Friday, 24 December 2010

Books to Buy and Books to Avoid!

We did a quick poll of this years books to find out the best and worst of the year and here's what we came up with:

Best 3 book:
- Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
- Sacred Hearts
- The Boy in the Stripe Pyjamas

Worst 3 books:
- The Shack
- Dewey
- The Soloist

To Kill a Mockingbord - Questions


Here are some questions to get you thinking in time for our meeting on 16.12.10

- How do Scout, Jem, and Dill characterize Boo Radley at the beginning of the book? In what way did Boo's past history of violence foreshadow his method of protecting Jem and Scout from Bob Ewell? Does this repetition of aggression make him more or less of a sympathetic character?

- Scout ages two years-from six to eight-over the course of Lee's novel, which is narrated from her perspective as an adult. Did you find the account her narrator provides believable? Were there incidents or observations in the book that seemed unusually "knowing" for such a young child? What event or episode in Scout's story do you feel truly captures her personality?

- To Kill a Mockingbird has been challenged repeatedly by the political left and right, who have sought to remove it from libraries for its portrayal of conflict between children and adults; ungrammatical speech; references to sex, the supernatural, and witchcraft; and unfavorable presentation of blacks. Which elements of the book-if any-do you think touch on controversial issues in our contemporary culture? Did you find any of those elements especially troubling, persuasive, or insightful?

Interesting fact : Truman Capote and Harper Lee were friends during childhood and Truman is the inspiration for Dill.

Questions from Reading Group Guides.

Friday, 17 December 2010

To Kill a Mockingbird

This month everyone brought some treats in as a potluck while we discussed our book.

Considering the classic nature of this months book it was a surprise to find that not many people had read it previously. Also, not many people had seen the film, some people said they wanted to finish the book before they watched the film. Not everyone managed to finish the book this month, this was probably because of the time of year and we only had a short period since the last meeting.

First we discussed our general feelings for the book. Many people didn't understand why it was a classic as it didn't grab you as an interesting read. We thought maybe the reason was that is was such an unusual book for the time in which it was written. We can't see how amazing it was because we're looking at it with 21st century eyes.

We also discussed the issue or racism both in the time of the book and today. We feel that racism is still around today as is shown almost everyday in the papers. There are certain terms used in the book to discribe black people that we felt were shocking for our time but were used in context for the time the book was set. The central theme of the court case was felt to be a turning point for the people of the town, and especially for Jem who we thought might possibly have gone on to fight for racial equality.

The justice system was another point for discussion, we felt very unhappy with the complete lack of justice for Tom. We were also unsure about how he died, was he murdered because he had become a bit of a celebrity? Or had he really tried to escape? Maybe it was because the town felt guilty they had put him in prison for something they knew he hadn't done. This case made a little diffence to the attitudes held within the town that would eventually lead the way for racial equality.

Family seemed to be a big theme in this book with the differences between Scouts family, the Ewells and the Radleys showing how people can be brought up in very different ways. Atticus took a very unusual step by keeping his children with him when his wife died and he treated his children very differently be allowing them to be little adults. He made sure they took on responsibility very young, in contrast to Boo Radleys father who took away his responsibility by locking him away. The Ewells seemed to be the family no-one wanted to be attached to, which is not surprising from the undercurrent of information of familial beatings we get during the trial.

We seemed to have a split between people who liked Atticus and people who disliked him. Some people felt he was out of his time, a little too forward thinking for those around him to feel comfortable around. Others felt that he gave himself godlike characteristics, thinking himself better than those around him. Maybe the godlike attributes came from the fact that the novel was written from Scouts viewpoint and she, like many young children, thought of her father as the most amazing man alive.

We all found it interesting that people in the book often changed the way they behaved in order to fit in and to make people more comfortable. They changed the way they spoke, didn't admit to being able to read, or pretended to be drunk in order for others to accept them.

Despite all the strong themes there are also some humorous moments involving Scout, and also the moment in the church when they are all trapped unless the right amount of collection has been donated.

The character of the aunt we found to add an extra dimension to Atticus' family life. She seemed to be able to develop Scout into a well rounded young lady without her much noticing. While at the same time loving Scouts oddness.

Overall we gave this book 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

To Kill a Mockingbird - Radio Show


Here's a link to an Australian radio show about "To Kill a Mockingbird", as a warning there are spoilers about the end of the book in this program.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

End of Year Survey

Please find a link to an end of year survey for the book club below:

Please feel free to have a look at it and complete it. The results will be used to create an end of year report.

Sacred Hearts - Sarah Dunant

This months treats were brought by Sarah B, chocolate dipped shortbread petticoat tails.

Not everyone managed to finish this months book by the meeting, however, it was a larger book than we normally pick. There seemed to be a slight divide to the group with this book, some people dove straight into the story but others felt it took a long while to get to any kind of point. To some in the group the book was very slow moving, maybe this was a reflection of the convent life? However, this had the effect that not everyone could sit down to read much of the book without drifting off. Having said this the end of the novel was very fast paced with lots going on, but for some this was too little action too late.

We discussed how we would feel if we had been a woman in the age portrayed in the novel, whether we would prefer to go into the convent or be married off. Initially we all felt very sorry for the nuns being sent off to live this life, however, we changed our minds a little when we compared their relative freedom to that of married women. We decided we weren't able to really decide because we have the freedoms of today which don't compare to the times this book was set.

The life within the nunnery, we felt, was portrayed as very frivolous and political, more so than we would have at first guessed. Nuns were able to bribe various people in the nunnery to make their lives easier, they could also bring in "home conforts". We felt that it would have been more peaceful and religious than it was portrayed, maybe this would be so if the nuns had actually chosen to be there rather than been sold into the life. It seemed that one of the main jobs for the nunnery was to make money to ensure a comfortable life for the nuns and other religious people attached to it.

Not all the nuns were very religious in the book, for example, Zuanna tried her best but had more belief in her science background than in God. Umiliana was desparate to have some kind of religious vision but seemed unable to, so lived her religious fevour through the younger nuns. She was meant to be caring for them but it seemed she cared more for what they could do for her than about them as individuals. She wanted so much for a religious vision to occur that she may have instigated Serafina's anorexia. We found this particularly interesting because it is often felt that obsessions with food are a recent phenomenon, not so apparently.

We decided that the ending felt wrong, a little too happily-ever-after.

Overall we decided the book deserved 7 out of 10 and we were mostly glad to have read it but wouldn't have chosen to read it through otherwise.

Sacred Hearts - Sarah Dunant - Questions

Hello everyone,

Here are some questions for you to think about while you finish this months book in time for Thursday.

- What is Zuana's interest in Serafina? What are the differences between the two women...and in what way does the younger woman challenge the older one? Who changes whom in the process of this story?

- Do you see the sisters of Santa Caterina as prisoners confined within the convent walls or, given the harsh reality of life outside for women, do you believe they in fact enjoyed more freedom and creativity than women on the outside? If you were a woman living then and could choose to live inside or out, which choice would you make?

- Serafina suffers from holy anorexia. Many people today think of eating disorders as a product of contemporary fashion, celebrity, and pop culture, but what can holy anorexia teach us about the modern disease?

- Which of the characters do you think suffer in the restrictive environment and which of them thrive and learn to manipulate the system? How do you think you would have responded if placed in such an environment?

I hope you all enjoyed the book and i hope to see you all on Thursday. Don't forget to collect your January book during the meeting!

Questions from LitLovers and pph bookclub.