Sunday 6 June 2021

Feelin' hot, hot, hot... again...

It’s back to unseasonably hot, humid weather this weekend, which is why I’m starting this post later than usual.  I’ve already been out for my daily walk to fill my step quota while it was still cool-ish.  Now, in the air-conditioned house, I can enjoy a steaming cup of chai and a delicious Date Bar while I tell you about yesterday’s book club meeting and the fabulous book I read last week.

My Volunteer book club met yesterday to discuss Jennifer Close’s debut novel, Girls in White Dresses.  This was a reread for me (actually a re-listen).  Here’s what I said about it in my post from April, 2020:

“... I finished an audiobook early last week that was fabulous.  Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close is so very different from the types of novels I normally read or listen to that I was amazed at how much I enjoyed it.  Narrated by Emily Janice Card, this novel is told from the points of view of several different young women whose stories are all linked together by various weddings, showers, and other dating or marriage-related events.  It opens with Isabella, aged twelve, preparing to be a bridesmaid in her sister Molly’s wedding, what she believed was “the most beautiful wedding anyone would ever have”.  But ten years later, after college and a move to New York, crammed in with her roommate, Mary, Isabella has become disillusioned with the whole dating and romance scene.  She is looking for a job, a boyfriend, and a way to be happy, but her pursuits are met with disappointment again and again.  What follows are different stories involving various friends of Isabella’s, including studious Mary and boozy Lauren, as they all search for love “in all the wrong places”.  This is the ultimate “chick lit” novel, where the trials and tribulations of being a woman are dealt with in a lighthearted way, a genre that I generally avoid.  But I’m so glad I took a chance this time and trusted my instinct when I chose to judge this book by its cover, which is what really drew me in.  I listen to audiobooks mainly when I’m outside walking, and I was particularly thankful for social distancing as I was chuckling and laughing out loud at some parts of this delightfully insightful, humourous book... I would recommend this novel to any woman who needs an upbeat, entertaining book to keep her spirits up during this rather challenging time.”

I had the same experience this time, appreciating all the humorous moments a second time around, but also being wow-ed by the insightfulness of the author.  Unfortunately, this time around, I also noticed that there was a lot of drinking and swearing, which wouldn’t normally faze me, but because I was listening to it through the lens of “book club selection”, I had to question the appropriateness of the book for the members of my book club. This was one of the aspects of the novel they commented on yesterday, but they also found humour and, as one member said, “philosophy and wisdom”.  And they were all able to identify with at least one character or situation.  While it was not the best choice for the group, it was a good discussion, one during which we all thought back to our experiences as young women struggling to fit into our new adult lives.

I also read a page-turner last week, The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz.  Jacob (Jake) Finch Bonner is a middle-aged writer with one successful novel to his name.  After failing to produce anything else of worth, he’s been reduced to teaching a Creative Writing workshop in a low-residency MFA program in the less-than-noteworthy Ripley College.  Trudging through his third year of this workshop he meets Evan Parker/Parker Evan, an arrogant, over-confident student who is convinced he needs nothing from this program because he is going to write a bestselling novel with the kind of plot that will make him famous:  everyone will be reading it; Oprah will want to interview him; book clubs will discuss it; it will be optioned for a film with an A-list director.  He is very private about his writing, but one day during a one-on-one session, he reveals his plot to Jake, who is shocked into finally believing that Parker may indeed have the makings of a bestseller.  The workshop ends, and three years later, Jake is working at a hotel that has been repurposed as a writers’ retreat, still with no new work worthy of publication.  He is reminded of Parker one day by a brash, cocky resident, and he goes online to find out if this amazing book was ever written.  What he finds instead is that Parker died shortly after his time at Ripley.  Jake ponders this new information, and wonders (briefly) what to do now that he alone is in possession of this amazing plot.  Well, write the book, of course!  After all, as any writer knows, stories are meant to be told, even if they belong to someone else.  Fast-forward another three years, and Crib is published to great acclaim. Everyone is reading it, it is optioned for a film being directed by someone who could certainly be classified as “A-list”, he’s met a wonderful woman, and life is good… until he receives that first message accusing him of being a thief, and his life begins to spiral out of control.  I would love to tell you more, but that would spoil the fun.  I wish I knew someone else who has read this book, as the plot was so complex and detailed, with so many twists and turns, that it would make for a really interesting discussion.  Alas, I will settle for telling you that it was a roller-coaster read that kept me wishing for more free time.  According to the “Kirkus” review, this isn’t even Koreltz’ best book, so I will definitely seek out her other books.  I will agree with most reviews that it was easy to guess in which direction the novel was going well before it was revealed, but I was still shocked by the "BIG" reveal. It began as a study of the writing process and the struggles writers go through to put together a new book, a great example of metafiction, but from the point where he receives his first threatening message, it becomes a mystery-thriller that, while very compelling, somehow felt bit flat. Having said that, it was totally worth the time spent to read it, if only because it has introduced me to a writer I'd never read before, which is much like opening a door I’d never realized was there!

That’s all for today.  Stay cool and keep reading!

Bye for now…

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