Sunday 12 January 2014

Sunday morning tea and book talk...

This has been a real book-club-focused week for me.  My “friends” book club met on Thursday night, my volunteer book club met on Friday morning, and I spoke with the staff at the Senior Day Program at the community centre where I volunteer to set up a book club date for the next book club meeting with their group.  So many book clubs, so little time…

My book club on Thursday night discussed The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison, and WOW, was it ever a great discussion!  I enjoyed this book so much both times I read it that I was anxious to talk to someone else about it, which is the best part about a book club.  This meeting certainly did not disappoint, as this novel about the breakdown of a 20-year marriage gave us so much material to explore (if you would like a full summary of the plot, please see last week's post). We discussed many different aspects of the book, such as the suitability of Jodi and Todd as a couple, with all their personal quirks and idiosyncrasies, Jodi’s response to her childhood experiences, and whether they were realistic or not, and Todd’s responses to the situations that had become his reality.  We looked particularly at Jodi, her childhood experiences, her situation as an adult, a wife and a psychotherapist, and her reactions to the changes that she was potentially facing due to Todd’s situation.  There were points that I never thought of that we discussed, and which now make certain aspects of the novel more realistic or believable (I don’t want to give anything about the plot away here, so I’m being intentionally vague).  This novel is on the list for my volunteer book group to discuss in September, and I’m curious what their response might be, as compared to my other group.  I don’t doubt that it will be a very interesting discussion indeed.

My volunteer group met on Friday morning to discuss Annabel by Kathleen winter, which was a recommendation from at least two of the book club members.  I was reluctant to read it, as I was sure I would not like it, due to the strangeness of the storyline.  This novel is set in a small town in Labrador and begins with the birth of a child to Jacinta and Treadway in 1968.  Jacinta is from St John, and she never intended to stay in the small town for more than a couple of years.  Treadway is a trapper and hunter, and feels more at home out in the wilderness than in the home.  As a couple, they make compromises for one another, and as parents, they are forced to make a life-altering decision when their child is born with both male and female reproductive parts.  When the baby is very young, they must decide whether to raise their child as a boy or a girl, a decision that will have lasting effects on the child, the parents, their friend Thomasina, and the whole community, to a certain degree.  I’m usually reluctant to read books that features a main character with an unusual condition or deformity, although I loved A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving.  But this book was actually better than I expected, once I got past the first few chapters.  Some of the parts were somewhat unrealistic, but on the whole, it was an interesting read, and mostly well-written.  My ladies in the book club loved it.  They thought all the characters seemed very real, even the minor characters.  They felt that the struggles Treadway and Jacinta faced as parents of this child were realistic, and that they responded in ways that were believable.  They liked most of the main characters, although Thomasina seemed to be the character people had the most struggle with in terms of liking her or agreeing with her decisions and actions.  We discusses the roles of men and women, and how these roles were evolving in society, becoming less defined.  We thought the setting, both date in history and location, were significant, that if this child had been born in Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver in the 1990's, this story would have been very different.  It was ultimately an uplifting book, but be warned that there are some emotionally difficult scenes.

And I read a lovely children’s novel the other day, Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo, about a young girl named India Opal whose father is the new preacher at a church in Naomi, Florida, where they have recently moved.  She has no friends and no mother, and her father is so caught up in his role as preacher for the community that, while he loves his daughter, he is often distant from her.  Opal adopts a stray dog whom she meets in the produce department of the Winn-Dixie grocery store, and her life turns around, all, she admits, because of Winn-Dixie.  It was a lovely, sad, uplifting novel about dealing with loss, making friends, and adapting to new surroundings.  This book was recommended to me by my niece, Sylvie, who told me over Christmas that it was her favourite book.  I think it might become one of my favourites, too.

I’m having a struggle deciding what to read next, as I have some “for review” books piled up in front of me, but none of these titles are grabbing my attention.  I have no committee books lined up to read right now, and so am at a bit of a loss… Maybe I will try to finish The Dinosaur Feather by S.J. Gazan, a book I started reading some time ago for review but then stopped.  It is a Danish crime novel, a “classic Scandinavian noir” (from the back cover) that features a PhD student who is working on a thesis about the origins of birds.  Just two weeks away from defending her thesis, her academic advisor is found dead in his office.  I haven’t got much further than that, but I recall that it was pretty good, so I think it will suit my reading mood right now (since it’s so dreary, snowy and overcast, I feel like I’m in Denmark!!)

That’s all for today. 

Bye for now…

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