Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Wicked - Questions


Here are some things to think about while you read Wicked over this lovely long back holiday weekend! Interestingly many of the questions compare the Gregory Maguire book with the original story, has anyone read the original?

- Gregory Maguire fashioned the name of Elphaba (pronounced EL-fa-ba) from the initials of the author of The Wizard of Oz, Lyman Frank Baum-L-F-B-Elphaba. Wicked derives some of its power from the popularity of its source material. Does meeting up with familiar characters and famous fictional situations require more patience and effort on the part of the reader, or less?

- [Galinda] reasoned that because she was beautiful she was significant, though what she signified, and to whom, was not clear to her yet". Discuss the transformation of Galinda, shallow Shiz student, to Glinda the Good Witch. How does she change — and by how much? What is her eventual "significance," both in Oz and in the story?

- Wicked is an epic story, built along the lines of a Shakespearean or Greek tragedy, in which the seeds of Elphaba's destiny are all sown early in the novel. How much of Elphaba's career is predestined, and how much choice does she have? Do you think that she was no more than a puppet of the Wizard or Madame Morrible, as she fears?

- Was Elphaba's story essentially a tragedy or a triumph? Did she fail at every major endeavor, and thus fail at life; or because she refused to give up or change to suit the opinions of others, was her life a success? Is there a possibility that Dorothy's "baptismal splash" redeemed Elphaba on her deathbed, or was this the final indignity in a life of miserable mistakes?

I hope you all have a fabulous weekend!

A Night To Remember

Everyone in the book group finished this book, mostly because it's a very small book.

We all felt that it gave a much more realistic feel for what happened on that night, more so than the more recent Hollywood movie. Maybe because it was very realistic we also felt that it was a little dry in parts (no pun intended) with long lists of names along with a small amount of background information. It could be that because this book was written very soon after the accident that people knew the famous names mentioned in this book that meant nothing to us now. This we felt was interesting because at the time these people were like the movie stars of today, with their every move watched by millions. The lack of personality to these people in the book made us feel somewhat detached from them even though at the same time we were reading about some of the tragic demise. We thought that the lists of extremely rish people were meant to give us an impression of just how amazingly luxurious this boat was, but we felt that we wanted to know some more about those on the lower decks.

We discussed the differences between the super rich on board the Titanic compared to the rich of today and felt that those on board the Titanic were really in a completely different league. They had private trains meet them at the dockside, and not only that they seemed to think that they were different to those with less money. These days we think that people don't tend to like to show off their wealth to such an extent, it seems slightly vulgar these days when there are people with nothing. In those days the super rich seemed to be separated much more from those with nothing, we felt that maybe the days of the Titanic were probably the death throes of this kind of lifestyle. The rich seemed to think they could build anything and do anything as long as they threw enough money at it, but they were being proven wrong with things like the Titanic and other similar disasters. We wondered whether having such rigid social hierarchy was a good a or a bad thing. We thought that it maybe created a feeling of responsibility to others, and a kind of structure in which you knew what was expected of you.

It was obvious in the book that the poor were overlooked both for being rescued, and even being mentioned at all in the book. There were very few names of those on the lower decks within the pages of this book compared to the actual amount of them on the ship and also compared to the amount of rich names being thrown about.

Somehow, although we all knew the ending we all wanted it to be different in the book, we weren't sure why this was. We all felt that there were some sadly poignant moments with small babies and children dying in the water, juxtaposed against the humour of the baker who survived by seeming to drink his own body weight in alcohol prior to stepping off the ship.

We also discussed the old saying "women and children first" we wondered where this came from and when it was first used, and also is it still in use today. We also wondered whether it is used all over the world or whether it was something that only really happened during the pre-titanic era amongst the ultra-politeness of the time. It would appear, given the amount of second class men who died, that they really did stick to this. Although the first class men appeared to allow women and children first to a certain extent and then their inherant feeling of intitlement may have taken over as a higher percentage of them survived than the female steerage passengers. We all wondered how we would react, we all felt that we would put our chilren into the life boats first but after that we wouldn't really know what to do. When the fight or flight reaction takes over you have no control over yourself and we felt that people should not be called cowards just because of a hormonal reaction.

Looking back on the tragedy it's easy to see where all the errors were for example, why did they turn off all the radios at night, why did they use such inferior bolts, how did they not know what flares meant etc. To be honest given the amount of errors and the complete lack of life-saving equipment on board it is actually surprising that they saved as many people as they did. We felt that those at sea did learn from these mistakes and new measures were put in place to ensure that these errors were unlikely to happen again. We felt that the biggest error may have been human arrogance that nothing bad could happen to such an amazing ship.

Overall we gave this book 7 out of 10.

Titanic Background Information

Hello everyone,

I hope you've all been enjoying this months book, i thought i would send out some information about the Titanic since there is so much around at the moment.

Here is the BBC website commemorating the Titanic:

Across the pond there are commemorations too:

I hope this all makes it a little more real, more so than the movie.

The Other Boleyn Girl

Almost everyone in the book club finished the book this month, and for those that hadn't it wasn't for want of enjoying the book it was just a time consideration. One member of the book club was on their second read of this book and still enjoyed it, they had also read some of the later books as well. Everyone felt that the book was very enjoyable and easy to read with just the odd moment when we felt that the language being used was just a little to modern.

We discussed how the notion of childhood and family has changed a great deal over the centuries, with children now being treated a great deal more with kid-gloves than in the time of the Boleyns. Children then were used far more as items to gain wealth and status, more so than today. Daughters seemed to be sold into marriages that would benefit their family, in fact this was the only thing they had to do other than produce male offspring. It all felt rather harsh compared to today, however, we thought we still hope our children make good marriages today but love comes into it a little more. We were also quite shocked at the young age that Mary was given to her first husband and also to the King, she was a great deal younger than we felt comfortable with in todays society.

The historical accuracy of the book was also discussed as it appears at first glance to be very good, however, with a little extra knowledge we discovered that a lot of literary licence has been taken with various aspects. This could be partly due to the lack of accurate historical records, and partly to make the story flow a little more easily, either way you do get a lot of historical accuracy but take some elements with a pinch of salt. We felt that the book was a very romaticised and slightly lengthy version of events, although the end of the book seemed to be rushed through in comparison.

The discussions of King Henry centred around his being very spoilt and childish, this could come from him being a second child, or just because he surrounded himself with sycophants. He seemed to remove those who didn't bow to his demands pretty quickly, even changing the laws and religions of the time so he could get his way. Once he had removed the power of the Pope and the Cardinal we felt that felt that he was now god within England and he could do whatever he wanted and still be able to justify it to himself and his people. He also seemed to very much enjoy the thrill of the chase both with women and with his hunting addiction. We felt that towards the end of the book he was feeling his age and it scared him, especially as he was still unable to conceive a son. This need for a son seemed to completely take over his world.

We discussed the two queens, and felt that Katharine was far more royal and regal with regard her behaviour compared to Anne. Anne we felt was a bit of a power-hungry chav only wanting the King as something to acquire and once she had him then she realised what she had achieved was possibly not in her best interests. Interestingly she really did sign her own death warrant by making Henry feel he could do whatever he wanted with regards "annulling" his various marriages.

Given all this we might chose to read another book in this series but wouldn't read them in close succession. Overall we gave this book 7.5 out of 10.