2005

 

The Jane Austin Book Club

 

Karen Joy Fowler

2.9

It is best to read the end of the book first since there is a section on Austin's novels and responses of other authors about her works. The end also has questions which each member of the Book Club lists. Each chapter is written based on the hostess or host choice of Austin book that they read for the month. Also included in that chapter, you are able to learn about that character. The author intertwines Austin's books with that of each member and all is happily matched and happy at the end. It made some members want to read Austin if they hadn't already. She was truly an author who was discovered too late and died too young. The book is a light humorous read. What drove me nuts was that with only 6 members in the club, they kept getting up during the discussion to leave the room to talk, get food, etc. That left sometimes only 3 members to discuss and then the others would come in and have missed the conversation or have to have it repeated. I said to the club that from now on, we need to bring out the liquid refreshments to the room where we are having the discussion so that we aren't getting up for that extra glass of......which I needed as I said it.

Sea Glass

 

Anita Shreve

2.2

We heard this was a must for bookclubs. We have read Anita Shreve before and we really like her writing in many ways. This book was a disappointment. It takes place in the early 20's, right before and then during the fall of the stock market and the beginning of the depression. She writes each chapter as a character, but unlike other books that we have read that did this, the only character who is really speaking for herself is Honora's mother in letters which are also written in italic. The book brings its characters together from all walks of life: Vivian, the society woman, Sexton, the salesman, Honora, the main character who marries the salesman, Alphonse, the small boy who works in the mill and in the end connects all people together, and McDermott, the mill worker. Shreve writes about each character but we never felt any real connection with them. Sea glass, which is what Honora collects from the beach and talks of its layers, colors, and smoothness is suppose to represent the characters in the book which is told to us near the end, but we felt Shreve fell short on this book.

Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons

 

Lorna Landvik

2.4

We all agreed it was a fun read, but I absolutely loved it. Maybe I was just in the mood for a fun read, but I thought the author did a very good job writing about the women over the course of thirty years. The book takes place in the 60's, with four women who live in the same cul-de-sac who decide to start a bookclub. Over the course of thirty years, we learn about each character. We watch their children grow, their lives and situations change, and pretty much what happens in real life. Each woman is different and has secrets. Throughout the years, they help and support one another through their changes. The only thing wrong was with a couple of the husbands. One was too good to be true and the other not true to his character in the end. I did find it very realistic. I loved that the beginning of each chapter started out with the hostess, title of book, why it was chosen, and food served. The chapter didn't really talk about the book much itself, but it told about the person who was the hostess. When you have such a small group living so close, the characters can't help but know each other so well. In our club, we are almost too large so that we don't have much time to socialize with each other before our discussion to know what we are all doing, as we did when we were a smaller group. There are advantages of having a small group and a larger group, such as attendance when too many people are absent. But, there is nothing better than a group of women getting together to talk about a book, eating great food, and drinking wine.

The Year the Colored Sisters Came to Town

 

Jacqueline Guidry

3.3

This was a year of change for the town of Ville d'Angelle, Louisiana. Whether or not the colored sisters brought the change or the 'change of life' baby', but the whole town, families and that of ten year old Vivian Leigh Dubois changed. It was the year 1957, Cajun country, and although change is always inevitable, they didn't like it. But as we all know, you can't fight change. What really enhanced our discussion was that we were privileged to have the author visit. She is now a resident of Kansas City, MO., and was also a friend of our hostess. Ms. Guidry, a Louisiana Cajun, brought much insight into the book and discussion. What is fun when you talk to the author, and also fun for the author, is that the reader has ideas of her/his own and when asks the author, she replies that she had never thought of that. So, we as readers, can read more into a book than the author intended yet, it makes it more interesting. When a question was asked about a particular occurrence, everyone thought the same thing was going to happen and that is when the author said, "I hadn't thought of that."A wonderful, simple, book about not only change, but of how change affects relationships.

Lolita

 

Vladimir Nabokov

1.4

You may wonder why such a low rating on a book that has been praised by the critics, just read the booksleeve, but we didn't find it a classic of all times nor one of the top 100 books of the century. Yes, it was a book published in 1955, when a book on a pedophile would certainly stir everyone up, was banned in many countries, and was tried to be banned in the United States. It was a break through in writing of such subject matter. But to call it a love story, witty, humorous, written with beauty and tenderness? The author's own writing about himself at the end makes him sound pompous and we as Americans would never understand his brilliant writing. He writes how his Russian books can not be translated correctly for us to really understand. He goes on to say how we will want to skip sections, true, it gets pretty boring in parts, but we shouldn't. The subject matter is vile and sick, but it is a disease that has become quite public now, especially with all the murders of such cases lately. We are an intelligent group of readers so I can honestly say that we did not rate the book on the subject matter but on the book itself. The characters are well described, but the book itself just went on and on. I would perhaps need to read another one of his books to judge his true writing ability, but I am not sure I would want to when there is so much other wonderful literature available.

The Kite Runner

 

Khaled Hosseini

3.6

The setting is Kabul, Afghanistan, in the early 1970's, before the Soviet invasion. The story is of Amir, 12, and that of his friendship with Hassan, a Hazara, his servant boy. It is a story of relationships: that between fathers and sons, friends- young and old, marriage, and the struggle of the classes. Amir and his father, Baba, flee the country to America where their lives change along with their own status. Amir has not only left behind his country, but lies and secrets that he wishes to escape. As an adult, he returns to his country to right his wrongs only to find a different country than the one he left. The author, who himself fled Kabul as a child, describes vividly to the reader the Kabul of before and the ravaged Kabul of today. As an American, we are able to see, feel, hear, and smell what the country was like before and after. We now know about a country we have only read about in the papers or seen on the television. Some members felt that a few incidents were too contrived, but I disagree. I was so engrossed into the story, that when they happened, it just made sense. Kite Running is a true, popular sport. I recently read that this book is now being recommended to be a 'Read Across the Nation' book. It is a must read.

Reading Lolita in Tehran

 

Azar Nafisi

3.6

Ms. Nafisi, a professor of English, now teaching in the United States, writes this nonfiction book of her life in the Islamic Republic of Iran during the revolution. She was a professor in Iran for three different universities. For two years, she secretly met with seven of her female students in her home. She sections the book by four authors: Vladimir Nabokov, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, and Jane Austin. With each author, she not only tells of her class discussions, but what is going on in the country at that time, and how the particular author's views, books, and style of writing reflects the students, country, and that of her seven girls, (as she liked to call them). We learn of the women, their differences, and how they change by the end of the 2nd year. We see Iran from not only a woman's perspective, but that as a citizen living in terror when the bombings occur from other countries. It made us realize what the people, individuals, and families were going through when the bombs were dropping compared to what we feel when we just see it happening on television. It put faces to the bombings. The fact that we read about men in Afghanistan last month and women in Iran this month was purely coincidental. However, we did read Lolita knowing that we would be reading this book. During our discussion, we talked how we maybe should have discussed "Lolita" in a different or more literary way. We felt like we missed something, although I think if we had further discussed it, it wouldn't have taken much more of our time and would have still left us with the criticisms we did have. I particularly liked some of her quotes about novels and have used them on our home page.

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation

 

Lauren Willig

1.5

Eloise is in London to finish her dissertation on the English spies, the Scarlet Pimpernel, the Purple Gentian, and the Pink Carnation. She knows the identities of the first two, but wants to discover that of the third. These are the spies who saved England from the invasion of Bonaparte. Through letters, she discovers not only the identity of the Pink Carnation in the end, but the romance that evolved between two characters that I will not mention. It is a typical historical romance, but was quite comical at times and a very light summer read. It was exactly what we needed after the past few months.

Bel Canto

 

Ann Patchett

3.2

In South America, a birthday party is being held in honor of Mr. Hosokawa,a Japanese business man, at the home of the Vice President. Many local and foreign businessmen attend in hopes of Mr. Hosokawa bringing his business to the country. He had made it clear to the people he would not be doing this, but they hoped he would once he met them. The one thing that persuaded Mr. Hosokawa to come was the promise that Roxanne Coss, his favorite opera singer, would perform for him. Under the illusion that the President would also be attending, terrorists attack and hold the guests hostage. Finding that the President is not there, the terrorists let many hostages leave but keep a few, including Mr. Hosokawa and Ms. Coss, hoping that their demands will still be met. It is an amazing story of the interactions between hostages, their language barriers (with one interpreter), the terrorists, and through time, the small world they create for themselves. The one glue that holds all together is that of the music and voice of Ms. Coss. The narrative voice flows with ease between the many characters and the storyline. Relationships form and change. We all agreed though, that we did not like the Epilogue and found it either unnecessary and unbelievable. Ms. Patchett won the PEN/Faulkner Award for "Bel Canto". The book is actually inspired by the Peruvian Hostage Crisis on December 17,1996.

the Piano Tuner

 

Daniel Mason

3.3

The more we discussed this novel, the more we realized how layered a story it is. It begins with a request from the British War Office for a piano tuner specializing in the Erard piano, to travel to Burma to tune a piano for an Army Surgeon- Major who uses music to bring peace to the Shan States of Burma. The first half of the book is that of Mr. Drake's journey followed by his stay in the small village of Mae Lwin. Although the story takes place in 1886, it speaks of issues that are still happening in the world today; one government going into another country, trying to change their ways to be more like that of the first, including possessions and culture. Not only does the country go through change, but that of the characters as well. The characters are more complicated than you imagine when you get to the end. Although the first half seems to drag on, it does pick up once Mr. Drake gets to the village. As I stated, only through discussion can you realize how layered it really is. This is Mr. Mason's first novel. It is very descriptive of the countryside and the culture. Some facts are true. It is good to research the author, book, and have a reading guide for the discussion.

The curious incident of the dog in the night-time

 

Mark Haddon

3

This book is an insightful look into the world of a 15 year old boy with Asberger's Syndrome, a type of autism. Narrarated by the boy, Christopher, we see how he thinks and feels as he works his way through solving the mystery of who killed Wellington, the neighbor's dog. The effect of writing in the first person is most effective as to really understanding how an autistic child thinks and deals with people, conflicts, and emotions.