Sunday, June 27, 2010

May and June—Tatiana DeRosnay's Sarah's Key and Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games

The true apex of slackerism has been reached. I neglected to get May's blog up before June's meeting. Shame on myself. But…in celebration of my slacker-self, you are going to get treated to a double feature! That's right boys and girls! Two months, one mega-blog post. So, without further ado…

In May we met and discussed Tatiana DeRosany's Sarah's Key. This book fit in really well with our discussion of Ursula Hegi's Stones from the River, because both books dealt with themes of being different during World War II. DeRosany's story connects Sarah, a French Jewish girl living in France during the Vel d'Hiv round-up, with an American ex-pat female reporter, Julia, living in France during present day.

Predictably, Sarah's story is connected to Julia's. Julia's story serves only to follow Sarah's. This novel's real strength lies in Sarah's story. Tragic and heartbreaking, we follow brave Sarah as she tries to save her brother from the French police, as she escapes from a Nazi camp, and as she finally escapes from France. Her story revolves around the real-life events of the Vel D'hiv round-up, which saw French police arresting Jews over the course of two days on Nazi orders. The Jews were kept for days on end in the Vel d'Hiv, a velodrome. The conditions were unsanitary, horrifying, and inhumane. Eventually, when the French police realized that the surviving prisoners must be moved, or die, the separated the parents from the children. The parents were shipped to Nazi camps, and eventually killed. The children were kept for a few more days. Not knowing what to do with the children, it was decided that they would make it appear as though they were being shipped to work camps. In reality, the children of the Vel d'Hiv were taken directly the to the gas chambers.

This novel's biggest draw is the lesson that it teaches about the real life events at the Vel d'Hiv. It was not an event that I knew a lot about before reading this novel. It is another book that goes to show that the Germans did not act alone—there were so many other offenders. This brings up the theme of survivalism vs. speaking out. If you care to debate this, do so in the comments—but keep it friendly, please. This novel also eloquently portrays the fear and the confusion experienced by the French Jews during the Second World War. Sarah could not understand why being a Jew made her an enemy. She struggled with the events of the tragic round-up throughout her life. In America, she has a son, but keeps his heritage a secret; her secret. She takes her secret to her grave with her.

Then there's Julia. Aside from the connection to Sarah via her scoundrel husbands family tree, Julia's story was nothing more than chick-lit. Quite frankly, it bored me. I have read book after book after book that shows a good and strong woman acting foolishly to try to hang on to a man who doesn't deserve hanging onto. She does eventually kick him to the curb, but it takes frickin' long enough. The Julia portion of the story, in my opinion, was only "meh." It only existed to move Sarah's story along. As Christine said, "I could have gone with a lot less Julia and a lot more Sarah."

In June, we met and discussed Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games. For teen fiction, this novel packs a real punch! Every member of The Third Tuesday Book Club LOVED this book, and the sequel, Catching Fire. Oh, except for Helen…lol. Helen called this book predictable, but readable. It is, after all, teen fiction, so it is written to be what I think of as "eatable."

FYI: our discussion of The Hunger Games morphed into a discussion of Catching Fire too.

One word used to describe The Hunger Games and Catching Fire: addictive. Poor Trisha. She couldn't even enjoy Prospero's long, long monologues when she went to see The Tempest in Stratford. She just wanted to read, read, read The Hunger Games. LOL:)

This book drew comparisons to Stephen King's The Stand, The Running Man, and The Long Walk. It was very much in this vein of story-telling. Interesting The Stand fact: Christine spent her teenage years obsessing over Harold Louder. It was really strange, but she got over it by the time she turned 26 or so:D

The Hunger Games is most certainly a commentary on American culture. The district that Kat lives in is part of a place called Panem, for crying out loud. Panem? Pan-Am? Clearly American commentary. The interesting theory of the night comes courtesy of Darline. While the focus of the biting satire is obvious, where/what is the capitol? Is it Washington? Maybe. But it is more likely that it is Hollywood, or a hybrid Washington/Hollywood. Why Hollywood? Think about where the power of America lies today. In the capitol, think of all of the plastic, and hair, and crazy make-up, the silly parties, the ridiculous lengths of excess—it all screams Hollywood. And then there is the games themselves. Death and torture for nothing more than to entertain/pacify the masses. To remind them of the capitols almighty power over the people. It really changes the way that one reads this novel.

Another hot topic of conversation was Cinna. We see that he has been beaten and dragged away—but is he dead? Some, like me, refuse to believe that he is. No! Not Cinna! Others believe that his role and mission have been fulfilled, and so it seems plausible that he is dead. We'll have to revisit these theories when the third installment, The Mocking Jay, is released.

Lead character Katniss is strong, smart, and savvy. And yet, she does not recognize the efforts of District 13 during her second time in the ring. Why not? Because Katniss only seems to know two things: Survive or die. It has all that she has ever known. She does not want to be married or have children, either, to prevent any future offspring to being exposed the the horror of the Reaping.

Which begs on final, pressing, question: Gayle or Peta? Read the books, and let me know what you think in the comments. Myself? I am totally on Team Gayle! But, the Third Tuesday Book Club was quite divided on this one!

Our next meeting is July 20 at Trisha's house. Everyone, keep an eye on your inboxes for directions and Trisha's address. We are going to be discussing Kathryn Stockett's The Help. If you haven't started this book yet, you are in for a treat! Can't WAIT to discuss this awesome novel! I believe that the 7:30 time remains.

For our August 17 meeting we will be discussing Jeanette's pick—Kate Pullinger's The Mistress of Nothing. As far as I know, this meeting will be taking place in the usual place at the usual time.

Sue has picked Chris Cleave's Little Bee for September. Trisha has selected The Mocking Jay for October. I have no idea what I am picking for November! And don't forget that Helen has already selected The Bishop's Man by Linden MacIntyre for January.

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