Still Life With Bread Crumbs
Club Selection for August 2017
Still Life with Bread Crumbs begins with an imagined gunshot and ends with a new tin roof. Between the two is a wry and knowing portrait of Rebecca Winter, a photographer whose work made her an unlikely heroine for many women. Her career is now descendent, her bank balance shaky, and she has fled the city for the middle of nowhere. There she discovers, in a tree stand with a roofer named Jim Bates, that what she sees through a camera lens is not all there is to life.
Brilliantly written, powerfully observed, Still Life with Bread Crumbs is a deeply moving and often very funny story of unexpected love, and a stunningly crafted journey into the life of a woman, her heart, her mind, her days, as she discovers that life is a story with many levels, a story that is longer and more exciting than she ever imagined.
“[Anna] Quindlen’s seventh novel offers the literary equivalent of comfort food. . . . She still has her finger firmly planted on the pulse of her generation.”—NPR
Carol's Rating: ★★★
Anna Quindlen writes beautifully and this story flows along smoothly like a lazy river; It feels uneventful for the most part, even when important events happened. The characters were likable and the story interesting enough to keep me turning pages.
There was good deal of internal dialogue, which I loved but at the same time found hard to follow because the narrator's thoughts jumped around so much. It made me realize how it confusing it must be for others to carry on a conversation with me at times -- we'll be talking about a subject and suddenly I think of something else (squirrel!) so I jump to that topic for a bit. Thankfully, the narrator of this story always came back to complete the original thought.
This was a nice, easy read with moments of intrigue. I wanted to love it as much as I do the cover art (Oh,that beautiful cover!) but all in all, it was better than ok but not fantastic.
About the Author
Anna Quindlen is the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and bestselling novelist who wrote the books One True Thing and Object Lessons.
Anna Quindlen was born on July 8, 1952, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At age 18, she worked as a copy girl at The New York Times. After college, Quindlen became a reporter for The New York Post before returning to the Times in 1977. She was promoted to deputy metropolitan editor at the Times and wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning op-ed column from 1981-1994. After leaving the Times in 1995, Quindlen has written several bestselling novels, including One True Thing.
Writer Anna Marie Quindlen was born on July 8, 1952, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Anna Quindlen joined The New York Times at age 18 as a copy girl. After graduating from Barnard College in 1974, she was hired as a reporter for The New York Post. She returned to the Times in 1977 and was named deputy metropolitan editor in 1983.
As a columnist for The Times from 1981 to 1994, Quindlen was only the third woman in the paper's history to write a regular column for the prestigious Op-Ed page. Her column, "Public and Private," won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1992. Other columns included "About New York" and "Life in the 30s." In 1995, she left the paper to devote herself to becoming a novelist.
Quindlen's body of work includes fiction, non-fiction, self-help and children's books. She has written five best-selling novels, three of which were made into movies, One True Thing, Black and Blue and Blessings. Thinking Out Loud, a collection of her "Public and Private" columns, was also a best-seller. She currently writes the Last Word column for Newsweek magazine.
Anna Quindlen and her husband, attorney Gerald Krovatin, live in New York City with their three children.
With each book you read, aren't you curious to know the inspiration behind it or to understand more about the research, creative, and editing processes?
Well, we're in luck! Anna Quindlen gives us the inside scoop to these questions and more in these revealing interviews.
Random House: Reader's Guide
November 21, 2013
People love to know where the inspiration for a novel comes from. Would you say something about Still Life with Bread Crumbs in this regard?
It’s not one thing. It’s never one thing. I’ve thought a lot about the nature of art, and why women’s art, particularly if it arises from domestic life, is minimized, or denigrated—why, for instance, we pay less attention to the work of Alice McDermott, a genius miniaturist whose novels reflect the quiet everyday, then we do to the more sprawling, outward-facing work of Philip Roth. Some of my thinking on that is embodied in Rebecca’s photography and public reaction to it. I’m 61 years old, and I’ve thought a lot about aging, and the stages of a woman’s life, and that’s in there, too. From a purely mechanical point of view, I try to do some essential thing in each novel that I haven’t done before. In this book it was twofold: I’ve never written a love story, and I haven’t written a book with a happy ending, and this material lent itself to both. ...[Read the full interview]
NPR Author Interview
February 2, 2014, 6:05 AM ET
Heard on Weekly Edition Sunday | Listen 6:32
Rebecca Winter is at a crossroads. The famous photographer had been living off of sales of one particular photograph for years. When the money stream starts to dry up, she reluctantly decides to rent out her Manhattan apartment and move to a small, rural town far from her seemingly fabulous New York life. It is here that she tries to map out her next chapter. No longer married, no longer needed as much by her grown son, no longer as successful as she used to be.
That's where we meet the main character in Anna Quindlen's newest novel, Still Life with Bread Crumbs.
Quindlen tells NPR's Rachel Martin, "I'm really intrigued by the idea that we now live long enough to get to reinvent, rediscover ourselves over and over again, and that's definitely what's happening to Rebecca."
Interview highlights include details on why Rebecca leaves New York for the country, on the love story at the heart of the book, on taste and art, and staying down to earth.
Listen to the interview below or read the transcript.
Book Club Mojo
Inspired by Sarah, one of the characters in the book who runs the English-themed Tea for Two cafe, DeeAnn prepared a beautiful tea party for us!
She treated us with tea (Winter Chocolate Spice and Dancing Sugar Plum), wine, appetizers of meat, cheese, and shrimp, an entree of cucumber sandwiches and scones, and a dessert of sherbet and cookies.
Loads of laughs, delicious food, and interesting conversation made for an evening of sheer delight!
Novel Gobblers Original Questions
1.Rebecca's story reminds us that it's important to leave behind people who destroy our dreams and hopes and to find the right people in life. Who were these people in her life? Why did she leave them or embrace them?
2. At one point in the story, Rebecca says to her son, Ben, that she used to be Rebecca Winter. What do you think Ben meant when he replied, "You'll always be the Rebecca Winter."?
3. How might this story be a coming-of-age story for Rebecca Winter, a 60 year old woman?
4. Which of the five W.H. Auden verdicts fits this story for you? Why?
1. I can see this is good and I like it.
2. I can see this is good but I don’t like it.
3. I can see this is good and, though at present I don’t like it, I believe that with perseverance I shall come to like it.
4. I can see that this is trash but I like it.
5. I can see that this is trash and I don’t like it.
5. Did you make any predictions as you read this story? What were they? Were you right?
6. Anna Quindlen has stated that she wanted to write a love story. Do you think she succeeded?
7. How did this story make you feel? Who would you recommend it to and why?
Questions Issued by the Publisher
1. What part of Rebecca Winter’s life do you relate to the most? How did the way Rebecca handled her hardships compare to decisions you’ve made in your own life?
2. One of the themes of Still Life with Bread Crumbs is discovering how to age gracefully. What has been one of your biggest struggles when entering a different stage of life? What is something you’ve enjoyed?
3. Rebecca finds herself living far outside the comfort zone of her former New York City life. What do you think is the most difficult part of moving somewhere new? Have you ever been in a similar situation? How did you handle it?
4. At one point in the book, Jim says that he believes that people live in houses that look like them. How does your own house or apartment reflect your personality?
5. "Language had always failed her when it came to describing her photographs…There was nothing she could say about the cross photographs that could come close to actually seeing them." Rebecca realizes this after speaking at the Women’s Art League event. Do you ever find it difficult to describe the effect that art --- photographs, paintings, writing --- has had on you? What might that say about the power of artwork?
6. Throughout the book, Sarah is often the perfect antidote for Rebecca’s unhappiness. Do you have a person like this in your life? Think about one of the times that you were most grateful for him or her.
7. One of the turning points for Rebecca is when Ben tells her, "You will always be Rebecca Winter." How has Rebecca’s personal identity become entangled with her identity as an iconic artist? What helps her to ground herself?
8. The dog gradually becomes a bigger part of Rebecca’s life as she moves further away from her past self—the "not a dog person" city girl. The dog pictures are even the catalyst for Rebecca’s break with TG. What do you think the presence of the dog means in Rebecca’s life, especially after she discovers his name is Jack? How might the constant company of an animal have a different effect from that of the company of people?
9. When Rebecca finally learns the meaning of the crosses, she wonders if the great artists had ever considered "the terrible eternity of immortality" for their subjects. We live in a culture of camera phones and constant photography. Was there ever a moment when you were particularly grateful to have a certain photograph? Do you ever wish that our lives were less documented?
10. O. Henry’s short story and the story of Rebecca’s mother’s Mary Cassatt both have a bittersweet quality to them. Think about a moment in your life that might have been upsetting or sad. Was there someone who helped you see beauty or happiness in that moment instead?