Sunday 3 October 2021

Book club highlights on a dreary October morning...

It’s rainy and humid outside right now, not the kind of weather that makes me feel energized, so if this post seems a bit sluggish, let’s just blame it on the weather!  

I had two book club meetings this past week.  My Friends Book Club met on Monday night to discuss The Rain Watcher by Tatiana de Rosnay.  This slow-moving exploration into the family dynamics of the Malegard family is set during the catastrophic Paris flooding in January 2018, and it is as much about the City of Light as it is about the family's relationships and secrets.  Paul and Lauren Malegard have invited their two adult children to Paris to celebrate Paul’s 70th birthday and their anniversary.  It is just to be the four of them, no spouses or children.  Planned far in advance, Lauren could never have anticipated the constant rain, the threat of the swelling water levels in the Seine and the disastrous effects this could have on their weekend.  World-famous son Linden has arrived from California, where he lives with his semi-secret boyfriend. Daughter Tilia has come over from Britain, leaving her drunken husband behind.  Paul is also famous around the world for his knowledge and passion for all things trees, while Lauren, an American who met Paul on a European trip with her sister Candice in their early 20s and never left, doesn’t seem to have anything for which she is renowned.  When Paul has a heart attack during their dinner, the family weekend stretches into weeks as the tensions surrounding Paul’s health and the elevating water levels rise.  Family secrets come to the surface as the reader is drawn into the maelstrom of the Malegards.  This was a great book club selection, as everyone enjoyed it for different reasons.  Some of us could relate to the dysfunctional family dynamics in the book, while others recollected trips to Paris and remembered the sights and sounds described by de Rosnay.  We talked about extreme weather and the immediate and long-term effects it can have on both places and people.  It was a short book that seemed longer, and while it was slow-moving, it demanded that readers savour the language, the narrative and the flow of the words and sentences and paragraphs.  It led to a very lively discussion that went off in all directions and explored many aspects of the novel.  I would highly recommend this as a book club selection, and also to anyone interested in reading a novel in which Paris is one of the main characters.

And my Volunteer Book Club met yesterday to discuss Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.  Eleanor is a thirty-year-old woman working as an accounting clerk in a small graphic design firm in Glasgow.  She is highly intelligent and socially awkward, and she is clearly a survivor of some kind of traumatic past.  She structures her life around her workdays and her vodka weekends, which drag on interminably until Monday arrives once again.  When she fixates on the singer of a local band as the man whom she will someday marry, she begins to disregard her routines and step outside of her comfort zone, which leads to many unexpected changes in her life, some welcome and some less so.  This novel was also a successful book club selection, as it led to another lively discussion about loneliness, coping mechanisms, the importance of social connections and social networks, and how easily people can slip through the cracks and become invisible.  We discussed the importance of funding further education for children who are in the foster care system.  We pointed out that while this book explored heavy, dark topics, it was also filled with Eleanor’s wry humour and darkly funny commentary and observations.  Everyone loved the book, and I would also recommend this as a book club selection. 

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

Bye for now…

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