Seaside Book Club –
by Deborah Rogers –
Ayelet Gundar-Goshen’s Waking Lions certainly had an impact on our Book Club readers. Lots of members, including some new faces, turned up at our August meeting to share their thoughts and feelings about the Israeli thriller.
The setting for the novel is present-day Israel, and the writer is a journalist, so there was the potential for lots of politics and focus on issues. We felt Gundar-Goshen managed to avoid preaching to her audience though; rather she wove some current social problems tightly into the storyline, so you couldn’t help but see them as real. The drama of the novel hinges on the repercussions from a single traumatic event in the life of frustrated neurosurgeon Eitan. We haven’t known him long before his life is turned upside down, and most readers agreed he was a hard character to sympathize with.
Eitan’s situation sees his fate wrapped up with that of Sirkit, an Eritrean illegal-immigrant. They live geographically so close, yet their worlds couldn’t be further apart. Gundar-Goshen is especially effective as she contrasts the abject poverty and desperation of the migrant world with the air-conditioned sterility of Eitan’s city life. She is very careful to show that all the characters are flawed in their own ways, and that life in Israel is all about survival, whichever side you are on.
There was lots of moral dilemma, making Waking Lions an especially successful book for group discussion. Several of the group said they found the subject unsettling, and many commented that they hadn’t found it enjoyable reading, but that they were glad to have read it in spite of that.
Endings are hard, and not everyone agreed that this book’s was very satisfying. The reader was left with a feeling that these lives were unresolved, and that the people depicted would probably go on striving and struggling. If that makes it sounds a bit gloomy then perhaps the underlying message is, yet the novel isn’t: there is enough pacing in the action to keep the pages turning. The sense of place captured in Gundar-Goshen’s writing is incredible. Even if the characters and their actions weren’t always believable, you could almost touch the dust in their hair and feel the sweat on their brows.
Thank you to everyone who came along to share their views or listen to the discussion. Our next meeting will take place on September 12 from 6:30 to 8 p.m., upstairs at the Shoal Centre. We will be discussing The Mountain Story by Lori Jansens.
Visit www.seasidemagazine.ca/book-club for more information and to sign up!
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!