It's foggy, overcast, and cloudy outside, but my steaming cup of tea is very inviting to me this morning as I think about what I've been reading and discussing with my book group.
We met last Friday to discuss Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, and it was a successful meeting once again. None of the book club members had read this book before, which is always a bonus for me as facilitator, being able to introduce the whole group to something new. I was working last Thursday afternoon when one of my members came into the library and was checking out another of Patchett's books, I think it was Run, and she told me that she really enjoyed the selection - that really made me happy, and it was unprompted and natural, since there was no way she could know I would be helping her check out her books. Anyways, some members loved this book; I think the term they used was "delightful". During our discussion, we talked about the wonderful relationships that were developed during the time of the hostage situation. If you remember, this book is about a terrorist hostage-taking in an unnamed Latin American country where the boundaries between hostage and terrorist become blurred quite early on, and the situation goes unresolved for four and a half months, which I believe is quite a long time for such a situation. The relationships between and among the hostages and terrorists play a significant role in the novel, once the author explores individual characters in-depth at the beginning of the novel. We discussed the individual characters, and how they adapted to, and in some cases even embraced, their new situation as hostages. Some hostages even blossomed and found untapped skills and talents. But not all members loved this book. Some found the situation too unrealistic and fairy-tale like. I pointed out that this was based on a real situation that took place in Peru in the late 1990s. Unfortunately, at the time of our last meeting, I hadn't brought full details of the actual situation, but I will bring that with me to our next meeting. A member brought information about something called the Stockholm Syndrome. According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stockholm_syndrome): "In psychology, Stockholm Syndrome is an apparently paradoxical psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and have positive feelings towards their captors, sometimes to the point of defending them. These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for an act of kindness." This absolutely happened in the book, and quite likely in the actual hostage situation (I'll know more about that when I read the information I found yesterday). I think after the discussion, those members who at first found the book unrealistic realized that this could, and possibly did, happen. The other "criticism" of the book, shared by most everyone in the group, was the elevated role of Roxane Coss, the opera singer whose presence and performance was the main reason for the event taking place. She was always portrayed in the novel as being "above" the other hostages, almost ethereal. Her requests were always fulfilled, while the demands of the terrorists were consistently not met. She was the focus of the book, all activity revolved around her presence, and yet she spoke very little and her actions did not make up a significant part of the book. It was almost as if she was "in that world but not of it", to paraphrase what I think is a quote from somewhere. To sum up, everyone thought it was a worthwhile read, and I'm personally glad I selected it as a book club novel, otherwise I may never have finished it due to the difficulty I had getting into the novel the first time I tried to read it.
Last night I finished reading Elizabeth George's fourth book in the Inspector Lynley series, A Suitable Vengeance, and it was certainly up to her standard of writing. If you recall from a previous post, I think sometime in October, I mentioned that this novel was odd in that it is well into the series and yet it seems to start from the beginning, providing information of events that happened before the first novel in the series. This seemed strange to me, so I'm glad I waited until some time had passed between the end of the last George novel and the start of this novel, so I had time to distance myself from the characters and forget what had happened. As I wrote in that previous post, this novel would fill in the gaps and make clear the references to previous events that are made in later books. I now fully understand the complex relatioships of Lynley, Simon, Deborah and Helen, and how they came to be where they are and with whom. It also provided background information and context for the relationship of Lynley and his brother Peter, as well as their mother. And the murder mystery was interesting, even without these individual complex relationships. So it was a worthwhile read, but I think if I were recommending this series to someone, I would encourage them to read this one first, before the first novel in the series, since it would save alot of guesswork and also set the stage for the rest of the series. I wonder why she wrote them in this way... curious. Oh well, interesting reading nonetheless.
Now I need to decide what to read next... hmmm... I'll think about that later.
Bye for now!