Thursday, 23 July 2015

Longbourn - Questions

Hello everyone,

I hope you’re all enjoying this months book. Don’t forget the book club meeting this month will be on Thursday 30th July.

Here are some questions for you to have a look at before the meeting, please be aware they may contain spoilers!

•    Lizzie Bennet is a much-loved heroine. Has LONGBOURN changed your view of her at all? Do you think she acts selfishly in relation to Sarah?
•    LONGBOURN is a book that stands alone as having its own story, characters and themes–how far has the author ensured her novel is not pastiche, that it is a novel with a separate identity?
•    Did you like that Jo Baker told the story through so many character's points of view? Or was there one voice, like Sarah's, or James', that you preferred above the others?
•    Does a reader's enjoyment of Longbourn depend on a familiarity with Pride and Prejudice? How does Baker assert an independent voice and vision while using the framework of Austen's novel?
•    Baker continues her story a bit beyond the ending of Pride and Prejudice. Do you find her speculations about what happens to Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, their daughter Mary, Mr. and Mrs. Hill, and Polly, satisfying?

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky

Not everyone managed to finish this book this month. Of those people who had finished most enjoyed, although some felt that Charlie was just a daft young boy who was simply going through various elements of growing up. We felt that he was quite a naive young man and also an unreliable narrator as he seems to not remember things that have happened to him. He also seems to remember things but then put a different spin on them which takes the reader a while to figure out. One thing that Charlie is absolutely great at is picking presents, he really does get them spot on even for people he's not around very much. He's not great when it comes to other people skills and we wondered if he might be somewhere on the autistic spectrum as he does some odd things that he doesn't understand the bad reaction to.

All the characters in the book seem to be slightly odd or unconventional, such as Charlie with his mental health issues, or Patrick hiding a whole side of his life from everyone. Some seem to have been so badly hurt by their lives they turn to doing odd things like Aunt Helen. There is a very dark side to this book but it seems to almost be skimmed over without going into too much depth, often the reader has to figure out things for themselves as they aren't always clear.

We did find Charlie to be a bit of a baby at times, even given his family history. He does seem to cry at the drop of hat, and this seems to irritate him as well as us as readers. We felt that we could be friends with him but might only tolerate him for short periods of time, or maybe within a larger group.

We discussed what being a wallflower means, the positives and the negatives to it. We thought that Charlie liked being a wallflower to a certain extent because it meant he could observe people and try to learn what to do in different situations. But the down side of this is that people may not notice you if you suddenly disappear, they would not miss you.

Overall we gave this book 6 out of 10.

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower - Questions

Hello everyone,

I hope you’re all well into the book by now, but if you’re not please be aware that the questions may contain spoilers. Here are some questions for you to have a look at prior to the meeting:

•    Discuss Charlie's reaction to his brother and sister throwing a party. What did you think about the couple in his room? What about Charlie's response?
•    Discuss Charlie's family holidays. Are there elements that are universal to every family dynamic? Has anything about Charlie's family surprised you? Describe aunt Helen. What kind of person is she?
•    Discuss the epistolary format of the book. Why do you think Chbosky chose to use letters as his narrative structure? How did this structure affect the book, both in terms of the story and in terms of your reading experience? How would the book have been different if Chbosky had written it in first-person or third-person narrative?
•    Several important issues come up during the course of the book, ranging from molestation to drug use. How does Charlie deal with these? How have the issues affected his friends and family?
•    Charlie has a few breakdowns. Do you feel hopeful for him? How much of his past explains his present?

Beautiful Ruins - Jess Walter

Not everyone managed to finish this months book, but this was simply due to lack of time rather than a feeling that they didn't want to finish it.

We felt that the writing was quite dense at times which made reading it a slow process although it was enjoyable at the same time.There seemed to be a lot of information given in the pages that took some time to take in. It was felt that some of the sections didn't seem to flow as well as others which also mean that it took some time to read.

As has been said in previous reviews, some of the book club members didn't enjoy the element of moving about it time between chapters. It became a little confusing trying to remember when and where we were in the timeline and who wa were following at times. We discussed whether this is the reason that most people do not read more than one book at once, as it gets confusing trying to get back into the story if you're jumping from different viewpoints or even different books.

Although the story was entirely fictional you could quite easily see something similar happening to a person such as Richard Burton. We liked that his character seemed to tally well with the impression we all had of him as a boy from Wales who struck it lucky and lived his life to the max. We loved reading about the love story between Burton and Liz Taylor, even though it was mostly fictional it was still interesting to see some behind the scenes elements that might just have happened. In fact Burton was one of our favourite characters along with Pasquale who we felt was really very sweet and such a gentleman when the chips were down. Obviously we loathed two characters being Galfredo and his hired thug and we were rather glad to read about what happened to them. We njoyed the character of Deane, he seemed to be some kind of Derren Brown type because he seemed to be able to mind read and give people what they actually wanted rather than what they thought they wanted.

Overall we gave this book 6 out of 10.

Beautiful Ruins - Questions

Hello everyone,

I hope you have all been enjoying this months book. Here are some questions for you to think about before Thursday!

•    The book's opening is reminiscent of a lush, epic romantic film—the beautiful dying Dee Moray steps off the boat and into Pasquale's heart. Although the book veers off new directions, is it still a love story? What kinds of love are presented in the novel? What, ultimately, does the novel have to say about love?
•    The book's timeline, locales, different voices and unusual text treatments (Hollywood film pitch, biography, unfinished novel, how-to book) are jumbled. Did you find it confusing, hard to follow, irritating? Or was the variety intriguing? What might the author be hoping to achieve by scrambling everything up? How would the book be different if it were told in chronological order with a straightforward narrator?
•    What is the significance of the novel's title? (It was first used by a journalist to describe Richard Burton many years after his marriage to Taylor.) Who else, or what, are the "beautiful ruins"?
•    The first sentence in the final chapter begins with Michael Deane proclaiming “This is a love story.” The chapter then reveals the stories of most of the characters in the book, ending with Pasquale and Dee. Discuss how their stories are lives, as the title suggests, of beauty and ruins.

The Girl With All The Gifts - M R Carey

** warning this post may contain spoilers**

We all felt that the book was written in a very cinematic way and we're at all surprised that the author wrote a screenplay for the book at the same time as writing the book. There certainly were a lot of highly dramatic and often gory parts to the book that we felt would work well on screen as well as they did in the book. This was also made clear by the fact that the book was written in the present tense but not in first person which made the book feel really fast paced.

This book is said to be about zombies but some of the book club didn't notice this at all, they didn't realise that the monsters in the book were zombies. We had a discussion about whether they were zombies or whether they were more like a vehicle for the fungus, we felt that as they didn't technically die until the fungus had completely taken them over that they maybe weren't zombies. This was also shown a bit by the fact that some of the zombie like characters seemed to retain some of their humanity especially the newly made zombies.

We felt that the author was sympathetic to the zombies rather than painting them all as monsters with no control which was a different way to go compared to the monster books of old. It was interesting to have a human painted as the monster rather than the zombies, although as we discussed the book we wondered whether we would be on the side of the human monster (Caldwell) or the softer outlook that Miss Justineaux portrayed. It seemed that the book was more about the relationships between the different characters rather than them just constantly trying to escape the zombies. We especially liked the relationship between Melanie and Miss Justineaux, this seemed to be the central point to most of the middle of the book.

We felt that the characters in the book were obviously tropes of traditional horror story books with the army types, the softer sympathetic character, the hard scientifically oriented character etc. but they were so well written that we didn't really care how obvious they all were.

There were a few interesting moral dilemmas within the book such as the one that Gallagher faces, we wondered if we would do the same as he did. We also discussed whether humans have a right to carry on existing and when would you give up the fight and realise that maybe it's the right thing for humans to no longer exist, at least in their current format. The ending of the book we felt was hopeful for planet earth, if not entirely for humankind.

Overall we gave this book 8 out of 10.