January Book Club!
by Deborah Rogers
How wonderful to be back to our meetings in the Sidney/North Saanich Library’s Nell Horth room! And what a great start to the year with a large and engaged group, and a novel filled with action, larger-than-life characters and a murder-mystery. Isabel Allende is an internationally acclaimed author with many fiction and non-fiction books to her name. She is especially well known for The House of Spirits and The Japanese Lover, both recommended further reading from the many Allende fans within our book group.
We discussed Allende’s 2018 novel In the Midst of Winter, part black comedy crime-caper, part meditation on the restoring power of love. Its setting, in a Brooklyn brought to a halt by a powerful snow storm, made it a perfect winter read. Allende assembles a seemingly mismatched cast of characters, brings them together under stress, and then takes the reader on a journey with them, dealing with the immediate aftermath of a minor fender bender and all that unfolds from it. We have Richard, an NYU academic living alone, with a life so tightly structured and controlled he barely seems to be living. There’s Lucia, the tenant of Richard’s basement apartment, a Chilean professor newly arrived in New York to work in Richard’s department. And there’s Evelyn, an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala, caught up in her employer’s complicated and illegal life.
Our readers were under no illusions that it was a contrived scenario that brought these characters together, but it didn’t seem to detract from the enjoyment of the book. What we get is three back stories, all set in South America, and all dealing with issues of corruption, violence, political instability and people having to survive in the worst of conditions. These stories are ones that Allende knows well, and she has related similar tales in her other books. Her insight and ability to portray chaos and despair with such a light touch made this book. The plot had its problems, and points where the reader’s credibility was stretched almost too far, but the beauty of Allende’s writing captivated us. It’s a lighter read than some of her other work yet still manages to succeed as a commentary on present-day immigration issues and the way so many people live precarious lives, that can be disrupted by one tiny incident.
Thanks to everyone who came along to the meeting and to Quince Café for the refreshments. We meet next on Tuesday February 11 to discuss Atul Gwande’s Being Mortal. 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the Library’s Nell Horth Room. To find out more, or sign up to the Book Club email list: seasidemaagzine.ca/book-club.
Book Club Q & A
Q How do you choose the books?
A The book selection is a little down to luck – each month the Sidney/North Saanich Library tries to get hold of a book club set for us to use. Availability is based on demand. So far we have had a choice between several titles each month, and have voted which one to use. Generally this will mean that people can leave the meeting with a copy of next month’s read. Book Club members can suggest titles they would be interested in reading from the VIRL book club sets list:
Q How do you structure the meeting?
A Members bring questions or discussion points with them, written down. These are put in a “hat” and drawn from to keep the discussion going. It leads to diverse questions and no need for anyone to feel self-conscious. The meeting is facilitated by Seaside Magazine’s Deborah and Sidney/North Saanich Library’s Virginia.
Q How do I stay up to date with Book Club happenings?
A Sign up for our mailing list and you’ll get meeting reminders by email. And follow us on Facebook to see everything that’s happening at Seaside Magazine!