Sunday, 25 March 2018

tea and books on a sunny, chilly morning...

It’s bright and sunny… and -10 degrees!  The sun is deceiving, and despite the season’s change to Spring, it’s still very chilly, so my steaming cup of chai is definitely welcome this morning.
I had a Friends' book club meeting this past Monday to talk about Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld.  This novel tells the story of two sisters, identical twins who also have psychic abilities, which they call “the senses”, and is told from the point of view of Daisy/Kate, the younger sister (by 8 minutes).  She and Violet grew up in a challenging household, where their mother, younger than their father by more than a decade, spent most of her days in her room, leaving the girls to tend to the needs of the family.  Their father was also mostly distant, and the girls grew to rely on each other until their teens, when they grew apart. Violet became more flamboyant, flaunting her psychic ability, while Daisy struggled for modesty and restraint.  At the time the novel takes place, they are in their mid-thirties and Violet earns her living as a psychic, while Daisy, who has, since college, gone by her middle name, Kate, is a full-time mother of two, married to Jeremy, a professor of geology at the local university.  After a minor earthquake in their hometown of St Louis, Violet predicts a much more destructive earthquake in the not-too-distant future, a prediction which is met with outrage by the geology department head. Violet’s prediction somehow becomes international news, and Kate must deal with her ostentatious behaviour while trying to maintain her own low-key existence, as well as that of her family.  Throw into the mix her relationship with the neighbours, stay-at-home father Hank and his wife, Courtney, the head of the geology department and Jeremy’s boss, and you have a domestic saga of tremendous proportion, which Sittenfeld manages to relate in a slow, quiet manner that builds to a surprising plot twist that shocked us all. I’ve listened to  American Wife by Sittenfeld as an audiobook and loved it, and I found that this novel was written in a similar way, which I can only describe as her tendency to write in a complete, fully-detailed, yet somewhat flat, unaffected way; Sittenfeld conveys her stories fully and completely, but in a style that is matter-of-face, not emotional.  About this book, I wondered whether it was their “twinness” or their “psychicness” that causes their bond as well as their rift, or maybe it’s both. The group wondered whether this was a realistic portrayal of twins, since they were so different as teens and adults (although Kate says at one point that Violet wasn't saying or doing anything she herself would not do if she wasn't so determined to be conventional).  We thought it was a light, easy read, but it also had depth and offered the novelty of twins, making it a good book club choice. The curiosity regarding the earthquake kept the anticipation and suspense building, which was great, as we all felt that the story lagged at times and seemed a bit over-long.  We felt that Kate was unforgiving and judgmental towards Violet, and we couldn’t decide whether Jeremy was too-good-to-be-true or unwilling to accept Kate for who she was. We thought Kate was not living authentically, and was also unwilling to accept who she really was. We thought the mother was an interesting character about whom the author meted out details throughout the book until we were able to piece together a fuller picture.  Likewise the father, who, again, we learn about piecemeal throughout the novel. Secrecy plays a big part in the book, secrecy between characters as well as between author and reader, and it would certainly spoil your reading experience if I gave anything more away! All in all, it was a good choice and a good discussion, and while none of us “loved” the book, we all enjoyed reading it.
That’s all for today.  Bundle up and get outside to enjoy the sunshine!
Bye for now…
Julie

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