Sunday 29 July 2012

Book talk on a Sunday afternoon...

On a lazy sunny summer Sunday afternoon, I want to take some time to look back on my week's reading experiences.  I've read, listened to, discussed and recommended a number of books since my last post.

First, I read A Large Harmonium by Sue Sorensen, an author who lives in Winnipeg.  This is her first novel, and tells the story of a woman, Janet, who is in her early 40s, an English professor with a toddler and a loving husband.  Her relationship is good, her job is uneventful, and she loves her child, yet she has doubts and second thoughts about her life, which she expresses in a most delightful way.  There is really no story to this novel, but her musings on her life made me chuckle and nod my head while simultaneously cheering her on and hoping she gets through her "motherhood" and "wife" crises.  Her husband is trying to lose weight so he suggests to Janet, or Janey, that she use the names of vegetables as pet names for him.  Throughout the novel, she refers to her husband as parsnip or radish, among other root vegetables.  Their friend, Jam, and his potential love story give the reader an opportunity to wonder what will happen next, while still maintaining interest in Janey's life experiences.  It was not a laugh-out-loud novel, but it was delightful and heartfelt.  I not only liked Janey's character, I completely identified with her - well,except the "toddler" part, but even that was not praised or idealized or even outright mocked, as in some novels about the motherhood experience.  It was just a humourous and realistic representation of an average woman's life as she faces various life situations.  It may be a bit religious for some, as God, and Janey's references to Him, make up a significant portion of the novel. Having had a semi-religious upbringing, not only was I not disturbed by this aspect, but it was yet another way for me to identify with the character.  I think I especially liked this book because the main character is telling the reader that most times, life just doesn't live up to our expectations, and that the actual experience is nothing like the experiences we read about in books; that life is sometimes "boring", but it's really like that for everyone.  Maybe no one really "fits in", even though some may appear to have it all "together".  I may have just found a new "favourite" Canadian novel, and I anxiously await Sorensen's next book.

My new book group met on Thursday and discussed Saturday by Ian McEwan, which detailed the experiences of a successful neurosurgeon in London on Saturday, one of his days off.  Of the five of us, only one other member besides me loved the novel at the beginning of the discussion (our newest member did not have a chance to finish it by the time of the meeting).  The other two members were unsure how they felt about it, but no one said they disliked it, which I appreciated, since I selected it.  By the end of the discussion, though, I suspect the two who were unsure about it felt differently, or at least had a better appreciation for the novel, the language, the characters and the author.  That often happens when there is a book discussion:  a reader has an opportunity to hear how another reader responded to the book, and it is often very different from one's personal experience.  In this case, the other person who loved the book felt very much as I did about it, that it looked at the interconnectedness of individuals in society, that it looked at personal experiences and ways in which our lives affect others, that it dealt with family and the relationships different family members have with others.  She also said that she felt McEwan was giving her a glimpse into the thoughts of a 21st century man as he experiences mid-life in a large urban centre (I'm paraphrasing, but something like that).  If you recall, I mentioned earlier that this novel was very slow, and that not much happens even by the end of the book, but that it is very much a novel of self-awareness for the main character, Henry Perowne.  It is interesting that only  the two of us who enjoyed this novel have read others by McEwan, and I wonder if that has something to do with our responses.  I suppose we were not surprised by the "lack of plot" because we knew this was a common occurrence in his novels, and that it would all be worth it in the end, as it always is.  Preconceived notions of how a book will be can affect a reader's response in various ways.  I'm sure we've all had situations when a book was so highly recommended to us that we absolutely had to read it, and yet our response to the book fell far short of our expectation.  I wonder if that is why I don't really like to get book recommendations from others, but would rather choose books based on my own various book selection methods.

I'm listening to a book by Rose Connors, Absolute Certainty, a courtroom drama/mystery about a possible wrongful conviction of a murderer in a small town near Boston.  This book is part of a series featuring Martha Nickerson, an assistant distict attorney.  I've listened to one other book in the series some time ago (can't recall the title).  It's OK, not thrilling, not so suspenseful as Defending Jacob, but it will do for now.

And we had a family BBQ at our place this weekend, so various family members were asking me for book recommendations.  I recommended Saturday to one member who I felt would appreciate the introspective nature of this book.  I recommended Chai Tea Sunday to another member who I felt would enjoy reading a book about one women's experiences dealing with and overcoming challenges in her life.  I also recommended The Daughters Who Walk This Path and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time to this same family member, as I felt that these book might suit her reading needs at this time.  I hope she enjoys at least one of these titles.

I've run out of books to discuss, so I'll close for today.

Bye for now!

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