Sunday 3 June 2012

Tea and book talk on a Sunday morning...

I thought I'd post on Sunday morning this week rather than Monday evening, since I'm in my favourite chair with a cup of chai thinking about the really good book that I've been reading and hope to finish on this overcast, sometimes rainy Sunday.  I think I mention the weather so much at the beginning of each post because weather is so influential for me on my reading mood; that is, whether I feel like reading at all, or what I want to read.  I guess this is a way for me to set the reading mood for you, too.

I haven't read much since my last post, but I've attended two book group meetings, so I thought I could share the highlights of those with you.  My first group met on Thursday evening to discuss Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan, the book about the jazz musicians in Europe in the time leading up to WWII.  I wan't sure how our meeting would go, as I've only ever been a facilitator for a book group so did not know if I should prepare any background materials on the book and the author like I normally do for my volunteer book group role (I did not), or if there would be a "group leader", or how it would work out.  It turned out fine.  The venue was great, and we just went around in a circle and talked about aspects of the book that each person thought was significant or affected them in some way.  No one prepared background info, which is something we decided we would do for future meetings, and that the responsibility for that would fall to whoever chooses the book.  In this case, it will be my responsibility, since our next book for the July meeting will be Saturday by Ian McEwan.  Anyways, everyone in the group enjoyed the book, and I think at least one of the four of us LOVED it.  She found the writing style, the slang which I found so challenging, to be almost singsong and rhythmic, like jazz music itself.  She enjoyed the way the story moved from past to present to past to present, again finding rhythm in this.  We all agreed that this female author wrote convincingly from a male character's perspective, and one member wondered what the purpose of the lone female character in the book was.  I wondered how the book would have been different written from this character's point of view.  One member felt that the main character came across as very "real", not flawless, not flat or two-dimensional, but believable for the reader.  It was interesting to hear what others thought of these aspects of a book that I did not particularly enjoy, and to discover ways in which this book spoke to them and reached them.  That is the wonder of book groups, because books and reading are such individual experiences.  This doesn't happen so much in my other book group, because I generally choose the books so they are books that I either have read before and liked, or books that I have not read before but think I will probably like, but also will make good discussion books.  I have decided to try this author's first book, The Second Life of Samuel Tyne at some point - I put it on hold at the library, but didn't take it out, as I decided to read something else instead.

That something else is Rabbit Run by John Updike.  I've read A Month of Sundays many years ago by this famous American author, and while I was ordering the "Rabbit" series for a library, it came as a shock to me to realize that I have never read any of these books.  I decided that now is the time to do so.  While I started this book yesterday, I think that now is not the right time to read it.  I think that, if the rain holds off, I will walk to the used books stores downtown and look for a paperback copy of this title so I can read it when I'm really in the mood to read and appreciate this novel.  I have a feeling that it will be a bit like The Winter of Our Discontent in that it will be a novel that, while dated in setting, will be timeless in human experience.

My ladies met yesterday to discuss Mark Haddon's novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.  This novel is told from the perspective of a fifteen-year old autistic boy and relates his adventures as he tries to discover who killed the neighbour's dog.  We all loved it.  We were identifying with and cheering for Christopher, the main character, as he encountered neighbours, new experiences, and the British rail system on his quest to find his mother.  Our discussion focused a great deal on how difficult it must be for those individuals with some degree of autism, as well as parents and caregivers, to function in today's society.  We all had stories to tell about people we know who are autistic or have someone in their lives with autism.  It was a lively discussion once again, and I think the book was a success.

And finally, I've decided to finish reading Daughters Who Walk This Path by Yejide Kilanko, a novel set in Nigeria which deals with the lives of several women in one family over a number of decades.  I started it about a week ago, and thought that after my two previous reading selections, Chai Tea Sunday and The Lightning Field, I needed a break from books about women's experiences overcoming life's obstacles.  Then I read the two books discussed above, which must have been the change I needed, because I picked up Daughters yesterday and could hardly put it down.  It does not dwell on the negativity of the experiences for the main characters in its presentation of these experiences; in fact, it is often upbeat and positive in tone and story.  I also sense that this is much more than the experiences of one girl in her culture, but rather a portrayal of the network of supports that exist for women in Nigeria.  I am particularly interested in this novel, recommended by someone from work, because this author is a social worker in the field of children's mental health in Chatham, Ontario, which is where I grew up.  This is her first novel, and I think it shows great talent and promise.  While only half-way through, I'm finding it compelling enough to want to finish it today... here's hoping for many happy hours of reading!

That's all for today.

Bye for now!

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