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