Here’s a summary from our June meeting.
Laurel has been enjoying Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson. It’s set on San Piedro Island, located off the coast of mainland Washington in the Pacific Northwest of USA; a Japanese-American fisherman named Kabuo Miyamoto goes on trial for the murder of Carl Heine, a well-liked local fisherman and respected war veteran. Laurel was interested in the stark difference between the Japanese and the white American response to this crisis situation. The Japanese culture insists on respect for an authority greater than the individual, the white Americans by contrast were individualist, not group-oriented. The issue of race prejudice, and how it plays out, was also there in this story.
Pam has been reading Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking, by Susan Cain: a reflection on how the dominant culture conditions whether we become introverts or extraverts. There’s a quiz in the book to do too: are you introvert or extravert?
Anne has been reading The Secret River by Kate Grenville; and That Eye the Sky, an early novel of Tim Winton’s. She enjoyed Winton’s vivid language, and his ability to show us the heart of a person, a landscape, a situation.
Shirley has been reading David Malouf’s Ransom. Priam, aged King of Troy, goes to his enemy, Achilles, to ask for the body of his son, Hector. The book is based on a story from Homer’s The Iliad, 8th century BC. Shirley’s also enjoying Bring up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel.
Di has been reading a first novel, Past the Shallows by Australian writer Favel Parrett. There’s strong characterisation here, and an ability to conjure landscape. This title will turn up in our reading list for 2014.
Alan has been reading Voltaire’s Candide, for the fourth time. Candide attacks the passivity inspired by Leibniz’s philosophy of optimism. First published in 1759, it satirises the view that “this is the best of all possible worlds”. Voltaire’s fearless satire got him into some political hot water.
Alex read Leo Tolstoy’s The Cossacks on her Kindle. It’s set in The Caucasus; its main character decided he wanted to go and live amongst the Cossacks for a time. Alex enjoyed his observations of nature, and his bouts of introspection.
Barbara has been reading Willa Cather: a life saved up by Hermione Lee, an Oxford academic: and Sarah Dunant’s Blood and Beauty, about the Borgia family in Renaissance Italy.
Nick has been reading Love and Vertigo by Hsu-Ming Teo. It’s Teo’s first novel, published in 2000; it’s about Grace Teh and her family growing up in Malaysia. He’s also very much enjoyed reading The Great Gatsby, that seminal American novel by F Scott Fitzgerald, recently made into a movie.
Alison has been reading Shaun Micallef’s Preincarnate: a novella (wryly funny); and Giulia Giuffre’s A Writing Life: Interviews with Australian Women Writers, in which she records conversations with the older writing generation, eg. Kylie Tennant, Christina Stead, Eleanor Dark. She has also read Mary-Rose MacColl’s In Falling Snow. This absorbing story took her to a Cistercian abbey north of Paris, converted to a hospital (Royaumont) to treat soldiers wounded in the terrible trenches of the Somme, in the later years of World War I. Alison scurried to an atlas to check how close Royaumont was to the battlefronts on the Somme and further east, and was horrified anew at the torments suffered by front-line soldiers in that war.