in Aminata when she searches map after map after map, only to be disappointed each time by the child-like drawings that represent Africa.  She constantly hopes to see her village, or something that she can identify with, and is frequently disappointed.  Aminata believes that much of her identity is associated with home, and is frustrated because her home is both misrepresented and misunderstood by the whites which seem to exude so much power, control, and influence over her life.

Overall, The Book of Negroes was an excellent historical representation.  Hill's ability to write the female voice is uncanny, and his research is impeccable.  Read this book!

Administration:
Bear with me people! Lots to say this time around!

  • Congratulations Lynne on your 10 year pin at work.  Good Job!

  • Starbucks in Chapters (the old one that used to be our meeting place once upon a time) has remodeled and is MUCH MORE conducive to good chats and good times.  We have decided it is a suitable place to hold Third Tuesday meetings. It seems to meet everyone's requirements for location, we can get tasty lattes, and plus we can book-browse again.

  • Trisha has generously invited all of us to her house for the July meeting.  Quite obviously I am not going to post her address here, but you can email her if you need details.  If you need her email address, just email me.  We are going to meet at 7:00 instead of 7:30, just to give ourselves some extra time.  Everyone is bring a little something to snack on, and Trish will provide the beverages!

  • Lastly, we tried something new.  We each selected a book to make up our reading list for the next bit.  I figured this way everyone gets a pick, and then we have a pretty eclectic set of books to read.  Check out the What We're Going To Read list to see the books that we've selected! Oh yes, and while you're there, why not leave a comment? LOL

See everybody on July 21 at 7:00 at Trisha's house, when we will be discussing Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns!  See you there!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

May

In May, we met and discussed Emma Donoghue's The Sealed Letter.  Oh boy! 
This book certainly elicited some strong responses!  The Sealed Letter took us through the story of Helen's divorce from Harry during the 1800s in Britain, during a time when divorce was uncommon.  During a divorce, one's dirty laundry was aired quite publicly in court, and let's just say that Helen and Harry had A LOT of laundry!  Helen's guilt is made fact in the beginning of the novel, so the novel is really more an examination of the so-called friendship that exists between Fido and Helen.  
Let's start with Fido.  Words used to describe Fido during our meeting were as follows: stupid, unlikable, naive, bad feminist, hypocritical, sneaky, and selfish.  Haha.  Poor Fido.  That woman didn't have a chance with our group, and she was probably one of the most unlikable characters I've encountered in a long time.  
Helen, on the other hand, could be described as the Master of Manipulation.  But should we fault Helen for manipulating someone as dumb as Fido? (Okay, we probably should fault Helen that, but seriously—is anyone that naive?)  
The most interesting point brought up was the fact that Helen may be a better feminist that Fido.  Throughout the novel Fido discusses the "cause" and how she supports it.  But in the end we see that Fido's ideals about the feminism movement are pretty far off base.  She is afraid of herself, and so she is in effect literally afraid to stand for the movement.  Fido is a door mat—her arguments toward the cause are laughable, and she would look great on my front porch.
So what makes Helen any better?  She is a grand manipulator, and she is definitely guilty of being unfaithful to Harry.  The difference between Helen and Fido is that Helen in free.  Fido is so utterly confined by herself, and in contrast, Helen is totally free.  Helen follows her heart, even if it leads her into the arms of other men.  Fido only follows what's in her head—so it is unfortunate the Fido's brain is the size of a peanut!
The final betrayal is that Fido was the first person with whom Helen stepped outside her marriage.  We find this out at the very end of the book, thankfully.  Had I known it in the beginning I would have had no patience for Fido's preachy attitude toward Helen.  When I learned at the end of the novel that Helen and Fido had been romantically involved, I was angry—how dare Fido pass judgement on Helen throughout the novel in the way she had!  I realize that in Fido's miniscule brain, she believed that her and Helen had shared nothing more than a "sisterly bond," but still…adultery is adultery sister!  If Fido is too dumb to understand that concept, then she has no right passing judgement on Helen.
Lastly, the concept of the sealed letter containing fabricated secrets of a lesbian relationship that Harry may or may not have been aware of was flawed.  The whole point of the sealed letter was that it was to contain lie, which in the end was proven to be true.  So really, either way, the sealed letter did little or nothing to further the plot—but that's only what I think! Comment if you disagree with me!
In the end, I would say Fido is an idiot, Harry is an idiot, and Helen walked off a free woman. Her legal fees were paid by Harry, she was able to extort a bunch of money from Fido, and she is off to the new world to start a new life.  The clear winner is Helen.  Thank goodness for that, because although she used her brain powers to do a of of manipulating and sneaking around, at least she has a brain.

Okay, time for the administrative stuff.

We are meeting on June 16 at 7:30 at the old Chapters where we used to meet because we need to do a serious browse.  We will be discussing Lawrence Hill's The Book of Negroes.  Check out the CBC Reads website for some really interesting pre-reading.

I would like to suggest Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin as a future selection. Check it out and let me know what you think.

For those of you who have read Augusten Burroughs' Running with Scissors—I am reading A Wolf at the Table right now.  I have laughed, I have cried.  I am only half way through, but this novel is so powerful!  If you liked Running with Scissors, I highly recommend this book.  But, be careful, because it is darker than his previous works.  (I think you guys know too, I am just a huge Augusten Burroughs fan—so I might be biased!)

Jeanette has a new email address.  If anyone needs it, contact me through email and I will send it to you!

I think that's it for May!  
See you all in June!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

To all the Moms,
Happy Mother's Day.  You are all very wonderful and strong Moms. 
This day is for you, so celebrate and enjoy all that it means to be a Mom!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

April

This month we discussed Carlos Ruiz Zafòn's The Shadow of the Wind.  The opinion on this book was divided almost perfectly in half.  Some members of The Third Tuesday Book Club really, really, enjoyed this book.  Others members just could not get into it at all.
The former half were most intrigued by the Gothic story-telling conventions that existed in the book.  It had everything a good, dark Gothic novel needs: secret rooms, forbidden love, and classic good versus evil.  Those members who enjoyed this book named characters as one of the biggest reasons they found this book so enjoyable.  "Zafòn has a way of making them come alive," they said. They also agreed that Zafòn's good characters were likable, and his evil characters were fantastically written.
The book ends with quite a plot twist.  No one saw it coming.  It was well disguised, but in my opinion, hardly inventive.  
As I mentioned, only about half of us truly enjoyed this Gothic novel.  The other half of us found this novel hopelessly slow.  It was almost impossible to sink our teeth into this story when the bits of action were so few and far between.  Darline informs me that the first half of the novel was extremely slow, and that it really picks up in the second half.  I wouldn't know because I only made it through the first 80 pages.  Rarely do I put a book down, but when it's as painful as Zafòn's work, I have to know when to quit.  
So in all, about half of us truly enjoyed this book, and the other half found it painful.
In other news: Lynn brought Olivia, our newest member, to our meeting.  She has the most amazing head of hair, and she is absolutely beautiful.  Congratulations again to Lynn and Terrance.
In May, we are reading Emma Donoghue's The Sealed Letter.  Ms. Donoghue will be unable to join us because she is spending half of the year in France.  I can't believe she won't fly back to meet with us! (Kidding—of course we understand that she is very busy.)  This information also makes me wonder why I am not a professional writer—I could go for living in France for six months! 
In June we will be discussing Lawrence Hill's The Book of Negros.  If you have any book suggestion for following months, be sure to bring them along in May.
See you all on May 19!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

March

Right. Better late than never, I like to say!
In March we read Chitra Divakaruni's The Mistress of Spices.  This is one of those rare books that didn't seem to go over very well with anyone.  
My complaint was this: the book starts out great.  I loved reading about Tilo, the island, and all of the people that Tilo helps through her position at the spice shop.  However, after Raven was introduced—it all went downhill.  I know that everyone pretty much agreed on that point.  Not a single one of us believed that a man like Raven could fall in love with a gnarled old woman.  I suppose you're supposed to buy into the Native American mysticism-deal that Divakaruni tried to create, and believe that Raven could see in Tilo what others could not.  But no.  No because, although this may have been easier to swallow if Divakaruni had bothered to create an actual Native American character instead of a gross stereotype, it still seemed in the realm of impossible.  Or perhaps, The Third Tuesday Book Club is actually comprised of cynics, (lol), and although I don't believe that, you decide.  
I just need to comment on the fire at the end of the book.  It is supposed to represent Tilo's redemption and her freedom to love and live.  I thought it was a cop-out.  A big, huge, "I don't know how to end this thing so I'll just do something cheesy," ending.  It's akin to the famous "And then I woke up and found it was all dream" scenario that so many writers since Carrol have used as a way to buck providing an explanation that makes sense.  

We selected a book for June.  We are going to read The Book of Negros by Lawrence Hill.  I can't wait to discuss this one!  We are still looking at suggestions for the months following June, so have a couple ready!  Someone suggested Kahled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns, and although this book is of interest to all of us, we might hold off on that one until September or October.  So for April's meeting we are reading Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafòn, in May we are reading The Sealed Letter by Emma Donahue (I will be emailing her in the next few weeks to invite her along), and then in June we will look at Lawrence Hill's The Book of Negros.

Finally, we have a new member to introduce.  Her name is Olivia Kathlynn and she was born on the 8th of March.  Proud parents Lynn and Terrence couldn't be more happy, and Aunt Elena is very excited as well.  Lynn, Terrence, and Olivia are all doing very well.  Congratulations to Lynn and her family!

See you all on April 21!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

How many have you read?

1) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
2) The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
3) Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
4) Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
5) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
6) The Bible (even all that begetting)
7) Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
8 ) Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell
9) His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
10) Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
11) Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
12) Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
13) Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
14) Complete Works of Shakespeare
15) Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
16) The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
17) Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
18) Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
19) The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
20) Middlemarch by George Eliot
21) Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
22) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
23) Bleak House by Charles Dickens
24) War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
25) The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adam
s26) Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
27) Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28) Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
29) Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
30) The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
31) Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
32) David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
33) Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis
34) Emma by Jane Austen
35) Persuasion by Jane Austen
36) The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis
37) The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
38 ) Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis De Bernieres
39) Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
40) Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne
41) Animal Farm by George Orwell
42) The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
43) One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44) A Prayer for Owen Meaney by John Irving
45) The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
46) Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
48) The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
49) Lord of the Flies by William Golding
50) Atonement by Ian McEwan
51) Life of Pi by Yann Martel
52) Dune by Frank Herbert
53) Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
54) Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
55) A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
56) The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57) A Tale Of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
58 ) Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
59) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
60) Love In The Time Of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61) Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
62) Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
63) The Secret History by Donna Tartt
64) The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
65) Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
66) On the Road by Jack Kerouac
67) Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
68) Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding
69) Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
70) Moby Dick by Herman Melville
71) Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
72) Dracula by Bram Stoker
73) The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
74) Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
75) Ulysses by James Joyce
76) The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
77) Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
78) Germinal by Emile Zola
79) Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
80) Possession by AS Byatt
81) A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
82) Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
83) The Color Purple by Alice Walker
84) The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
85) Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
86) A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
87) Charlotte's Web by EB White
88) The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom
89) Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90) The Faraway Tree Collection by Enid Blyton
91) Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
92) The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93) The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
94) Watership Down by Richard Adams
95) A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
96) A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute
97) The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98) Hamlet by William Shakespeare
99) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
100) Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Quoted from http://dipndip.blogspot.com/
I do question some of the choices (why so much Jane Austen? Why so much Dickens? Why repeat single books and the series as well? Alsmot no Sci-fi... what about Fahrenheit 451? I Robot? And no non-fiction?).But... still some classics."The Big Read answers a big need. Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America, a 2004 report by the National Endowment for the Arts, found that not only is literary reading in America declining rapidly among all groups, but that the rate of decline has accelerated, especially among the young. The concerned citizen in search of good news about American literary culture would study the pages of this report in vain. They say the average American has only read 6 of the following:"

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Happy Birthday to Jenn!

Happy Birthday to you!
Happy Birthday to you!
Happy Birthday Dear Jenn!!
Happy Birthday to you!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

February

This month, we met and discussed John Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.  I think the overall consensus was that we liked this book.  It was a very poignant tale compacted into a small, yet very powerful, novel.  The story of Bruno and Schmuel is one we will not soon forget.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is horrifying.  At first I felt that Boyne had wronged me; duped me into reading this tale of terror and heartache.   However, upon reflection I realized that I only had to read about these atrocities—6 million people had to live through them.  
That's where we started our discussion.  My opinion was that Boyne did a fantastic job of realizing the horror of the Holocaust through the eyes of an innocent.  Being that I purchased this book from the teen section at Chapters, I figured that Boyne thinks it is important for today's youth to remember the tragedy.  Boyne calls his work a fable.  I believe that this novel is also supposed to serve as a warning.  Too many people believe that the events of World War 1 and 2 simply cannot happen again—the human race is too smart.  I believe Boyne is suggesting that history has a terrible habit of repeating itself unless "fences" like the one in his book, are torn down.
This book sparked a great conversation about the horror of war.  It also sparked members of our club to discuss how our personal histories have been affected by war.  The members of our book club come from diverse backgrounds, and having a chance to hear a bit of each person's family history was very interesting.
Next month, we will be meeting on Monday, March 23rd, at 7:30 in our usual spot.  We selected a different day for March so that some of our luckier members can head off to warmer climates for March Break.  I implore you to bring the sun back with you!  If I have to look at this snow much longer, I am liable to have a breakdown.
For March, we are reading Chitra Divakaruni's The Mistress of Spices.  In April we will be reading Carlos Luis Zafòn's The Shadow in the Wind, and in May we are reading Emma Donahue's The Sealed Letter.  Since Donahue's local, I will send her an email soon via her personal website to invite her to join us!
Lastly, best thoughts and wishes to Lynne.  Please, please have your baby on my birthday! Or, if you can't manage to nail down the exact day (Mar. 3), please just know that we are all thinking about you.  Let us know as soon as you are settled and back on your feet if it was a boy girl, name, etc.  
See you all in March!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

January

This month, we met to discuss William P. Young's (or Wm. Paul Young's depending on what book you have!) The Shack.  This powerful story about a man and his journey into his own heart/faith created a divide amongst our members.  Many of us liked this book.  Some of us found reading this book like reading a first-year philosophy text, and some us just didn't like it much it all.  Those who didn't like it said it was just a bit too preachy/philosophical/big for its britches than they would have liked it to be.  
I fall into the first group.  I really enjoyed The Shack.  The reason I found this book such a joy is because it presented faith in a tangible way to people who may not necessarily go to church or have a defined faith system.  The Shack of course also speaks very loudly to those who do have a more defined faith.  
However, I am not convinced necessarily that this book's main message is about faith.  I believe that Young's novel speaks more loudly to the themes of judgement and forgiveness.  Young's message about judgement is especially poignant.  I brought it up as one of the most powerful moments in the novels, and most of the members agreed.  Young's message about judgement is one that resonates world-wide: what right have we to judge?  And if we are so desperate or willing to do the job, then fine.  Which child of your three are you going to send to Hell? Mind-blowing and powerful, Young's message about leaving judgements to the judge is one that stood out in this novel.
The main theme in The Shack is forgiveness.  Forgiveness is never easy, and I admit that even I could not wrap my head around the protagonist's (Mack) decision to forgive those who wronged him.  Thankfully, some members were able to explain Young's intentions to me.  They say that Young's message is that forgiveness is not about the person—it is about you.  It is so that you can move on, move past a terrible event, and continue to have faith.  "Ahhh," I say, for I realize that Young is not likening forgiveness to friendship, but rather to inner-peace.
If you are looking to read  small novel that's packed with a powerful and poignant message for our times, I recommend The Shack.  It was packed full of some of the most beautiful imagery that I have ever encountered in a novel, and the message Young projects is one that I think everybody can glean something from.
In other news, We decided to push Emma Donahue's The Sealed Letter to May.  This is simply because it is available in trade paperback starting April 9.  This way those of you who prefer to buy it in trade can do so.  For April we will be reading Carlos Ruiz Zafòn's The Shadow in the Wind.  Check the list of "What we are going to read," to see a full list of the books coming up from now until May.  
An important note for the March meeting: We are meeting on Monday, March 23, 7:30 p.m. in our usual location.  The third Tuesday of March falls right in the middle of March Break—a few of us will be on holiday.  For those of you heading to warmer climates, have great time and bring us back some sunshine and warm weather please!
See everyone on February 17, when we will be discussing John Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.