It feels like it's been such a long time since I've posted an entry that I've decided to post today... after all, the sun is shining, I'm drinking delicious chai tea, and I had a great book club discussion on Friday, so how could I wait until Wednesday to tell you about it?!
We discussed Still Alice by Lisa Genova for our book club meeting. Everyone found it to be well-written, but some found it difficult to put into words the way they felt about the book. One member said she felt "ambivalent" about it, because although she thought it was a great book, she couldn't really say she "enjoyed" it, since it dealt with such a difficult topic. Another member admitted that she was initially angry with me for choosing such a heart-wrenching book, but I think she got over that anger once she finished the novel. I told the group that I was reluctant to select this novel for us to read and discuss particularly because of the subject and the relation this may have to my group. I facilitate a book group at a community centre as part of the 50+ Programming, so my group members are all over 50 years of age. Still Alice is about a woman who, as she turns 50, is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's, and her progressive decline as she loses the ability to recall and remember, basically as she "fades away". You can see, then, why I was reluctant to add this to the list of books for us to discuss. But while it's a difficult book to read, it's also filled with hope for understanding and redemption for her family members, as well as Alice's ability to hold on to what is essentially "Alice", even as the details fade. We talked about the design of the cover, where the title is written STiLL ALiCE, with only the "i' in each word diminishing, and the symbol of the butterfly, both on the cover and in the story as the butterfly necklace that belonged to Alice's deceased mother which she starts to wear regularly, and how that symbol of change, of fleeting beauty, is so powerful and appropriate. One member suggested that this novel helped her to better understand the challenges her friend, who is taking care of her father with dementia, is facing. In the end, we agreed that it was a worthwhile read, well-written, difficult to get through, but excellent nonetheless (and I think that one member has forgiven me for putting it on our list!).
But now I need to review the book suggestions I have listed for the rest of the year and try to squeeze in a few "feel-good" books. Most of the titles that I've chosen are not necessarily what you would call "uplifting", although I believe that all except The Bell Jar contain an element of hope at the end. I'm thinking of changing the August selection, Peace Like a River by Leif Enger, not because it's depressing (although it is kind of depressing), but because there are not enough library copies for everyone so it may be a struggle to get a copy in time for the meeting. I'm thinking of replacing that title with Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding, which will definitely be humourous and uplifting, and I'm sure there are enough library copies to go around. Perhaps if not Bridget Jones, then maybe something by Roddy Doyle, which one of my members recommended at the meeting on Friday. His books are funny, but I think they have enough substance to sustain a group book discussion. I'm also nearly finished The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, and wonder if that would be too short and too easy to sustain a discussion for us. Maybe if I paired The Little Prince with something else... hmmm... I'll give it some thought. Still, it's been wonderful to reread the translation of that lovely french title after many years: "'If you tame me', says the fox, 'you'll be the only boy in the world for me, and I'll be the only fox in the world for you'". That's a powerful and beautiful notion of the ties that we form with others, including the people and animals that are important to us and touch our lives.
Now I need to find something new to read, and have no idea what I will read next. I'm going to peruse my bookshelves here at home and see if I can come up with something suitable for my current reading mood (what is my current reading mood? I'm not sure yet, but I hope to find out soon... I hate wasting precious time not reading!)
Bye for now!