Category: Book Club

June Book Club – “When God was a Rabbit” by Sarah Winman

Last night, the store’s book club met to discuss Sarah Winman’s When God was a Rabbit and it was interesting to find that the book was one that some loved, most enjoyed, but two really didn’t like it. The  publisher describes When God was a Rabbit as “a mesmerising portrait of childhood and growing up: the loss of innocence, eccentricity and familial bonds.  Stripped down to its bare bones, it’s the story of the unbreakable bond between a brother and sister”.  However, for more information you might like to watch this youtube video featuring an interview with the author.
I think we all agreed that there were parts that we thought were beautifully written and as a debut novel the author showed great potential.  One of the interesting aspects of the novel was the number of gay characters although this was not a theme of the novel as being gay didn’t change the way they interacted with the other characters – they were just friends and family. I found this quite refreshing and I really appreciated the normality of it.
Surprising for me, was the reaction to the main character Elly.  Some liked her a lot, while a couple found her not very believable and considered that she narrated the story in language that a young child wouldn’t use, or that the humorous events described were a little contrived.  Having three children myself, I could imagine some of the funny events happening – the scene of the nativity play as Elly takes her revenge at being given the minor part of the innkeeper, and the Jubilee street party with Elly and Jenny singing Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody (complete with “fig roll” instead of Figaro) as Jenny’s mother is having words with someone trying to drive their car through the street baracade.  The latter made me think of evenings with the Playstation Singstar game as we tried to ad lib to the words of a favourite song.
Some felt that Elly lacked substance as a character, and that while her close relationship with her brother was a highlight when she was a child, it became a problem in the second half of the book when she was an adult.  I liked the author’s explanation in the youtube video that sometimes such a close relationship in childhood can become unhealthy in adulthood and considering that Ellie was home schooled, her brother at boarding school and closest friend left behind when they moved to the country, I can understand her reticence to forming close relationships in adulthood.  The other characters were generally thought of as quirky, with mention by the book club members of how they warmed to some of the minor characters – particularly Jenny Penny and Elly’s father.
I really enjoyed this book and thought it promoted a lot of good discussion on families and social norms.  You might like to try it with your book club.
Our July book club book is The Help by Kathryn Stockett, and I am looking forward to the discussion of this as it has been a favourite with customers of the store.  Let me know your thoughts if you have read it.

Book Club Book – Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese

I decided that I should read this book as it kept popping up on book club reading lists and I’m so glad that I did.  Don’t be put off by the length as it is 534 pages long.  It’s well worth the effort.
 The first third of the book follows the journey of two people, Sister Mary Joseph Praise, a young Carmelite nun and nurse, who sets out from India to further her medical knowledge in Yemen.  On the sea voyage there, she nurses British surgeon Thomas Stone, a fellow traveller on his way to  Mission Hospital in Ethiopia, who has fallen victim to chronic seasickness.  This meeting is to change both their lives, as they end up as a close team working together at the hospital.  The first third of the novel culminates with a shock – Sister Mary Joseph Praise is pregnant and about to give birth but complications leave her twin sons without a mother.  Abandoned by a grief stricken Thomas Stone who all believe to be their father,  Marian and Shiva are brought up by Hema, the obstetrician and gynaecologist who delivered them and Ghosh, a doctor at the Hospital who marries Hema. 
This book has many facets.  It is a story about people who are trying to change the medical outcomes in a third world country, as Hema and Ghosh become experts in their fields and treat the locals under difficult circumstances.  It is a story to make us open our eyes to the way a large part of the world’s population lives – the lack of resources in the hospital, the reliance on aid, the common occurrence of preventable diseases and injuries.
It is a story about a country in turmoil as Ethiopia’s people grow unhappy with the divide between those in power and the rest of the population which is just trying to survive.  This theme is revisited when Marian has to flee to America, where he works as a doctor at a hospital in the Bronx in New York where most doctors are recruited from overseas countries.  The story highlights that even in a developed country there is a divide between those living in the poor parts of the country whose hospitals are under resourced, and those with the money to pay who receive care from American trained doctors in well-equipped hospitals with prestigious reputations.
But most of all, it is a story of love – the love between unlikely people, the love between parents and their children, the love between the brothers Marian and Shiva, and the destructive love of Marian and Genet, their housekeeper’s daughter, and the love for their country as Genet gets caught up in Ethiopia’s quest for freedom from tyranny putting everyone she knows at risk.
I loved this book and am so glad that I finally got around to reading it.  If you like books in the style of “The Kite Runner”, for example, I’m sure you’ll like this one.  Definitely one for the book club reading list.

Ulysses Bookstore Book Club – March Meeting

I have had a number of customers who have expressed interest in attending a book club run by the store so I hope those interested can make the one planned for March.

The details are:
Where:  Ulysses Bookstore, Sandringham
When:   Thursday, 17 March 2011
Time:     7:30 p.m. until 9:00 p.m.

There will be a maximum of 12, with myself as moderator.
Tickets will be $5 or free with purchase of the book (keep your receipt as proof of purchase in case you decide to come at a later date).

Our first book to discuss will be:

One Hundred Foot Journey
Richard C. Morais, Allen & Unwin, $27.99

A quirky tale about an Indian family escaping from the violence at home, ultimately settle in France.  There they set up a Indian restaurant with all the colour and noise  that comes with it, across the road from the traditional French restaurant complete with Michellin stars. There are lots of references to food, restaurant kitchens, and interesting characters.

Here’s the synopsis from the publisher:

Abbas Haji is the proud owner of a modest family restaurant in Mumbai. But when tragedy strikes, Abbas propels his boisterous family into a picaresque journey across Europe, finally settling in the remote French village of Lumiere, where he establishes an Indian restaurant, Maison Mumbai.

Much to the horror of their neighbour, a famous chef named Madame Mallory, the Indian establishment opposite her own begins to garner a following. Little does she know that the young Hassan, son of Abbas, has discovered French cuisine and has vowed to become a great French chef. Hassan is a natural whose talents far outweigh Mme. Mallory, but the tough old Frenchwoman will not brook defeat.

Thus ensues an entertaining culinary war pitting Hassan’s Mumbai-toughened father against the imperious Mme. Mallory, leading the young Hassan to greatness and his true destiny.

This vivid, hilarious and charming novel – about how just a small distance of a hundred feet can represent the gulf between different cultures, different people, their tastes and their destinies – is simply bursting with eccentric characters, delicious flavours and high emotion.

You can read the reading notes for the book by following this link. and you can listen to an interview with the author who appeared on the Radio National programme, The Book Show” recently by clicking here.