The Pleasure of Re-Reading Books

March 20, 2009

bonesetter1 sensibility

I’ve already read each of the books chosen for April in my two mother-daughter book clubs. I remember liking The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan and Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen when I read them, but it’s been years since I finished those books. I usually have so many titles to read (you know the old adage, so many books, so little time) that I rarely pick up something that I’ve read before. But sometimes it’s worth revisiting the gems of the past. Each time I do, I learn something or notice a detail I didn’t get before. And, because this time I’m reading each of the books to discuss with one of my daughters, I will think about things that may have meaning for them as well. I look forward to finding out what that may be.

After today, I’ll be taking a break from blogging for the next two weeks. My kitchen remodel is almost finished, but the last bits are either forcing me from my home (refinishing the wood floors) or have me running around moving things all day long (replacing carpets). I plan to have time to read, though, and I’ll be back in April with another batch of book reviews in addition to the ones I’m reading for book club and news from other groups with fresh ideas for you.


Book Club Meeting: Reading Jane Austen Books

January 27, 2009

Last week Madeleine and I hosted our mother-daughter book club for the last time with the group as it is! As our daughters are graduating from high school in a few months, after June we won’t be having regular meetings the way we have for the last eight years. Happily the moms all vowed to keep our book club going with the older generation, but it won’t be the same without our daughters at the meetings.

We had a great time catching up; most of us had not seen each other since before Christmas. I cooked a pot roast and added turnips, parsnips, potatoes and carrot. It was easy to accommodate our vegetarian member with a couple of baked potatoes and toppings. Such great comfort food for cold winter meetings.

We ate gingerbread cream cheese cupcakes for desert and talked about Jane and her times. Since we had paired up to chose different Jane Austen books, we talked a little first about her life in general. We learned that although she wrote Northanger Abby and Persuasion before Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion was published after the other two and Northanger Abby was published after her death. Mansfield Park, a sober work, may have reflected her own sober feelings of being unmarried and in her 30s during the English society of her time.

Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice were the favorites of the group. I read Mansfield Park and Northanger Abby, then I picked up Emma. I had so much fun reading it I’m looking forward to revisiting the movie with Gwyneth Paltrow again.

Next up, our group is reading Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates. I don’t expect it to be funny, based on the movie trailer, but I hear it’s a very well written book and I’m looking forward to reading it.


Mother-daughter Book Club Meeting—The Glass Castle

November 19, 2008

Last night Madeleine and I went to our mother-daughter book club meeting. It was at Janelle and Emily’s house, which is just several blocks away, so despite the dark and cold, we walked. It took less than 10 minutes, but in that time I got to hear a lot of what’s on Madeleine’s mind these days. She talked about school and the play she’s directing with friends and anything else we could cram in. Later, on the way home, we debriefed on the book club meeting. This isn’t the only time we spend talking to each other, but there seems to be something about book club that brings out conversation before, during and after. I think it’s because we know we’re in for a relaxing and fun evening.

We spent lots of time talking before and during dinner. Since the girls are all seniors they are also all in some process of applying for colleges. Some have already finished and been accepted to the schools they want to attend, and some are still in the stressful period of applying. And it is stressful if only because it’s an unknown that will affect them in ways they have no way of gauging at this point in time.

We gathered around to talk about The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (watch book video here) and ended up discussing memoir more than anything else. We talked about the different kinds of memoir, and how much of the genre we expect to be the truth. Many of us, including me, look at memoir as a contract with the reader that it’s an honest recollection of the writer’s perception of the truth. But some of us said it’s not important to them, that they read a story for what they take away from it, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s fiction or truth. We got into a good-natured but heated discussion on the topic.

We also talked about memoirs that detail extreme childhood experiences, like those in Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt and The Glass Castle, versus those that are more musing on life experiences, such as A Year in Provence and Under the Tuscan Sun. I’ve also read an interesting memoir recently that combines memory with current events in a very interesting way. It’s called The Pages In Between by Erin Einhorn, and it recounts the author’s quest to reconnect with the family in Poland who sheltered her mother during the Holocaust. It blends family history research with historical facts with analysis of current cultural conditions in Poland with a personal quest of the author to search for clues about her mother (official review to come). I tend to like this type of memoir more than those about extreme childhoods (with the exception of Angela’s Ashes). It was a very interesting discussion that I believe gave us all lots to think about.

Madeleine and I will host the next meeting, which isn’t until January, and Madeleine really wanted us to tackle a Jane Austen review. We all signed up to read different books by Austen, with at least two of us choosing to read each book. When we get together in January we’ll plan to look at Austen as an author as well as gender and class issues of the times she was writing in as much as we’ll talk about the books themselves. I chose to read Mansfield Park, because I haven’t read it before, and Madeleine picked Pride and Prejudice, which she hasn’t read. Stay tuned!

madcincat