Sunday, 9 December 2012

Very short post...


This will be a very short post, as I'm feeling under-the-weather this morning, but thought I should try to write something for this week.

In my haste last week to write about the similarities between Tell It To The Trees and Fall On Your Knees, I completely forgot to tell you about my book club discussion last weekend.  We discussed Alistair MacLeod's To Every Thing There is a Season, a very short story about a boy's Christmas in Cape Breton in I think the 1930s.  When I chose it as a book club selection, I didn't realize that it was a short story, probably less than 20 small pages of text.  When I took my copy out of the library, I wondered if there would be enough for us to discuss, but I must say, it was one of the best discussions we've had.  This short story tells of a young boy's move from childhood to adulthood during the Christmas season.  He no longer believes in Santa Claus, but he tries to hang onto some aspects of his childhood beliefs.  His brother comes home shortly before Christmas, and they go off to church together through the snowy wood.  When they come home, he is invited to join the adults in a room where his brother's boxes of "clothes" are unpacked and revealed to contain gifts, some labelled "From Santa".  The boy realizes that he will never again receive a gift with this label, that he must let go of some aspects of his childhood and accept the loss of innocence that is inevitable.  His father reassures him by telling him that some things pass, but that good things are left in their place.  It was a lovely story which touched me on several levels.  It brought to mind the innocence of childhood, and I wondered if it is human nature to idealize childhood.  After all, this story was written 40 years later, and the author was recollecting the experience.  Perhaps the boy at the time did not think the open-carriage drive through the snowy wood was so wonderful, perhaps he was cold and tired, maybe even cranky and impatient for the morning to arrive, when he could open his gifts.  We discussed this at the meeting, along with the shift the holiday season has undergone over the years, and the commercialism of it now.  There seems to be less appreciation for simply getting together and enjoying the company of family members now, and the holidays these days seem to run to excess.  We talked about the beautiful illustrations in the small book, and how they really captured the essence of the story.  We also talked about the detailed descriptions of the animals, how these descriptions were as significant to the story as any other part, and how animals at that time were a source of warmth, both physically and symbolically.  In short, we loved it, and we had a wonderful discussion about the holiday season, childhood memories, and loss of innocence.

I had a struggle coming up with a book to read last week, so I took The Sculptress by Minette Walters off my shelf to reread.  It tells the story of a writer, Roz, who is interviewing Olive Martin, a woman in prison for  murdering her mother and sister, with the intention of writing a book about her.  I've read it before and actually found sticky notes inside the cover with discussion notes on it, which reminded me that I once discussed this novel with my very first book group, a group of friends who used to get together once a month.  I'd completely forgotten about that.  Anyway, I still think Walters is a brilliant writer of psychological mysteries, but I'm rather disappointed to see that Roz, the author in the book, is much like the main character in The Scold's Bridle, who is a doctor.  Both characters are weak females who allow themselves to be in relationships with fairly abusive, or at least controlling, males, who seem to cause these characters to go "weak in the knees".  I've never noticed that before, and I'm finding it quite disturbing.  I wonder why Walters felt the need to portray women in such a naive, vulnerable way, and not just once, but in at least two of her novels.  Now I recently listened to The Dark Room and I don't remember her using this type of character in that novel; Jinx, the main character, is fairly strong and seems to know her own mind.  Well, however Roz behaves in the rest of the novel, I will finish reading it, as it is well-written, and I've forgotten what the outcome of the story is, since it's been many years since my last reading.

That's all for today.

Bye for now!
Julie

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