Thursday, 22 May 2014

The Suspicions Of Mr Whicher - Questions

Hello everyone,

I hope you’ve all been enjoying this months book, don’t forget that the meeting is on 29th May 2014 (next Thursday). Please let me know asap if you will not be attending as this helps when i’m baking.

Here are some questions to keep in mind while you’re reading:

-    Summerscale delves into the vocabulary of detection, from “coppers” (46) to “clue” (68) to “detect” (157). Which word origins were the most surprising and interesting, and why?

-    Which recent murder cases have caused as great a sensation as the murder at Road Hill of 1860? Why might murder prove so riveting in the press and in fiction, both in the Victorian era and today?

-    What role did privacy play in the Road Hill case? How did notions of privacy impede or advance the case? How do Victorian ideas of privacy and domesticity compare to today’s concept of the home?

-    Discuss the importance of class relations to the Road Hill case. What was the relationship between the Kent family and the villagers of Road? What were the sources of class tension between Whicher and the local police?

-    How was the Road Hill murder case a product of its time? What features of the Victorian era were especially prominent in the case? What was the influence of Charles Darwin’s emerging theories?

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Life After Life - Kate Atkinson

We found that the start of this book was very difficult to get into as it was , by necessity, very start stop as the main protagonist dies quite regularly. Once we got past this part of the story there were only a few starts and stops as she dies and then starts her life over again. We felt that most of the different lives followed on logically, with each one getting her just that little bit further on in age. But there was one which appeared out of nowhere in the middle of the book that caught us all by surprise and seemed not to link in with the rest of the story.

The reading style of this book is very easy, it seems to flow as you're reading it. The writing style was very sparse, making very complex and disturbing elements seem very simple and almost beautiful. However, the starting and stopping and the differences between the different lives can make it difficult to remember the story line. It was also found that some of the storylines that were started just suddenly stopped and weren't gone into with as much detail as we as readers would have wanted.

We had a short discussion about whether the protagonist was aware of the way she was living her lives, sometimes she seemed to know more than others that she had lived this particular bit of her life before. It seemed like a really interesting premise for a story. We wondered whether if we were able to live our lives over and over again, firstly, would be accept that gift, or would we prefer to just do it the once. Secondly, if we accepted the gift would we want to be aware of living our lives over and over again or would we prefer to not know. We also wondered if making changes would make our lives any better, or any worse, or even affect those around us detrimentally. This led onto whether we actually are doing the second option and we just don't know that we're living our life over and over, and also whether anyone else in the book was doing this or just the main protagonist. At this point we started to feel confused and a little uncomfortable.

We all enjoyed the bits about the Second World War, epecially as it was shown from both sides of the divide and various different places. As we've already read some books about the war, mostly from the English or French viewpoints, it was a revelation to see if from the German perspective. Although some elements felt a little far-fetched, but this may be due to our own lack of knowledge of that side of the war.

Overall we gave this book 6 out of 10. The view was that the original story idea was good, and it went along quite well but the ending wasn't as good as we felt it could have been.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Life After Life - Questions

Hello everyone,

Firstly, could i please have a show of hands to let me know who will be coming to this months meeting?

Here are some questions about this months book Life After Life. Please be aware that some of these questions may contain spoilers!

-    Small moments often have huge ramifications in Ursula’s life. Do you think certain moments are more crucial than others in the way Ursula’s life develops? Why, and which moments?

-    Do you think Ursula’s ability to relive her life over and over is a gift or a curse? How do you think Ursula looks at it? Do you think she is able to embrace the philosophy amor fati (“love of fate,” “acceptance”) in the end?

-    As time goes on, Ursula learns more about her ability to restart her life—and she often changes course accordingly, but she doesn’t always correct things. Why not? Do you think Ursula ever becomes completely conscious of her ability to relive and redo her lives? If so, at what point in the story do you think that happens? And what purpose do you think she sets for herself once she figures it out?

-    How does Atkinson capture the terror and tragedy of the Blitz? How does war become its own character in the book? What type of commentary does Atkinson make on the English approach to war? Why do you think Atkinson portrayed one of Ursula’s lives in Germany, experiencing war and the bombing from the opposing side?

-    What are the biggest questions this book raised for you? How did it change the way you think about the course of your own life?

See you all on Thursday 24th April!