March Meetup: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

16299So I read and reviewed ATTWN last year and was excited for the Litwits to discuss this novel because I sort of expected it to be a hit! And it was. I don’t think a single member was too disappointed. That’s a huge win when you have a very diversified group of literary ladies.

Christie’s page-turning plot was no doubt a leading cause. We talked in depth of how intricately her narrative was plotted – what with all the characters and their layered pasts. Christie also takes great care in how she divulges all the twists and turns (of which there are many) to her readers – never letting them in on a secret too early. For this reason, her killer is next to impossible to suss out. In today’s far too often cookie-cutter mystery, Christie’s shocking reveals really set her among history’s elite whodunnit novelists.

We had fun delving into each character’s gritty back story and their particular reason for being selected among the doomed party. Whether or not they were actually to blame, how they lived with their culpability, and ultimately how crazy they had to have been. The psychological aspects of Christie’s story are so deliciously wrought with morality questions that it’s easy to understand why many readers and high schools across the nation deem her genre novels literary classics.

I think the only bit anyone didn’t agree on was the ending. Some loved Christie’s unveiling of the murderer through the novel’s last chapter – a letter from the actual killer. Others wished they had been left never knowing who was responsible. I was actually genuinely surprised at how many Litwits would have been satisfied without the killer’s identity being revealed!

So we Litwits highly recommend this or any other Christie novel for book clubs or individuals across the globe. We have some Christie aficionados among us who recommend The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and The Body in the Library. Happy Reading!

Advertisements

November Meetup: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Awhile back, I read and reviewed Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief.  I wasn’t nearly as enthralled as the rest of the interwebs and book readers.  So when it was selected as The Liwits’ November book club read I was really excited to see how the ladies would respond.  In short – they pretty much agreed with me.

Obviously, Zusak’s novel is much beloved by many, but as someone who didn’t find it extremely compelling – and a tad bit on the gimmicky side – I was pleased to discuss my dislikes with fellow critics.  Not that we trashed the novel – not at all – and we had one lovely member who adored the book.  We all agreed that Zusak’s prose was mostly gorgeous and that dude can write, but I think Death as a narrator ultimately bothered some Litwits.

Katherine wasn’t thrilled with the ‘magical realism’ aspect of Death adding a sort of fictional haze over the realism of WWII.  I agreed, going so far as to argue against fictional WWII literature in general.  Others believed Death was humorous, added a certain levity, and was personified in a wholly humanistic way that didn’t bother the grittiness of the story at all.

We argued with America’s marketing of The Book Thief as young adult literature.  I’m fairly certain we all agreed that the book belongs among all ages equally.  We did think that teenagers would appreciate the novel.

Our discussion led us to ideas of what evil truly is and what it looks like, the differences between sociopathy and psychopathy, and even our recent political elections.  Everyone enjoyed the novel’s German perspective as we dived into a debate about how humans can turn a blind eye to such torture and how we believe it could happen again if we aren’t careful.  Unfortunately, many struggled with the constant reminders that everyone was going to die in the end which led to an anti-climatic ending that left no tears scattered across the final pages.  In converse, some appreciated this warning which allowed them to enjoy the journey without worry for the emotional turmoil at the end.

I encourage other groups to read this novel together.  While not everyone will love it and some might even find it difficult to get through, The Book Thief generates some amazing discussion which is, after all, the point of a book club!  I’m glad The Litwits read this story together and had such profound thoughts.  Can’t wait until next month when we read The Violets of March by Sarah Jio.  Hopefully, a bit of a lighter read for the Holiday season!

Happy Birthday, Litwits!

October’s meetup marked the 2 year anniversary of the best book club of all time – and yes, I’m completely biased.  We met at Victoria’s to discuss Arcadia by Lauren Groff and party down!  Festivities included a White Elephant-esque book gift exchange, a huge gift basket raffle (congrats Jennifer!), and one awesome bookish cake.

While we had all of the fun activities planned, we also made time to discuss our book of the month – Arcadia.  The story begins in the late 60s and follows Bit from childhood, through adolescence, and into adulthood as his life is shaped by the commune he’s born into and the people he meets there.  Yes, there are many, many hippies.

The ladies had strong feelings about this book.  Many were not fans and weren’t afraid to share their disappointment.  Others found the human connection to nature, the history of commune living, and some of the individual characters fascinating.  The naysayers disapproved of the slow nature of the plot and how nothing really happens – EVER.  Arcadia truly is a character study – brief glimpses into the positives and negatives of a free society hidden away from mainstream consumerism, but ultimately destroyed by a leader with a messiah complex.

Some members praised Groff’s powerful women and how often women really were the backbone of the novel.  I, personally, loved that the novel didn’t preach HIPPIES ARE AWESOME or HIPPIES ARE THE DEVIL!  Instead, Groff expertly showcased the pros, the cons, and everything between.  Unfortunately, the hippies fell flat for me and the story just wasn’t my cup of tea.

While Arcadia didn’t win a ton of new fans, it definitely managed to incite some great conversations about communal living, education, humanity’s relationship with nature (we might have talked about snakes for 15 minutes), and porn.  Because we always end at porn – some how, some way.

 

October Meetup: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

The Litwits met Sunday at Katherine’s house and had a lovely time discussing Hurston’s classic novel.  We may have had too much fun and gotten a little wild with our post-book convo!  Always a pleasure to share laughter with these ladies and it’s what makes the group so fabulous.  Can”t wait to celebrate 2 years next month!

Anyway – the book.  TEWWG was not unanimously loved!  I was shocked because it’s one of my favorite books of all time, but some of our group were really able to critique it well.  For those who weren’t as enamored, they tended to see Janie as a very week protagonist – a woman who needed a man to help her make all her decisions and someone who didn’t have much of a backbone – someone who just kind of let stuff happen to her.  We had a great debate about whether Janie was actually a strong, independent woman or not – with much discussion about the time period, racial issues, feminism, and the ultimate war of free will v. nature.  We sounded quite brilliant, to be sure!  And the next time I read Janie’s story, I’ll be looking at her a bit closer!

Also debated was Janie’s relationship with each of her three husbands and what idea of happiness they represented.  She had stability, then prestige and money, and finally love and passion.  All three things are said to bring happiness and yet only her final marriage of love and passion with Teacake seemed to actually accomplish anything resembling that happiness.  And even then, most members weren’t thrilled with Janie and Teacake’s relationship at all.  He did, after all, hit her.

What we all agreed on was how beautiful Hurston’s prose reads.  She’s an amazing writer and was able to pack so much literary beauty into such a small novel.  For her turn of phrase alone, everyone seemed to believe the novel was worth reading.  Hurston’s own life was also discussed in great detail – she has a very interesting back history!

The rest of our evening was filled with wine, giggles, babies, and Vin Diesel.  We were loud, crude, and had the best time.  Our new members were lovely and we hope y’all come back!  We’ve also come to realize that certain topics constantly find their way into every meetup – Twilight, fanfiction, and – wait for it – horse porn!  Can’t wait ’til next month!

********************************

Another successful Classics Club book down!

Books: Does Age Matter?

Recently – an hour ago actually – I had a member of my in-person book club leave the group.  Her reasons sort of offended my reading sensibilities.  She claimed that our group read nothing that interested her and she felt she’s perhaps too old to be a Litwit.  Okay…

What does too old to be a Litwit even mean?  Do book clubs have age limits – should they?  Am I supposed to be looking at books and deciding whether or not I’m too old or too young to read it?

The Litwits aren’t a bunch of teenagers.  Our average age range is somewhere between 35-45.  This particular member (who had never even attended a meeting) was probably at the high end of that range, maybe a bit older.  Does she have a point?  Or is she just insecure about her age?

I’m a bit flabbergasted because she signed up knowing what books we read.  Has she aged so significantly in the past couple of months that she’s outgrown us already?  Our next two books – Gone With the Wind and Their Eyes Were Watching God – don’t feel particularly ‘young’.  They are also both considered classics.  What does she want us to read? A steady diet of philosophical literature or Senior Citizens Monthly?  I am so confused.  Especially when her profile indicated she adored the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.

So, does age matter when selecting books?  I know a ton of older readers who greatly enjoy young adult fiction.  And to be honest, the couple of young adult novels the Litwits have read really generated some of our best discussions.  The former member wanted to read ‘quality fiction’.  What does that term mean?

I used to run a second book club that focused only on 20th century classics.  I’d call those heavier, ‘quality’ reads.  And you now what?  It died after 2 or 3 meetings because no one ever finished the books because they were too ‘difficult’.  Interestingly, the average age of that group was significantly higher.  Do older women feel the need to only read ‘high brow’ literature for fear of feeling too silly, immature, and young?  Should readers feel obligated to their age?

I’m totally with C.S. Lewis.  Here’s what I know:  I hope to be reading anything and everything for the rest of my life.  I want the silly with the serious – the good with the bad – the long with the short.  I want to be challenged by books that seem ridiculous and argue with books that are supposedly perfect.  I hope I never feel too old to read something be it picture book or historical tome.

What do you think?  I need to hear your thoughts!