Sunday, 8 April 2018

Book club hilights on a chilly morning...

It certainly feels like we’re getting a final blast of winter this weekend.  It’s windy and overcast, with a dusting of snow and a bite in the air, so my steaming cup of chai is a welcome treat to keep me warm this morning.
My volunteer book club met yesterday, and it was a full house.  Six members came out, which is everyone except one lady who spends every winter in Mexico.  I thought perhaps it was the fact that they all loved the book choice, The Imposter Bride by Canadian novelist Nancy Richler, that had them all attending, but alas, I found out soon enough that not everyone loved it.  This novel tells the story of Lily Azerov, a young woman who, shortly after WWII, makes her way from Poland to Montreal via Tel Aviv to marry a man she has never met.  Upon seeing her at the train station, Sol decides he does not want to marry her and leaves her there, waiting for him to arrive. She ends up marrying Sol’s brother, Nathan, and they seem to have a happy beginning.  But Lily is not who she says she is, and when she abandons her baby Ruth to the care of the family when she is just three months old, no one is really surprised. But who is the woman who calls herself Lily and why did she come to Montreal, only to leave so soon after beginning a new life with Nathan?  That is what the book jacket suggests this novel is about, but the book group all agreed that this was misleading. The first thing someone said about this book is that it left her with more questions than answers, and she felt that it was too difficult to keep track of so many characters and families. Another member thought that the book lacked an authentic Montreal “feel”; that even though it was set there and Richler mentions a few specific places in Montreal, the novel could have been set anywhere.  We talked about this and decided that “place” wasn’t nearly as important in this novel as “time period”. Another member felt just “lukewarm” about the book overall. She thought it was too slow, that not much happened until the end, when when it all came together too quickly. We all agreed that we wanted to get to know Lily better, as well as many of the other characters; there were so many interesting storylines in this book that could have been developed into their own novels, such as Sol and Elka (and Ida Pearl),  Yanna, Andre and Lily, and Reuben and Ruth. In short, this novel had alot of potential. A number of people loved the book (one member used the word “spectacular” to describe it), and felt that the characters and storylines were realistic. We discussed how we can never really know others, even those we believe we know well. One member suggested that the entire community in the novel was like a fishbowl, and Lily realized she couldn’t live in it, but she couldn’t take her daughter away with her, either. We discussed Judaism, and realized how little we know about the Jewish experience.  This led to discussion about the refugee experience, and how we will never know what we might be willing to do in order to survive. I loved the book, and I think after the discussion, some of the people who were on the fence about it where swayed somewhat towards appreciating the novel as a whole. It was a confusing read for sure, with so many characters and details, so if you want to read it, I would recommend taking some notes.
And speaking of notes, here's just a quick one:  the annual CFUW Book Sale is coming up in a couple of weeks, so if you are in the market for used books, this is the place to go!  Check out their site for more info:
That’s all for today.  Bundle up and get outside!
Bye for now…
Julie

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