Book Club

Readers meet every 3rd Wednesday of the month,

Next month join us November 15th ~ 6:30 pm

 

This Month’s Selection:

The Age of Innocence

By Edith Wharton

The Age of Innocence is Edith Wharton’s twelfth novel, initially serialized in four parts in the Pictorial Review magazine in 1920, and later released by D. Appleton and Company as a book in New York and in London. It won the 1921 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, making it the first novel written by a woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and thus Wharton the first woman to win the prize.The story is set in upper-class New York City in the 1870s.

 


Previous Book Club Notes:

October 2023

We read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The story took place in the depression era south. We all agreed that it was multi-layered with some of the “layers” being caught better in our older age and after multiple readings as opposed to reading it in high school. Unlike Edith Wharton who used a third person to tell us the story, Harper Lee uses the viewpoint of a young girl who describes rather complex social situations with sometimes only partial understanding. Does this make us think about these issues more?

 

What was expected of a young girl growing up at this time and in this place? Did Scout fit into this expectation?  Hardly!

How fair was the justice system in its treatment of all? Atticus tells his children “the judicial system defined in the US is that everyone (rich, poor, smart, not smart, black and white) are equal before the law.” Was this shown in the treatment of Tim Robinson?

How was prejudice shown in the story? A woman leaves the courthouse raving that it was “time to teach the blacks a lesson. They are getting above themselves”.

How important was Atticus as a father figure to Jem and Scout? How did he convey his morals? 

Ms. Lee shows us strong women like Miss Maudies who loses her home to fire and Mrs. Dubois who kicks a morphine habit before she dies.

What is the significance of showing us that Atticus was a crack shot ) he kills the rabid dog in one shot)?

Is it okay that the sheriff, not the courts, decides that Boo Radley will not be brought in as the killer of Mr. Ewell? 

How many Mockingbirds were there in the story?

Was/is the discussion of rape enough along with the use of the word “nigger” enough to ban this book?

We digressed many times about connected (court systems today) and unconnected things (Carla’s great stories!) with the lively conversation always flowing and bringing much thought and laughter. We gave the book all 10’s once again! How can this book not be read and discussed by many?

We are reading Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton for our November read. We will meet on Wednesday, November 15th at 6:30 PM.

We also choose 1,000 White Women by Jim Fergus for our December read.

Carla mentioned the movie “Swing Vote” which seemed to predict what happened recently in our Supreme Court.

 

Enjoy the fall!

Edith

June 2023

Storm clouds did not keep our group from meeting on 6/14/2023 to discuss Lesson In Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus.This book pick dealt with the serious topic of the 1960’s era issue of women as homemakers and career seekers. 

We all agreed that we loved the many characters and how Garmus portrays them, We discussed the role of Six-thirty with fondness. Even though his portrayal is not “realistic”, Garmas made this wonderful character work in the book.

As we talked about the assaults experienced by two of the characters (Elisabeth and Ms.Frask) we shared stories that each of us may have encountered in our work environments that may have been similar. We agreed that things have been changing for the better with proof being in our own children and grandchildren’s work experiences,

We asked at what point we may have thought that Wilson was Calvin’s dad? Might we have suspected his mother returning? Why did Elizabeth allow the men she worked with to keep “stealing” her ideas and work?

What impact did Elizabeth’s cooking show have on the women who watched it? 

Was the ending too “perfect”? Each character ended up in a better place (other than Elizabeth still being without her soulmate, Calvin)? It was the proverbial happy ending for all the characters we liked.

Our ratings of the book were very favorable with scores of 8, 9, 10, and 8

Our discussion lasted until nearly 8:00 PM with many other connections and side topics. 

 

 

May 2023

Hi reading friends,

 

Although it was too cold for us to meet outside as we had hoped, we had a very lively discussion about our May read, Testimony by Anita Shreve. We all acknowledged that the abundant characters in the book made it helpful to take notes to keep track. We also noted that there were some characters, like Natalie, the dining hall worker, who seemed a bit superfluous to the story.

We agreed that Shreve did a good job describing the characters, with much of the information about each character coming from a different person in the story. We learned a lot about “Sienna” from her roommate Laurie as well as from things Sienna says. We really debated about whether Sienna was the instigator or the victim and thought that she was both. Does the fact that she had been drinking before the dance and had a plan of who she would single out there (J.Dot the post grad) absolve the boys of their guilt in the events since they were so much older? 

The majority of the main players in the party events were all wealthy and a bit entitled. Most had parents either absent (Sienna), easily manipulated (Michelle, J.Dot’s mom) or willing to make excuses for their son’s behaviour (Ellen, Rob’s mom). Did Silas have good parents considering Anna’s choice of her affair with Mike?

Mike was a character we thought was self serving. He thinks of himself and the school above the students when he forces confessions and when he meets with Anna. We thought he was given too many pages with his narrative during his hotel stay after the events. 

We discussed Rob since Shreve ended the novel with his revelation that maybe lives were not “ruined” but altered in their course. He was able to move on as Silas was not. Silas was too ashamed of his behavior to talk to Noelle (his love interest) and so he stayed out in the cold while writing to her. We were glad that she got these last notes from Silas.

Are private schools with borders more likely to get sensationalized over public schools? These events would have been in a private setting with public school students where the parents would be culpable, not the school. 

Could anything have made Silas make a different choice? 

Would the party events have occurred without Silas present?

Interesting, how all the boys and Sienna protected the black student who did the video. 

The events unfold as time shifts back and forth which we thought worked well for this story. 

We gave the book ratings of 10, 9, 9, 8.5, 9.  It was not a happy story but one maybe teenage students should read in a supervised setting – would they heed the warning?

We will read Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus for our meeting on June 21st at 6:30 (maybe outside?). We will not meet in July.

 

April 2023

Where to begin with the multifaceted  April read, “The Japanese Lover”  by Isabel Allende?

Our discussion began with pointing out some of the wonderful analogies that Ms Allende uses throughout the book. Many thought that her writing and use of language drew you in and made you connect with the events in the book. We started to discuss the book’s characters. The author begins by introducing us to Irina and then leads to her work at the Lark House. This brings us to more characters including Alma, and her adoptive family (Aunt Lillian, Uncle Issac, son Larry and cousin Nathanial.) We hotly debated whether we felt connected to these characters despite Allende’s colorful language. We were not even sure we liked the main characters very much (odd). We felt that Alma, even with her very traumatic early childhood, ended up spoiled and self centered (although she cared about Kristen, her worker). We rather liked benevolent Uncle Issac the most.

We talked a bit about the book’s showcasing many kinds of love. This made us realize just how much was going on in this story. At what point did we realize that Nathanial was gay? Did we have a clue that Lenny (resident of Lark House) was Nathaniel’s lover? Were we surprised at Alma’s embracement of Lenny? Here are some examples of the different loves we discussed:

Issac and Lillian          Isacc, Lillian and Alma     Issac, Lilllian and daughters

Nathaniel and Alma    Seth and Irina                   Alma and Ichi

Nathaniel and Lenny   Alma and Lenny              Takoa and his family

Dr. Cathy and everyone

We did feel that Ichi was more able to move on from their separation than Alma who seemed so stuck that she had to mail Ichi’s letters to herself, feign to meet him, and send flowers to herself to keep his memory alive.

Was Alma right in sacrificing her love for Ichi because of the cultural norms of the time? We investigated when different US states had and abolished rules against interracial marriages. Would their later affair have been altered if she had not lost Ici’s baby to preeclampsia?

We touched on the historical facts brought in with the Japanese internment during WW!! We were interested in the importance of the family sword buried in the Belaco’s yard. 

Were there extraneous details in the story that didn’t add to its message?

Did the story have to take place at the Lark House? Why was her brother “resurrected” to show up after ending up after the war in Israel? 

If the book introduced us to Irina first, did they give us enough closure for her story?

Yes, we began 30 minutes earlier than usual but we still talked until after 8 PM!

I will restate my thanks to the group as I feel I always get so much more out of a book when I can discuss it with others.

Overall the book received positive ratings of 8, 8.8, 9, 7, 8.

 

March 2023

The Candia book group met on Wednesday, March 15th to share thoughts on our March read, The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery. 

The group enjoyed this no-fiction choice as it is always good to mix things up. Many of us learned a great deal about the wonderful octopus (Betty had the inside scoop on us having been a biology teacher!) We commented on the octopus’ ability to touch so many things at once with its 8 limbs, one of which is gender specific.  We were a bit surprised by their short life span (4 years). Betty thought it was very interesting that the octopus has developed an eye so similar to the human eye despite it being on a very different evolutionary “limb” than humans. Can other animals have a consciousness different from ours but equally as important? 

We discussed the fact that although the people at the Boston Aquarium talked highly about their animals, they still kept some in marginal and cramped spaces. Do we humans rationalize keeping animals as “ambassadors” for our amusement at the animals’ expense? We wondered if the author made too many assumptions about what the behavior of these mollusks “meant” and maybe she attributed too many human characteristics to them (anthropomorphism). The author spent quite a bit of time describing other people’s lives and explaining her diving training which digressed from the intent of the book (page fillers?) 

Overall our views were positive with ratings of 9, 8, 7, and 7.

There is a documentary about octopuses called My Octopus Teacher which can be seen on Netflix. It got very good reviews. 

 

Thank you all for a wonderful hour + of discussion.