Sunday 24 January 2016

Book talk on a chilly morning...

I have no yummy treats to accompany my steaming cup of chai this morning, just a bowl of homemade applesauce mixed with cottage cheese, a surprisingly delicious way to compensate for my indulgences over the holidays!

My book club did not meet on Monday night as planned, due to the inclement weather that day.  I expected we might just skip this meeting and plan for a future date with a new book, but due to improved weather conditions and the enthusiasm and availability of people in the group, we ended up meeting on Thursday night, and it what a lively discussion indeed.  Just to quickly remind you, Liane Moriarty’s book What Alice Forgot tells the story of Alice Love, a 39-year old woman who, while at her Friday spin class, faints and falls off her bicycle, hitting her head and suffering a concussion.  When she awakes, she thinks she is 29 years old, newly married and expecting her first child.  She has forgotten everything that has happened over the past ten years, and is shocked to discover that she is a slim, fit, well-off mother of three children, and that she and her husband Nick hate each other and are getting a divorce.  Over the course of the book, as bits and pieces of her memory begin to return and as the people around her fill her in on what has been happening in her life, she wonders whether it would be better not knowing how she became who she is;  in short, she both wants her memories to return and also wants to remain blissfully ignorant.  In my last post, I hadn’t quite finished the book, but I wasn’t loving it.  It was a great premise, but it lacked the conviction of her other novels.  It didn’t quite seem believable, the characters were fairly flat and two-dimensional, the story dragged, the pacing was off, and the last bit where everything was explained felt as though Moriarty’s deadline for book submission was nearing so she stayed up all night, writing and wrapping  everything up quickly and neatly.  I was not alone in this opinion - we all agreed that this was not her best book, that it was an interesting, but not entirely believable, story.  We felt that she could have organized the book differently to keep readers more interested during the middle section, when things dragged.  One of our members, who recently turned 40, seemed to have enjoyed it the most, as for her, like Alice, that signified a turning point in her life, a cathartic time when she evaluated her life and, also like Alice, had to let go of the things that were no longer important.  (I wonder what a 29-year old reader would think of this book?!)  We all agreed that the ending felt rushed, and that the characters should have been more fully developed.  Some of us appreciated that there were three different storylines in the book, as revealed by Alice, her sister Elizabeth, and their adopted grandmother Frannie, and a couple of us agreed that Elizabeth was our favourite character, the one towards whom we felt most sympathetic.  But one of our members felt that Moriarty was trying to pack too much into the book, that she included these other storylines to appeal to all readers, including older readers (Frannie’s story) or women who struggled to have children (Elizabeth).  I hadn’t thought of that, but once she mentioned it, I could see how that made the novel feel somewhat “cluttered” and unfocused.  One member, who had read other books by the author, said it was almost as if this book was by a different writer, but we pointed out that there were similarities to her other books:  dealing with serious issues in a realistic, but also humourous, way, and presenting ordinary domestic situations but including a mystery that keeps the story going and the reader interested, as the solution is not revealed until the very last pages.  So all in all, this was a good choice for a book club discussion, but not one of her best books.

And I want to quickly mention that I went to see the film adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s book Room yesterday, and I thought it was very emotional, very moving and really well-acted.  I wasn’t a huge fan of the book, although I listened to it as an audiobook and did enjoy that format.  This book begins with a mother and her five-year old son living in a single room, held captive by Old Nick. The boy, Jack, has never been outside, so Room is his whole world - the only thing he knows about the world outside is through what he watches on TV, which he does not understand represents the real world. When their situation becomes precarious, Ma comes up with a plan for escape, and what ensues are the challenges that they face when they re-enter society. This book has two distinct parts, captivity and freedom, and I remember enjoying the first part of the audiobook better than the second part.  The film, however, focuses more on the second part, which I think really works. Donoghue wrote the screenplay, so hopefully she was able to transfer the things she felt were important from the book to the screen.  I would definitely recommend it, but be sure to bring lots of tissues!

That’s all for today.  Bundle up and get outside!

Bye for now…

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