Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The Maid - Questions

Hello everyone,

I hope you're all enjoying the book for this month, and thanks to those who have let me know whether or not they'll be making it to the meeting on Thursday 28th November.

Here are some questions for you to think about over the next week while you're finishing off the book:

- What do you think of Cutter’s interpretation of Jehanne d’Arc? Is it different from others you have read or seen?

- How effective was the combined narrative of Jehanne’s voice, Jehanne retelling her story to Massieu, and the third person narrative of the story? How did reading Jehanne’s accounts alter your perspective of her story?

- Jehanne has a number of friendships within the novel. Who betrays her? Who remains a real friend to the end? What effect do these friendships have on Jehanne? Do you feel that her journey is ultimately a solitary one?

- Why are the men's clothing and the suit of armor so important to Jehanne? How does she transform according to what she has on? How does clothing define us?

- Why is it so important that Jehanne remain a virgin? Was she? Does it matter?

See you all on Thursday 28th November!

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

This turned out to be another Marmite book with some people really loving it, while others found it to be really slow and boring. No-one actively hated the book which is good!

Those that enjoyed the book found it to be very unlifting and positive as an experience, whereas those who didn't enjoy it found it the complete opposite. They found it to be very ploddy and depressing. Some people felt that he might have lost his mind during certain parts of the book, he certainly seemed to be having difficulty with the world around him, and even staying upright at certain points.

Almost everyone was annoyed with his shoe choice, and his refusal to buy new ones. We felt that this was like the hairshirt that a traditional pilgrim may have worn, or maybe he felt that he had set out with them so he was going to finish with them? Maybe it gave the oddness of the walk a certain sense of normalcy to him to be wearing the same shoes and clothes?

We enjoyed watching the journey that Harolds wife went on during Harolds pilgrimage. She certainly changed the way she lived and thought about things drastically, maybe more so than Harold does. We felt that her friendship with Rex gave her an insight into Harolds friendship with Queenie, it made her step outside the comfort of her own home and think about things other than her son.

Overall we felt that there had been a general lack of communication with the family, both between Harold and his wife, and also between them and their son. This might have been why things went so spectacularly wrong with all the relationships prior to the pilgrimage. We felt that up until this point Harold was a bit of a stranger in his own life and his walk had nothing really to do with the letter, but more to do with him making a decision to change his life and do something positive to achieve something he felt was worthwhile. Although this walk appears to be all about delivering the letter and wanting Queenie to survive it could also be seen that the letter from Queenie was merely the catalyst to make Harold face up to the way he had lived his life and forced him to make that change. We also wondered whether Queenie wrote to anyone else to say goodbye, and if she did what they did about the letter?

A few members of the book club really felt they might like one day to just walk out of their front door and just walk. This seemed to be a surprisingly popular thing to want to do amongst the group, and to be fair i think at some point pretty much everyone gets the urge just to walk away from the stress of everyday life and just to rely upon yourself, just for a little while at least.

Overall we gave this book 7 out of 10.

Free Magazines from Welsh Libraries


Just thought this would brighten your Friday afternoon. Libraries in Wales have recently bought a large amount of online magazines that are free to download. Go to the following URL and see what you want to read today from craft magazines to big names like Martha Stewart Living and Elle.

If you need any help downloading things (it's incredibly easy so you should be fine) just give me a shout!

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - Questions


I hope everyone is enjoying the book this month. Don't forget that we're meeting on 31st October this month. Here are some questions for you to think about while you're reading this months book:

- Talk about the obvious—why Harold Fry never returns from the mailbox. Is he experiencing a mid-life crisis, or spiritual crisis...or what? Has anything like that ever happened to you—a snap decision that turned out to be not just of-the-moment, but momentous as well?

- Why is Harold's journey called a "pilgrimage" in the title?

- What is Rachel Joyce satirizing as crowds begin to gather and Harold's journey becomes a cause celebre—with its t-shirts, Tweets, and Facebook posts? How do the people who join Harold in his trek see his journey—what are they looking for, or what do they expect from Harold? Why do the crowds eventually leave him behind?

I hope everyone is enjoying this months book

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - Bits and bobs


I've been doing some research into the questions to look at in our next book club meeting and have come across the following website containing interviews with the author etc. I thought they would be interesting to read so i'm emailing them out to you.
There is a podcast on this page but it can't be accessed within work.

I do hope you're all enjoying this book.

American Gods

Due to previous engagements this was not a very well attended book club meeting. Of the people attending no-one had actually finished the book, although one person was only a few pages away from the end. Everyone said that they wanted to finish the book because they wanted to discover the answers to some of the questions they had about the book. The reason why most of the book club members  did not finish the book may be because it is very much out of most of their comfort zone with regards genre, it was also a very long novel.

We felt it was interesting how the various gods in the book are made to be humans, we wondered whether Shadow is also a god but is unaware of this. We were hoping this would be explained later on in the book, as much as anything is really explained in the book!

The book appeared very confusing to us, we weren't sure about the amount of time everything took, we also weren't sure of some of the motivations of the characters. For example, why did Shadow have an obsession with Laura? We also found that the sheer number of different characters and their godly alter-egos was confusing, trying to keep a track of who was who was tricky. There were also a lot of random bits within the book where we left the main story and watched some other characters, often in a different time and place to the main story. Some book club members found this to be distracting although others felt that it added an extra dimension to the story.

We went on to discuss the difference between a belief and a religion, when does one become the other, or are they very different things. We also spoke about the reasons behind the book, possible morality issues such as modern technology making us as humans become more isolated from our surroundings. We seem to be creating our own online communities rather than looking to those people who live in the same street or town as ourselves. Is this a good or a bad thing?

Only one person had ever read a Neil Gaiman book before, and they mentioned that this book is very different to the others they have read.

Overall we gave this book 6 out of 10.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

American Gods - Questions


Firstly if you aren't going to make this weeks meeting please let me know, it's useful to be able to plan for the baking.

Secondly, i hope you've all been enjoying the book this month, i know i have been. Here are some questions to consider prior to the meeting:

- What is the cultural significance of the war between the gods of old and the "new gods of credit card and freeway, of Internet and telephone, of radio and hospital and television, gods of plastic and of beeper and of neon"? In what ways have Americans transferred their devotion from spiritual to material and technological gods? What are the consequences of such a shift?

- Late in the novel, the narrator says that "Religions are, by definition, metaphors.... Religions are places to stand and look and act, vantage points from which to view the world." Would you agree with this assertion? What are the gods in American Gods metaphors for? What is the difference between a world view based on worship, sacrifice, and belief in the divine and a world view based on the accumulation of material wealth and comfort?

- What does the novel imply about the reality of life in small-town America? What darker truth lies behind the pleasant idyll of Lakewood, Wisconsin?

- What makes Shadow such a compelling protagonist? What are his most appealing qualities? At what crucial points in the novel does he demonstrate courage, compassion, intelligence, a willingness to sacrifice himself? What does his relationship with Laura reveal about him? What is the significance of his obsession with coin tricks?