Join us on March 13th at 1:00pm to discuss the Russian film 12. Contact Laura at 781-2351 or firstname.lastname@example.org for this month’s meeting location, and check out the book group blog for more information about the film and upcoming reading selections.
Join us on Nov. 14th at 1:00pm in the library’s Russell Room to discuss The Line by Olga Grushin. Check the Book Group blog at http://fmlbookgroup.wordpress.com for a discussion guide and a link to the author’s web site.
The 2nd Wednesday Book Group will meet on May 9th @ noon! We will be viewing the film before we discuss May’s book selection, “The Maltese Falcon” by Dashiell Hammett. We hope you will join us. This event is free and open to the public.
Discussion questions made available by the publisher:
- Sam Spade’s attitude toward authority is patently clear in remarks like “It’s a long while since I burst out crying because policemen didn’t like me” [p. 19] or “At one time or another I’ve had to tell everyone from the Supreme Court down to go to hell, and I’ve got away with it” [p. 170]. How is Spade’s distrust of power manifested in his actions? How important is distrust as an aspect of his character?
- Of the three women in the book–Brigid O’Shaughnessy, Effie Perine, and Iva Archer–are any fully realized, or are perhaps all three, as stereotypes, three sides of one woman? As a stereotype, what does each woman represent? What does Spade mean, and what does it say about Spade, when he tells Effie, “You’re a damned good man, sister” [p. 160]?
- A blatant stereotype is Joel Cairo: “This guy is queer” [p. 42], Effie informs Spade when the perfumed Cairo comes to the office. Is a homosexual character effective or necessary in the plot? Would he be as effective without sterotyping? Why do you think Hammett created him?
- Near the end of the story, Spade says to Brigid, “Don’t be too sure I’m as crooked as I’m supposed to be” [p. 215]. What evidence is there that he’s not crooked? Does honor temper greed in his negotiations with the others in the hunt for the black bird? How are greed and ruthlessness packaged here so that ultimately we might not care whether the characters are crooked or not? Does style compensate for all in the hard-boiled genre?
- “By Gad, sir, you’re a character” [p. 178], says Gutman, laughing, when Spade suggests making Wilmer the fall-guy. Is the Spade-Gutman relationship one of justice versus corrupt wealth or one of equals competing for the same prize? How does Gutman’s sophistication and erudition reveal another side of Spade
- When Spade returns to the office in the last scene, Effie does not greet him with her usual verve. What has happened to the breezily affectionate bond between them? What is Effie’s relationship to Brigid? Will Effie forgive Spade, or do we not know enough about her to make predictions?
We hope you will join us in our discussion of Vikram Seth’s “The Golden Gate”, a novel in verse. Typically our Wednesday book group celebrates National Poetry month by sharing poems we’ve enjoyed,but this year we will be discussing Seth’s novel. Set in the early 1980’s in San Francisco it is the story of life among young professionals in California.
Seth was born in 1952 in Calcutta, India, moved to England to study at Oxford and eventually went to California to Stanford University to work on a gradute degree in economics.
A listing of some of Seth’s works:
Mappings (poetry) 1980
From Heaven Lake: Travels through Sinkiang and Tibet (travel essay) 1983
The Humble Administrator’s Garden (poetry) 1985
The Golden Gate (verse novel) 1986
All You Who Sleep Tonight (poetry) 1990
Beastly Tales from Here and There (fables) 1991
A Suitable Boy (novel) 1993
Arion and the Dolphin (libretto) 1995
Poems, 1981-1994 (poetry) 1995
An Equal Music (novel) 1999
Two Lives (biography) 2005
Please note the correction in our meeting date. We will be meeting on Wednesday, March 14th, not the 9th as was previously posted. We will be discussing the latest Lisa See title “Dreams of Joy”.
This month, pick one of the following discussion questions and be prepared to discuss it with our group!
Please contact Andi @ library.falmouth.lib.me.us if you have any questions.
The following are the discussion questions provided by the publisher:
1. Joy is frequently described in terms of her Tiger astrological sign. In Dreams of Joy, where do you see her acting true to her Tiger nature? Where do you see her acting un-Tiger like?
2. Many of us grew up believing that the People’s Republic of China was “closed,” and that it remained that way until President Nixon “opened” it. Certainly Pearl (and even Joy, to a great extent) go to China with preconceived ideas of what they’ll see and experience. In what ways are they right—or wrong?
3. Does seeing the world through Joy’s eyes help you to understand Pearl? Similarly, does Pearl give insights into her daughter?
4. The novel’s title, Dreams of Joy, has many meanings. What does the phrase mean to the different characters in the novel, to Lisa, to the reader?
5. In many ways Dreams of Joy is a traditional coming-of-age novel for Joy. Lisa has said that she believes it’s also a coming of age novel for Pearl and May. Do you agree? If so, how do these three characters grow up? Do they find their happy endings?
6. Although May plays a key role in Dreams of Joy, she is always off stage. How do you feel about this? Would you rather have May be an on-stage figure in this novel?
7. Pearl has some pretty strong views about motherhood. At one point she asks, “What tactic do we, as mothers, use with our children when we know they’re going to make, or have already made, a terrible mistake? We accept blame.” Later, she observes, “Like all mothers, I needed to hide my sadness, anger, and grief.” Do you agree with her? Does her attitude about mothering change during the course of the novel?
8. Joy’s initial perception of China is largely a projection of her youthful idealism. What are the key scenes that force her to adjust her beliefs and feelings in this regard?
9. Describe the roles that Tao, Ta-ming, Kumei, and Yong play in Dreams of Joy. Why are they so important thematically to the novel?
10. Food—or severe lack of it—are of critical importance in Dreams of Joy. How does food affect Joy’s growth as a person? Pearl’s?
11. Let’s consider the men—whether present in the novel as living characters or not—for a moment. What influence do Sam, Z.G., Pearl’s father, Dun, and Tao have on the story? How do they show men at their best and worst? Are any of these characters completely good—or bad?
12. Dreams of Joy is largely a novel about mothers and daughters, but it’s also about fathers and daughters. How do Joy’s feelings toward Sam and Z.G. change over the course of the novel? Does Pearl’s attitude towards her father change in any way?
13. There are several moments in the novel when people have to choose the moral or ethical thing to do. Where are those places? What purpose do they play? And why do you think Lisa choose to write them?
14. Z.G. quotes a 17th-century artist when he says, “Art is the heartbeat of the artist.” How has this idea influenced his life? What impact does this concept have on Joy?
15. Ultimately, Dreams of Joy is about “mother love”—the love Pearl feels for Joy, Joy feels for her mother, Joy experiences with the birth of her daughter, and the on-going struggle between Pearl and May over who is Joy’s true mother. In what ways do secrets, disappointments, fear, and overwhelming love affect mother love in the story?
The following are discussion questions from Litlovers.com
1. Given the difference between their upbringings (social class), what is the basis of friendship between these two couples? What does each couple gain from the friendship? Is it an equal or unequal relationship?
2. Talk about the nature of the two marriages, how they differ. The Langs’ marriage seems to be the one most under the microscope here, the most complicated of the two marriages.
3. Then there’s Charity—clearly the most complex character of the four. Do you like her, despise her? What drives her?
4. What are Charity’s expectations of Sid? Does she desire academic status? Does she want him to realize his full potential or live up to his best self? What does she want from him?
5. Why does Sid stay with Charity? What do you think will happen to him after she dies? Will he choose to go on without her?
6. Stegner is very much a nature writer, using the natural beauty of Vermont as a sort of back drop to his human drama. In what way might he be making a comparison between the immutable natural world and mutable human world?
(Questions by LitLovers.http://www.litlovers.com/reading-guides/13-fiction/230-crossing-to-safety-stegner?start=3 Accessed 1/25/12
We are reading “Ramona” by Helen Hunt Jackson for the next book group meeting. We will be meeting in the Russell Room @ 1pm. Available for free as a downloadable e-book from Project Gutenberg, “Ramona” is often compared to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” for its attempt to influence social policy.
Several movies, as well as a TV series, were produced. A clip from the D.W. Griffith production is available for viewing is available via YouTube .
Discussion questions for “Ramona” are available here in a handout made available by StoryLines America. Please join us for what could be an interesting conversation!
Please join us for our next Falmouth Memorial Library Book Group meeting, Wednesday, November 9th @ 1pm.
Book Discussion Questions provided by the publisher:
1. Eliza thinks that the facts of her birth don’t matter: “It is what you do in this world that matters, not how you come into it,” she claims. Ta Ch’ien, on the other hand, cannot imagine “his own life apart from the long chain of his ancestors, who not only had given him his physical and mental characteristics but bequeathed him his karma. His fate, he believed, had been determined by the acts of his family before him.” How do these different beliefs determine the way Tao Chi’en and Eliza make decisions about their lives? What are your own feelings about ancestry and self-determination?
2. Eliza grows up under the influence of a number of strong individuals–Mama Fresia, Rose, Jeremy Sommers and his brother, John. What does she learn from each of people? How do their differing philosophies contribute to Eliza’s experience of the world? How do they shape her personality?
3. In 19th century Chile, a married woman could not travel, sign legal documents, go to court, sell or buy anything without her husband’s permission. No wonder Rose doesn’t want to get married! How would the lives of the women you know be different under those conditions? What are the consequences in a society that limits the freedoms of a segments of its citizens?
4. What do you think Allende means by referring to Eliza as a “daughter of fortune?” How are the different definitions of the word “fortune” significant in Eliza’s story and the novel as a whole?
5. How is Tao Chi’en a “son” of fortune? What are the crucial turning points in his life, and where do they lead him? To what extent is he responsible for his own good and bad fortunes?
6. “At first the Chinese looked on the foreigners with scorn and disgust, with the great superiority of those who feel they are the only truly civilized beings in the universe, but in the space of a few years they learned to respect and fear them.” writes Allende about the arrival of Western peoples into Hong Kong. How is this pattern of suspicion, fear, and resigned acceptance repeated throughout the novel? How does Allende illustrate the confusion of clashing cultures in Valparaiso, on board Eliza’s ship, and in California? Do you think people of today are more tolerant of other cultures than they were 150 years ago?
7. While Eliza is vulnerable in California because of her sex, Tao Chi’en’s prospects are limited because of his race. How do both characters overcome their “handicaps?” What qualities help them make their way in a culture that is foreign and often unwelcoming?
8. What do details such as Mama Fresia’s home remedies and her attempts to “cure” Eliza of her love for Joaqu’n, or Tao Chi’en’s medical education and his habit of contacting his dead wife say about the role of the spiritual in the everyday life? Must the spiritual and the secular remain separate? What about the spiritual and scientific worlds?
9. How have the novel’s characters – Rose or Jacob Todd, for instance – managed to create opportunities out of the obstacles they’ve faced? What do you think Allende is saying about the role that fate plays in our lives, and about our capacity to take control over our own destinies? How are we all sons or daughters of fortune?