Sunday 12 August 2012

Book talk on a cool Sunday mornng...

I'm listening to the birds sing in the tree in front of our house on this cool Sunday morning as the weak sunlight tries to break through the clouds in the overcast sky, just the kind of weather I have come to expect and appreciate at this time of year.  As the end of summer fast approaches, life gets busy as we anticipate the end of the season.  I am looking forward, as usual, to the crisp bright days of autumn, with the falling leaves and the cool mornings.  Ahhh, my favourite season will soon arrive.

Anyways, let's talk about books.  My book group met yesterday to discuss Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen, a memoir about a woman in her early 40s whose husband leaves her for a man named Bob whom he met on and who shortly therafter gets injured in a car accident.  In order to deal with these crises and recover, both physically and emotionally, she returns home to her Mennonite family community in California, a community she has visited infrequently for the past 25 years.  I will admit to not knowing anything about this book when I put it on the reading list, except that it was very popular when it came out in 2009 and it had a great cover design, so I was not entirely surprised to hear from nearly everyone at the meeting that they did not like it at all.  For reasons I will not detail here, I was only able to skim the book, so I couldn't make a fair judgment, but from what I read, I was hoping to have a chance to read it in full at some point, as I was enjoying it.  I did download it as an audiobook late last week, so have listened to less than half the book, and I'm enjoying it more as an audiobook than as written pages.  Some of the comments my book club members made, and these were almost entirely held unanimously, were that the book was not well-written, it had no structure and rambled along from one topic to another seemingly with no direction.  The author used excessive scatalogical humour throughout the book, which was unnecessary and somewhat offensive.  She didn't seem able to move on from her  disappointment at being left for a man named Bob.  She was excessively hard on the Mennonite culture in general and her upbringing by her parents in that community in particular, and she misrepresented Mennonites in the stories she included in the book.  I agreed with the comments about the writing style and structure, and as I listen to the book in its entirety, I am coming across more crude images that seem to serve no real purpose and believe that points could be better illustrated using different imagery.  Having said that, it is a memoir, so the author's stories are meant to represent her own experiences, and I was able to identify with her in a number of different areas.  I am findng the book funny, straightforward, and bittersweet.  I don't feel that she is slamming the Mennonite culture so much as simplifying their values and talking of ways that they can be incorporated into today's world, and also why these values are still important and should not be forgotten in our everyday lives.  Once again, I'm not even half-way through the book, and I'm listening to it  being read aloud by the author, so my experience is different that that of the other members.  There is one member who admitted to me after the meeting that she enjoyed listening to it as well, but that her stories and attitude grew tiresome by the end.  Perhaps it is a book that, like poetry is meant to do, works better when read aloud than when read silently.  I still think that this was a successful book selection, as we had a lively and lenghty discussion about the book itself, other books about the Mennonite culture, both fiction and non-fiction, and Mennonites in general.  I'm looking forward to listening to the rest of the book, and I'm sure that our next book selection, The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, will be a more enjoyable read for most members.  This was a suggestion from one of the members, and others have either already read it or are looking forward to reading it.

I hope to have a chance to get back to the book I mentioned in my last post, The Town That Drowned by Riel Nason, and finish reading it this week.  I also began listening to Ruth Rendell's latest Inspector Wexford novel, The Vault, which I had to pause while I tried to get to Mennonite... it seems that the list grows longer as my time grows shorter...

With that thought, I think I will close and take advantage of the possibly rainy afternoon to read, read, read (or listen, listen, listen...) 

Bye for now!

1 comment:

  1. Looking forward to cool, crisp autumn days myself =) I find that kind of weather much more conducive to reading!