Still Life With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen

Still Life With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen
Still LIfe With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen
Source: Goodreads

Still Life With Bread Crumbs

Anna Quindlen

Club Selection for August 2017

Pages: 252 / Audio: 6 Hrs 50 mins
First Published January 28th 2014 by Random House
 
New York Times Bestseller

A superb love story from Anna Quindlen, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Rise and Shine, Blessings, and A Short Guide to a Happy Life

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

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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 Official Author Photo for Still Life with Bread Crumbs
Photo Credit: Maria Krovatin

Anna Quindlen

Anna Quindlen is the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and bestselling novelist who wrote the books One True Thing and Object Lessons.

Synopsis
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.

Career Highlights
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.

Source: biography.com

Revealing Interviews

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.
 

A Q&A with Anna Quindlen, author of Still Life With Bread Crumbs

Random House: Reader's Guide
November 21, 2013

Anna Quindlen author - Still Life With Bread CrumbsPeople 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]
 

 

Anna Quindlen Spins A Tale Of Middle-Aged Reinvention

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!

Pin Still Life With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen - Mojo 6

Discussion Questions

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

Source: Litlovers.com

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?

Happy Reading!

All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

Book Cover for All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthyAll The Pretty Horses

Cormac McCarthy

Series: Border Trilogy, Book 1

Club Selection for March 2017

Pages: 302 / Audio: 10 Hrs 3 mins
Published June 29th 1993 by Vintage (first published May 11th 1992)
 
The national bestseller and the first volume in Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy, All the Pretty Horses is the tale of John Grady Cole, who at sixteen finds himself at the end of a long line of Texas ranchers, cut off from the only life he has ever imagined for himself. With two companions, he sets off for Mexico on a sometimes idyllic, sometimes comic journey to a place where dreams are paid for in blood. Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction.

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Carol's Rating: ★★★

"Every dumb thing I ever done before in my life there was a decision I made before that got me into it."

Despite the pretty title, this is a tough story. John Grady Cole has lost his grandfather and the ranch will be sold. It's all John has ever known. He's a cowboy and that's all he ever wants to be. So he and his cousin, both about 16 years old, leave Texas and ride their horses across the border into Mexico. It's 1949. In Texas they tie their horses up outside cafes and gas stations. The moment they cross into Mexico, they step back in time. Desert. Cactus. No motor vehicles, few settlements. The people they meet lead them to hard life and hard choices; some of them life threatening.

I am so glad I read this book. There were many things I loved about it but many things I didn't. What did I love? The contradictory nature. The depth of the story and characters yet the direct, no frills conversations with little show of emotion. The action yet the slow pace. The beauty yet the harshness. I loved that once they passed into Mexico, the descriptions of the land and many of the discussions between the characters we given in Spanish. There was a very distinct feel that you were no longer in Texas nor in 1949! I liked the boys and was impressed with their maturity at such a young age.

What didn't I love? The lack of quotations caused a lot of confusion for me about who was speaking. At times the story would jump forward to a new scene, leaving me confused about how we got there. McCarthy offers beautiful language but the story is not a lullaby like the title implies. It's not a happy story and I was I left with a strong hope that John Grady Cole will somehow find his place and his happiness.

Happy Reading!

 

Red Butterfly by A.L. Sonnichsen

Red Butterfly by A.L. Sonnichsen
Source: Goodreads.com

Red Butterfly

 A.L. Sonnichsen  

Club Selection for February 2017

Pages: 400 
Published February 2nd 2016 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
 
A young orphaned girl in modern-day China discovers the meaning of family in this “heartbreaking, heartwarming, and impressive debut” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) told in verse, in the tradition of Inside Out and Back Again and Sold.

Kara never met her birth mother. Abandoned as an infant, she was taken in by an American woman living in China. Now eleven, Kara spends most of her time in their apartment, wondering why she and Mama cannot leave the city of Tianjin and go live with Daddy in Montana. Mama tells Kara to be content with what she has…but what if Kara secretly wants more?

Told in lyrical, moving verse, Red Butterfly is the story of a girl learning to trust her own voice, discovering that love and family are limitless, and finding the wings she needs to reach new heights.

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Carol's Rating:  ★★★★★

"Don't worry if your new life has been tough.
Remember, it takes a while for a butterfly's wings to dry."

Every once in a while a book comes along that imprints itself in you and changes you forever. This is one of them.

A tender, tragic, relishing story of hope, isolation, adaptation, kindness, and love in a world where harsh political policies have triggered harsh choices and consequences for families and children. Though a fictional story about a young Chinese girl being raised in China as an American, it truthfully tells of ethical decisions faced by many in China since the One-Child policy was placed into effect in 1980. There are many questions about the characters that are answered with flawless timing as the story beautifully unfolds at a perfect tempo, keeping you intrigued, hopeful, and deeply moved. The Author's Note at the end of the book is powerful and added yet another layer of love and understanding to the story.

I borrowed this booked from our local library but it is one of the few that I will buy and place on my own shelf where I will see it, re-read it, and experience it again and again.

Happy Reading!

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The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall

The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall

The Wolf Border

Sarah Hall

Pages: 432 / Audiobook: 13 hrs 14 mins
Published June 9th 2015 by Harper

The award-winning author of The Electric Michelangelo returns with her first novel in nearly six years, a literary masterpiece about the reintroduction of wild wolves into the United Kingdom.

She hears them howling along the buffer zone, a long harmonic.
One leading, then many.
At night there is no need to imagine, no need to dream.
They reign outside the mind.

Rachel Caine is a zoologist working in Nez Perce, Idaho, as part of a wolf recovery project. She spends her days, and often nights, tracking the every move of a wild wolf pack—their size, their behavior, their howl patterns. It is a fairly solitary existence, but Rachel is content.

When she receives a call from the wealthy and mysterious Earl of Annerdale, who is interested in reintroducing the grey wolf to Northern England, Rachel agrees to a meeting. She is certain she wants no part of this project, but the Earl's estate is close to the village where Rachel grew up, and where her aging mother now lives in a care facility. It has been far too long since Rachel has gone home, and so she returns to face the ghosts of her past.

The Wolf Border is a breathtaking story about the frontier of the human spirit, from one of the most celebrated young writers working today.


Novel Gobblers Perspective

Carol's Rating:  ★★

Meatloaf & Potatoes not Steak and Lobster

And bland meatloaf and potatoes at that. This is not to say that the writing is not beautiful or that the story is not interesting, because it is. But it is in an everyday, matter of fact, plodding, monotone, deliberate way. I can see the brilliance of the symbolism between Racheal and the wolves; the need for freedom rather than captivity. It is clear that Rachael is a lone wolf, dedicated and loyal to her cause, yet the story did not allow me to connect with the characters at all. It was devoid of emotion. Any interaction with others is told briefly or completely skipped. Thomas Pendleton's actions near the end were a complete surprise to me and were the most exciting part of the story. I wanted so badly to love this book but the characters were kept at such a distance that it sadly prevented me from having anything beyond a flatline experience.

What Does It Mean?

The Wolf Border is full of vocabulary-building words. Here's just a few of them and their definitions.

  • encomium - [en-koh-mee-uh m] noun, plural encomiums, encomia; a formal expression of high praise; eulogy.
  • connubial - [kuh-noo-bee-uhl] adjective; of marriage or wedlock; matrimonial; conjugal: connubial love.
  • copse - [kops] noun; a thicket of small trees or bushes; a small wood.
  • tannoynoun; trademark a sound-amplifying apparatus used as a public-address system esp in a large building
  • pedant - [ped-nt] noun
    • 1. A person who makes an excessive or inappropriate display of learning
    • 2. A person who overemphasizes rules or minor details 
    • 3. A person who adheres rigidly to book knowledge without regard tocommon sense.
    • 4. Obsolete. a schoolmaster.

 

 

Have you learned some new words lately?  Share them at Wondrous Words Wednesday (hosted by Bermudaonion.net). “Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where we share new (to us) words that we’ve encountered in our reading.”

Happy Reading!

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The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale

Margaret Atwood

Pages: 311 pages / Audiobook: 11 hrs
Published March 16th 1998 by Anchor Books (first published 1985)

The Handmaid's Tale is not only a radical and brilliant departure for Margaret Atwood, it is a novel of such power that the reader will be unable to forget its images and its forecast. Set in the near future, it describes life in what was once the United States, now called the Republic of Gilead, a monotheocracy that has reacted to social unrest and a sharply declining birthrate by reverting to, and going beyond, the repressive intolerance of the original Puritans. The regime takes the Book of Genesis absolutely at its word, with bizarre consequences for the women and men of its population.
The story is told through the eyes of Offred, one of the unfortunate Handmaids under the new social order. In condensed but eloquent prose, by turns cool-eyed, tender, despairing, passionate, and wry, she reveals to us the dark corners behind the establishment's calm facade, as certain tendencies now in existence are carried to their logical conclusions. The Handmaid's Tale is funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing. It is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force. It is Margaret Atwood at her best.


Happy Reading!

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The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

The Art of Racing in the Rain

Garth Stein

Pages: 321 / Audio book: 6 hrs 56 min
Published May 13th 2008 by Harper Collins (first published June 1st 2006)

Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver.
Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn't simply about going fast. Using the techniques needed on the race track, one can successfully navigate all of life's ordeals.

On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through: the sacrifices Denny has made to succeed professionally; the unexpected loss of Eve, Denny's wife; the three-year battle over their daughter, Zoe, whose maternal grandparents pulled every string to gain custody. In the end, despite what he sees as his own limitations, Enzo comes through heroically to preserve the Swift family, holding in his heart the dream that Denny will become a racing champion with Zoe at his side. Having learned what it takes to be a compassionate and successful person, the wise canine can barely wait until his next lifetime, when he is sure he will return as a man.

A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully crafted and captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life...as only a dog could tell it.


Novel Gobblers Perspective

Carol's Rating:  ★★★★★

This is an unputdownable story that will touch your heart and your funny bone.  It somewhat reminded me of Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom in that it is full of love, compassion, wit, wisdom, and inspiration.  Read it, you'll be glad you did.

 

About the Author

Source: Wikipedia

garth_stein_1111_1-199x300Garth Stein was born in Los Angeles on December 6, 1964, but spent most of his childhood growing up in Seattle. His father, a Brooklyn native, was the child of Austrian Jewish immigrants, while Stein's Alaskan mother comes from Tlingit and Irish descent. Stein later revisited his Tlingit heritage in his first novel, Raven Stole the Moon.

Stein earned a B.A. from Columbia College of Columbia University (1987) and a Master of Fine Arts degree in film from the University's School of the Arts (1990).

Stein has worked as a director, producer and/or writer of documentary films, several of which won awards. In 1991, he co-produced an Academy Award winning short film,The Lunch Date. He then co-produced The Last Party, a film commentating on the 1992 Democratic National Convention. Stein also produced and directed a documentary about his sister's brain surgery, entitled When Your Head's Not a Head, It's a Nut.

After films, Stein took up creative writing. At one time, he taught creative writing at Tacoma School of the Arts. His published works include three books and two plays.Brother Jones, his first play, was produced in Los Angeles, California in 2005. Garth wrote another play (No One Calls Me Mutt Anymore, 2010) for the theatrical department at his alma mater, Shorewood High School in Shoreline, WA.

Stein was born in Los Angeles, grew up in Seattle, and after spending 18 years in New York City, returned to Seattle where he lives with his wife, Andrea Perlbinder Stein, sons Caleb, Eamon and Dashiell — and the family dog, Comet, a lab/poodle mix. When living in New York, played in a rock band, called Zero Band, that rehearsed but rarely performed.

Interviews, Quotes & More

Garth Stein discusses his novel The Art of Racing in the Rain, a heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully crafted and captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life . . . as only a dog could tell it.

 

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Favorite Enzo Quotes

zebra

"...that which we manifest is before us; we are the creators of our own destiny. Be it through intention or ignorance, our successes and our failure have been brought on by none other than ourselves."

"Racing is about discipline and intelligence, not about who has the heavier foot. The one who drives smart will always win in the end."

 

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Banned Seattle author defends ‘Art of Racing in the Rain’

BY JOSH KERNS, KIRO Radio Reporter | September 26, 2014 @ 1:37 pm

garth_comet_2
Seattle author Garth Stein defends his book "The Art of Racing in the Rain" after it was banned by a Texas high school in an interview with KIRO Radio's Jason Rantz. (Photo courtesy Garth Stein)

listenButtonListen to the interview

Seattle author Garth Stein has a new distinction to add to his resume: his best selling book “The Art of Racing in the Rain” has been banned by a Texas high school.

Stein’s acclaimed novel tells the story of an aspiring Seattle race car driver and mechanic struggling with the death of his wife through the eyes of his dog Enzo, who’s convinced he’ll be reincarnated as a human.

“It’s about perseverance, it’s about self reliance and it’s really about how to lead a good life,” Stein tells KIRO Radio’s Jason Rantz.

But some parents at Dallas’ Highland Park High School objected to some sexual themes and subject matter. In one section, the driver is falsely accused of sexual molestation by an underage girl who tries to force herself on him.

After a heated school board meeting, the school board ordered the 10th grade English class to stop reading the book, along with six other books considered objectionable, The Dallas Morning News reports.

Stein defends the book, and teaching it to 10th graders, saying even the controversial subject matter was “taken quite seriously and with gravitas.”

“Things do happen in this world that are inappropriate and people get themselves into situations where mistakes are made and things are compromised,” he says.

“I think in 10th grade, it’s time to be able to have these discussions about adult subject matter and I think it’s important to do so in a responsible and thoughtful way.”

Stein says he respects the rights of parents to raise concerns about potentially objectionable content. But he’s concerned the parents in Texas didn’t actually read the whole book.

“I think that somebody pulled out a passage and said look at this and then they passed it around and a bunch of people signed their names to it,” he says.

Stein says he believes in the value of a teacher guiding discussions of challenging or controversial subject matter, but says parents should be involved as well.

“I think the objective is to raise the awareness by having a discussion about these things rather than by suppressing the discussion.”

Stein’s book will be reviewed by a committee of parents, teachers and students. The superintendent of schools there says the process could take several months.

Stein questions the way the situation was handled, although he believes both the parents and teachers involved have the best interests of students in mind.

“They should be teaching their students to raise those objections themselves,” he says of potential concerns. “Maybe what’s going on now will lead to schools evaluating how they choose their curriculum, how the community participates in the choosing of that curriculum.”

He’s hopeful that doesn’t include banning books.

Discussion Questions

Everyone in our reading group enjoyed this book and the lively discussion. Donna hosted our meeting and prepared a wonderful meal that included Squash Soup and Apple Dumplings.  To top it off, she cleverly printed our discussion questions on dogbone-shaped slips of paper. Woof!

 

Source: Once a Month Book Club

Many online sources — Reading Group Guides, Harper Collins, the books publisher, and others — have shamelessly plagiarized one another’s reading guide questions. Here they are, in all their commonality :Some early readers of the novel have observed that viewing the world through a dog’s eyes makes for a greater appreciation of being human. Why do you think this is?

  1. Enzo’s observations throughout the novel provide insight into his world view. For example:
    • “The visible becomes inevitable.”
    • “Understanding the truth is simple. Allowing oneself to experience it, is often terrifically difficult.”
    • “No race has ever been won in the first corner; many races have been lost there.”
    • How does his philosophy apply to real life?
  2. In the book’s darkest moments, one of Zoe’s stuffed animals — the zebra — comes to life and threatens him. What does the zebra symbolize?
  3. Can you imagine the novel being told from Denny’s point of view? How would it make the story different?
  4. In the first chapter, Enzo says: “It’s what’s inside that’s important. The soul. And my soul is very human.” How does Enzo’s situation — a human soul trapped in a dog’s body — influence his opinions about what he sees around him? How do you feel about the ideas of reincarnation and karma as Enzo defines them?
  5. Do you find yourself looking at your own dog differently after reading this novel?
  6. In the book, we get glimpses into the mindset and mentality of a race car driver. What parallels can you think of between the art of racing and the art of living?
  7. The character of Ayrton Senna, as he is presented in the book, is heroic, almost a mythic figure. Why do you think this character resonates so strongly for Denny?

OTHER DISCUSSION GUIDE QUESTIONS

A deeper plunge of the Internet provides more unique discussion guide questions. The blog Read to Enrich offers these for discussion:

  1. What was your favorite scene in the novel?
  2. Did you like the technique of making Enzo be the narrator?  Would the story have worked if the narrator was one of the humans?
  3. Do you think dogs or other animals can really understand humans and have the desire to communicate with them?
  4. Discuss Enzo’s more human characteristics:
    • His feelings after Eve died (and his animal reaction of chasing and eating the squirrel ) [page 165]
    • Advising people to learn to listen (page 102)
  5. Can dogs and other animals sense things that humans cannot?  Enzo smelled Eve’s cancer well before anyone made a diagnosis.
  6. What did you think of Enzo’s description of communication, “…there are so many moving parts.  There’s presentation and there’s interpretation and they’re so dependent on each other it makes things very difficult.”  (page 5) Was this a good analysis?
  7. What did you think about Enzo’s analysis of his death?  He said about Denny, “He needs me to free him to be brilliant.”  (page 5)
  8. The author wrote, “A true hero is flawed.  The true test of a champion is not whether he can triumph, but whether he can overcome obstacles – preferably of his own making – in order to triumph.”  (page 135)  Do you agree?  What do you think about the obstacles “being of his own making?”  Can you name anyone who you think is a hero?  Does he or she fit this description?
  9. About a champion, he wrote “It makes one realize that the physicality of our world is a boundary to us only if our will is weak; a true champion can accomplish things that a normal person would think impossible.”  (page 65)  Do you agree?
  10. One of Denny’s favorite statements was “…that which we manifest is before us.”  (page 43)  What did he mean?  Do you agree?
  11. The author stated that women and dogs feel pain the same (“tap directly into the pain” page 62) whereas men “are all filters and deflectors and timed release.”  (page 63)  Is this an accurate description?  Do you think there is a difference in how men, women and dogs experience pain?
  12. Regarding the evil zebra, at the end Enzo realizes that the zebra is,“not something outside of us.  The zebra is something inside of us.  Our fears.  Our own self-destructive nature.  The zebra is the worst part of us when we are face-to-face with our worst times.  The demon is us!”  (page 264)  Do you agree?  Can you think of any examples from other books you have read where the characters were their own worst enemies?
  13. There were many comments in the book about life in general.  What comparisons were made between driving a race car and life?  Can you add others?
 
Happy Reading!

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The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

The Sun Also Rises

Ernest Hemingway

Pages: 256 / Audiobook: 7 hrs 46 min
Published 2006 by Scribner (first published 1926)

The quintessential novel of the Lost Generation, The Sun Also Rises is one of Ernest Hemingway's masterpieces and a classic example of his spare but powerful writing style. A poignant look at the disillusionment and angst of the post-World War I generation, the novel introduces two of Hemingway's most unforgettable characters: Jake Barnes and Lady Brett Ashley. The story follows the flamboyant Brett and the hapless Jake as they journey from the wild nightlife of 1920s Paris to the brutal bullfighting rings of Spain with a motley group of expatriates. It is an age of moral bankruptcy, spiritual dissolution, unrealized love, and vanishing illusions. First published in 1926, The Sun Also Rises helped to establish Hemingway as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century.


Novel Gobblers Perspective

Carol's Rating:  ★★★★

So This Is Hemingway...

This was my first Hemingway book and I was engaged from the start.
I was amused by the characters, often disturbed by their behavior, and slightly confused that there didn't seem to be a plot to the story. There were no specific descriptions regarding the physical appearance yet the animated conversations gave a real sense of the characters personalities - flighty, self-absorbed, and with no real purpose other than seeking out the next superficial experience, which usually took place at the next bar or cafe. The characters didn't grow into better people and they were ceaselessly drunk and rude.

Yet I could not stop reading it. Why did I like this book so much?

I loved Hemingway's writing style; he conveys so much in so few words. He gives powerful, short descriptions of surroundings and emotions. Even though the characters were rather awful people, I found their banter to be very entertaining. I particularly liked Bill and his discussions about "utilizing" things (often bottles of alcohol) and Brett, so dramatically stating things like, "Oh, please let's not talk about it" and yet she is the only one that continues to "talk about it". There is a lot of symbolism in the story that offers insight and depth to the otherwise aloof characters, but you have to pay attention to pick up on it. I didn't at first and thought the entire story was pretty shallow. Then in contemplation and discussion I began to understand the symbols and was taken aback at how clever Hemingway's writing was. In the end I loved the story and now realize why Hemingway is known as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century.

 

Catherine's Rating:  ★★★★

I was surprised to find that this book reminds me of Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby," although I suppose it shouldn't have because the two books were written at nearly the same time by men who were friends. You really get the feel of this "Lost Generation" not really sure of their place in the world. The spare details of the dialog always make you feel as if you walked in midway on a conversation of other people and missed the background and details -- but that is what makes the book more lifelike than many books that over-explain everything for you. With this novel, you really feel like you are sitting there with the characters as they truly are (which is drunk most of the time, so that was a bit tiresome).

About the Author

Ernest Hemingway

Source: www.nobelprize.org

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961), born in Oak Park, Illinois, started his career as a writer in a newspaper office in Kansas City at the age of seventeen. After the United States entered the First World War, he joined a volunteer ambulance unit in the Italian army. Serving at the front, he was wounded, was decorated by the Italian Government, and spent considerable time in hospitals. After his return to the United States, he became a reporter for Canadian and American newspapers and was soon sent back to Europe to cover such events as the Greek Revolution.
 
During the twenties, Hemingway became a member of the group of expatriate Americans in Paris, which he described in his first important work, The Sun Also Rises (1926). Equally successful was A Farewell to Arms (1929), the study of an American ambulance officer's disillusionment in the war and his role as a deserter. Hemingway used his experiences as a reporter during the civil war in Spain as the background for his most ambitious novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940). Among his later works, the most outstanding is the short novel, The Old Man and the Sea (1952), the story of an old fisherman's journey, his long and lonely struggle with a fish and the sea, and his victory in defeat.
 
Hemingway - himself a great sportsman - liked to portray soldiers, hunters, bullfighters - tough, at times primitive people whose courage and honesty are set against the brutal ways of modern society, and who in this confrontation lose hope and faith. His straightforward prose, his spare dialogue, and his predilection for understatement are particularly effective in his short stories, some of which are collected in Men Without Women (1927) and The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories (1938). Hemingway died in Idaho in 1961.

Photos, Interviews, and More

EH 7976P  circa summer 1927  Ernest Hemingway with bull, near Pamplona, Spain. Photograph in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.
EH 7976P circa summer 1927 Ernest Hemingway with bull, near Pamplona, Spain. Photograph in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

 

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Hemingway, Ernest: with Russell, Havana Harbor, 1932 Ernest Hemingway (right) with Joe Russell (raising a glass), an unidentified young man, and a marlin, Havana Harbor, 1932. Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library

 

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Hemingway, Ernest: in Malaga, Spain, 1959 Ernest Hemingway at La Consula, an estate in Malaga, Spain, 1959. Mary Hemingway—Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library
 
EH 2723P  Milan, 1918 Ernest Hemingway, American Red Cross volunteer. Portrait by Ermeni Studios, Milan, Italy. Please credit "Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston".
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Ernest Hemingway, American Red Cross volunteer. Portrait by Ermeni Studios, Milan, Italy. Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

 

 

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Hemingway celebrating at the festival of San Fermín in Plamplona, 1959

 

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'Everybody Behaves Badly': The Backstory To 'The Sun Also Rises'

NPR.org | June 4, 20167:46 AM ET

The true story of Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises is told in Lesley Blume's book, Everybody Behaves Badly. She talks to NPR's Scott Simon about what made Hemingway's book such a breakthrough.

Earnest Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises" has never been out of print since it was published in 1926 and is universally acclaimed a masterpiece. A few Americans and British ex-pats take a trip to Spain to see the bullfights. They spend the road trip getting drunk, seeing pointless gore, sleeping with and turning on each other to become symbols of what Hemingway's friend Gertrude Stein christened the lost generation that found no meaning in life after the mass losses of World War I.

It's the novel that made Ernest Hemingway a huge literary force, admired, mocked and imitated to this day. But the characters he brought to life were already alive - people close to Hemingway who made that trip to Spain just the year before. Lesley M. M. Blume, a contributor to Vanity Fair, Vogue and The Wall Street Journal, has written the story of the actual trip that led to the literary one - "Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story Behind Hemingway's Masterpiece The Sun Also Rises."

Listen to the Interview or Get the Transcript

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The True Story of the Booze, Bullfights, and Brawls That Inspired Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises

Ernest Hemingway’s debut novel gave a voice to the Lost Generation—often by lifting it directly from his affluent expat circle in post-war Paris. A new book by Lesley M. M. Blume recounts the scandalous trip to Pamplona that inspired Jake Barnes, Lady Brett Ashley, Robert Cohn, and the characters from literature’s greatest roman à clef.

BY LESLEY M. M. BLUME | VANITY FAIR | MAY 12, 2016 3:00 PM

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Hemingway’s 1923 passport photo. Courtesy of the Ernest Hemingway Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

In the middle of June 1925, Ernest Hemingway sat down to write. He pulled out a stenographer’s notebook, otherwise used for list-making. The back contained a rundown of letters he “must write”; intended recipients included Ezra Pound—a mentor of his—and his Aunt Grace. Also scribbled there: a list of stories the 25-year-old writer, who had moved to Paris in 1921, had recently submitted to various publications. On this day, he opened the notebook to a fresh page and scrawled in pencil across the top:

ALONG WITH YOUTH
A NOVEL

began writing a sea adventure, set on a troop transport ship in 1918 and featuring a character named Nick Adams. Exactly two months earlier, Hemingway had informed Maxwell Perkins, an editor at Charles Scribner’s Sons, the prestigious publishing house in New York City, that he considered the novel to be an artificial and played-out genre. (Perkins had heard through the grapevine that Hemingway was doing some remarkable writing.) Yet here he was, making a bid to jump-start one.

It was not his first attempt. Hemingway’s literary ambition at this time was seemingly limitless—yet he was still a frustrated nobody as far as the wider public was concerned. He had long been trying to sell his experimental stories to publishers back in the States, with no success. F. Scott Fitzgerald—then the celebrated oracle of the Jazz Age and the friend who had been championing Hemingway to Perkins at Scribner’s—published practically everywhere, but no commercial publication or publisher would touch Hemingway. So far, he’d managed to place stories with small literary magazines; his first book, Three Stories & Ten Poems, was published in 1923 in a run of merely 300 copies. When Hemingway’s second book, In Our Time, appeared in 1924, only 170 copies were available for sale.

“I knew I would have to write a novel,” he later recalled. After all, this is what Fitzgerald had done. Before Fitzgerald had published his debut novel, This Side of Paradise, in 1920, he too had been a regular in the slush pile. After Perkins brought out This Side of Paradisewith Scribner’s, Fitzgerald remembered later, “editors and publishers were open to me, impresarios begged plays, the movies panted for screen material.” This was precisely the sort of success that Hemingway craved, and a blockbuster novel was key.

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HEMINGWAY’S HIDDEN METAFICTIONS

By Ian Crouch | New Yorker

Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” was almost called something else.

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Early title contenders were “Fiesta: A Novel” (as the book was subsequently known in England), “Two Lie Together,” and even “For in much wisdom is much grief and he that increases knowledge increases sorrow”—a line that, like the winning candidate, comes from Ecclesiastes, and that, it is safe to assume, Hemingway might have abridged further if he’d used it. The evidence for these alternatives comes from early notes and manuscripts, which are included in a new edition of the novel, published this month.

There are signs of other felicitous decisions. The real-life socialite Lady Duff Twysden was given a better name, Brett Ashley. Maudlin dialogue was struck, as when the ill-starred Brett says to Jake Barnes, the narrator, “I love you and I’ll love you always.” (In the finished text, lines like “Well, let’s shut up about it” are more in the spirit of their unconsummated affair.) And Hemingway settled on a perfect final line. After Brett says, “Oh Jake . . . we could have had such a damned good time together,” the author at first had Jake respond, “It’s nice as hell to think so,” but later scribbled “Isn’t it nice to think so.” By the time the manuscript went to the printer, it had been altered again, to the sharp and sad and perfectly balanced “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

Early drafts of the book are well known to scholars, and are available at the Hemingway Collection, at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, in Boston. But this new edition puts them in handy appendices, giving us lay readers a sense of Hemingway’s writing process, and, more importantly, of how different a novel “The Sun Also Rises” might have been. 

All of Hemingway’s major changes to his manuscript move it toward a greater simplicity. In early drafts, the novel began in the middle of the story, at the bullfights during the festival of San Fermín, in Pamplona. Later, Hemingway opted for a more straightforward, chronological order, introducing the American expats Jake, Brett, and Robert Cohn in Paris, before they travel to Spain. In the manuscript that he sent to his editor at Scribner, Maxwell Perkins, the first two chapters detailed the characters’ histories and motivations. “This is a novel about a lady,” it began:

Her name is Lady Ashley and when the story begins she is living in Paris and it is Spring. That should be a good setting for a romantic but highly moral story. As everyone knows, Paris is a very romantic place. Spring in Paris is a very happy and romantic time. Autumn in Paris, although very beautiful, might give a note of sadness or melancholy that we shall try to keep out of this story.

It is diverting to consider how the novel would have been different if Brett were indeed the main character and the heroine—if it really were a story about a lady, rather than about the various men who loved her, or couldn’t. But more intriguing still is the second part of the opening, in which Hemingway breaks into the narrative to address the reader directly, and, in so doing, calls out the artifice implicit in the writing and reading of fiction. It is a wink at the marketplace—readers want lively, lighthearted tales from abroad—and alludes to the novel’s central dark, repeated joke: that everything awful in life, in all of its sadness and melancholy, is better laughed at.

Later, in another section that was cut, Hemingway writes:

I did not want to tell this story in the first person, but I find that I must. I wanted to stay well outside of the story so that I would not be touched by it in any way, and handle all the people in it with that irony and pity that are so essential to good writing.

Jake Barnes was named Hem in the early drafts, and in the version he sent to his editor, Hemingway retained the conceit that the book was not merely based on his real-life experiences but was actually a memoir: “I made the unfortunate mistake, for a writer, of first having been Mr. Jake Barnes.”

All of this was cut at the suggestion of F. Scott Fitzgerald, who, after reading the version that Hemingway had sent to Perkins, wrote a long, dismayed-sounding letter to Hemingway, in which he said, “I think that there are about 24 sneers, superiorities, and nose-thumbings-at-nothing that mar the whole narrative up to P. 29 where (after a false start on the introduction of Cohn) it really gets going.” Though Hemingway would later downplay Fitzgerald’s editorial influence, the published novel begins with the sentence: “Robert Cohn was once middleweight boxing champion of Princeton.”

In the letter, Fitzgerald also criticized Hemingway for injecting his own writerly persona into the text: “That biography from you, who allways believed in the superiority (the preferability) of the imagined to the seen not to say to the merelyrecounted.” With this fragment of a sentence, Fitzgerald gives Hemingway the familiar writing-class advice—show, don’t tell; less is more; and what is left out can sometimes be more meaningful than what is included. Earlier versions of the novel contained even more of this “biography”; Fitzgerald had caught the remnants of nervous self-consciousness that Hemingway himself had curtailed as he wrote.

There are several striking examples, in the drafts, of this uneasiness. After a digression about a washed-up but popular bullfighter, Hemingway writes: “Well none of that has anything to do with the story and I suppose you think there isn’t any story anyway but it sort of moves along in time and anyway there is a lot of dope about high society in it and that is always interesting.” Later, after describing the habits of his social set: “I don’t know why I have to put all this down. It may mix up the story but I wanted to show you what a fine crowd we were.” These moments, which did not survive the editing process, have a superficial confidence, an edgy bravado, but they are also anxious, the sign of a writer trying to figure out where his voice fits in among those of his characters.

The meatiest example of this kind of curious metafiction is in the second chapter of the novel’s first draft. Hemingway writes:

Probably any amount of this does not seem to have anything to do with the story and perhaps it has not. I am sick of those ones with their clear restrained writing and I am going to try to get in the whole business and to do that there has to be things that seem as though they did had nothing to do with it just as in life. In life people are not conscious of these special moments that novelists build their whole structures on. That is most people are not. That surely has nothing to do with the story but you can not tell until you finish it because none of the significant things are going to have any literary signs marking them. You have to figure them out for yourself.

At the start, it seems, Hemingway was attempting to write a novel very different from what would become “The Sun Also Rises,” which made his name as one of “those ones with their clear restrained writing.” He imagined a book in which the “whole business” of life gets expressed, in all of its messy detours and associations. In the same draft chapter, Hemingway goes on: “Now when my friends read this they will say it is awful. It is not what they had hoped or expected from me. Gertrude Stein once told me that remarks are not literature. All right, let it go at that. Only this time all the remarks are going in and if it is not literature who claimed it was anyway.”

This minor manifesto, embedded in a draft of his first novel, conceives of a book with greater intellectual and artistic ambitions than Hemingway ever produced—one akin to the more abstract fictions of the modernists. The line that he struck through—“It is not what they had hoped or expected from me”—becomes a potentially radical departure that Hemingway never realized, and that was nearly lost to history. Yet “The Sun Also Rises” is far from being a lesser thing, for all of its restrained clarity. It is partly a book of “literary signs,” perhaps against Hemingway’s own intentions. But it is also a book—Gertrude Stein be damned—of remarks, both in the elliptical declarations that the characters make to one another, and in the weighted silences that linger between them. “I mistrust all frank and simple people, especially when their stories hold together.” That line, which belongs to the narrator, and to the author, was there from the beginning. It is an echo of Hemingway’s more eager and brash equivocations in the drafts, a claim that there was an unseen depth to his plainspoken prose. It is an author’s note, a statement of purpose—subtly and skillfully absorbed into the art of storytelling.

Ian Crouch is a contributing writer and producer for newyorker.com. He lives in Maine. ~

Book Club Mojo

Catherine hosted a fabulous dinner and book discussion. She and daughter, Sarah, had recently returned from their trip to Spain where they walked the 500 mile Camino de Santiago. She shared many of her experiences and prepared authentic recipes for us from her Pilgrim's Menu, a multi-course meal of Tinto de Verano (Red Wine of Summer), Tapas -- fried peppers, sliced baguette and Manchego cheese, Gazpacho, Roasted Chicken, Chips, Tarta de Santiago (Almond Cake), and Flan. The meal and exciting memories of their trip made for the perfect prelude to discussing The Sun Also Rises. It was a delicious evening all the way around and as DeeAnn said, "Catherine, you set the bar high!"

 

 

Discussion Questions

What title would you have given this book?

 

Source: Simon & Schuster

1. When Jake Barnes rebuffs the prostitute Georgette because he is "sick," she says, "Everybody's sick. I'm sick, too" (p.23). Is Georgette's observation an appropriate description of the people in the novel? Why is Jake's emasculating wound such an effective symbol?

2. When Jake and Bill walk during the Paris evening looking at Notre Dame, watching young lovers, and savoring cooking smells, Jake asks whether Bill would like a drink. Why does Bill respond, "No...I don't need it" (p. 83)? Why does Jake say that for Cohn the Bayonne cathedral was "a very good example of something or other" (p. 96)?

3. Is Jake and Bill's fishing trip to Burguete relevant to the epigraph from Ecclesiastes? How do their conversations in Burguete differ from those they have back in Pamplona? How do Robert's, Mike's, and Brett's absences from the fishing trip set them apart from Jake and Bill? Why is the Englishman Harris included in the Burguete scene?

4. How would you describe Jake Barnes's relationship with Brett? Does he love her; understand her? Is his view of Brett constant? How does he see her at the close of the novel? What does he mean when he says, "Isn't it pretty to think so," when Brett tells him that they "could have had such a damned good time together" (p. 251)?

5. If Hemingway's novel is about "the lost generation," do we conclude that all five of the persons who have gone to Pamplona are lost? Is there evidence that moral or spiritual cleansing ever takes place in the novel?

After Reading the Novel

It would be difficult to overstate the remarkable influence of The Sun Also Rises upon its millions of readers. Not only did Hemingway's novel influence our prose and our conduct, it introduced Paris and Pamplona to many of us and made them so real that when we visit them, we feel as if we are returning for a closer look rather than seeing them for the first time. Several guides to Hemingway's Paris, complete with maps, photographs, and walking tours are in print which would provide your group with an opportunity to follow Jake Barnes's footsteps down the little side street Rue Delambre at the intersection of the Boulevard Raspail and Montparnasse to the Dingo Bar, where Jake and Brett had drinks, and Ernest Hemingway met Scott Fitzgerald for the first time in the spring of 1925. Guidebooks will also lead you through narrow streets of Pamplona where the bulls run and along Paseo Hemingway to the bullring, where a bust of the famous writer stands, bearing a statement of gratitude to him from the people of Spain.

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

Source: Shmoop

1. In what ways are the male and female characters in the novel similar? How are they different? What might Hemingway be saying about sexuality and love in the post-war world?

2.Compare and contrast Cohn, Mike, and Jake. Consider their wartime experiences, relationships with women, etc. How are they similar? Different?

3.Is Brett a sympathetic character?

4.Is it possible to generalize about whether the characters that served in WWI (Jake, Bill, Mike, the Count, Brett) are different from Cohn, who did not?

5.How would The Sun Also Rises be similar or different if narrated by a character other than Jake? How would Cohn tell the story? Brett? Mike?

Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani

Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani

Big Stone Gap

Adriana Trigiani

Pages: 320 / Audio book: 11 hrs 25 min
Ballantine Books; 1st Thus. edition (April 3, 2001)

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, the tiny town of Big Stone Gap is home to some of the most charming eccentrics in the state. Ave Maria Mulligan is the town's self-proclaimed spinster, a thirty-five year old pharmacist with a "mountain girl's body and a flat behind." She lives an amiable life with good friends and lots of hobbies until the fateful day in 1978 when she suddenly discovers that she's not who she always thought she was. Before she can blink, Ave's fielding marriage proposals, fighting off greedy family members, organizing a celebration for visiting celebrities, and planning the trip of a lifetime-a trip that could change her view of the world and her own place in it forever.


Novel Gobblers Perspective

Carol's Rating:  ★★★

The first time I heard of this book was when I saw the movie trailer. I love it when movies are made from books; it's fun to compare the differences and discover what I like or don't in each.  I found it to be a light, fun story and I enjoyed the quirky characters and small town setting. The story was a bit sappy and unrealistic at times and I tired of how wishy-washy the main character was but that is part of what makes her so lovable. As for the movie, well, this is one of the few times that I enjoyed the movie more than I did the book. If you don't take things too seriously, the characters and story will make you laugh and warm your heart. 

 

Official Movie Trailer

Released in 2015, Big Stone Gap is a romantic comedy with an All-Star cast including Ashley Judd, Patrick Wilson, and Whoopie Goldberg.

 

 

Happy Reading!

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The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent

The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent

The Heretic's Daughter

Kathleen Kent

Pages: 332 pages / Audio book: 10 hrs 6 min
Published September 3, 2008 by Little, Brown and Company

Martha Carrier was one of the first women to be accused, tried and hanged as a witch in Salem, Massachusetts. Like her mother, young Sarah Carrier is bright and willful, openly challenging the small, brutal world in which they live. Often at odds with one another, mother and daughter are forced to stand together against the escalating hysteria of the trials and the superstitious tyranny that led to the torture and imprisonment of more than 200 people accused of witchcraft. This is the story of Martha's courageous defiance and ultimate death, as told by the daughter who survived.

Kathleen Kent is a tenth generation descendant of Martha Carrier. She paints a haunting portrait, not just of Puritan New England, but also of one family's deep and abiding love in the face of fear and persecution.


Novel Gobblers Perspective

Carol's Rating:  ★★★

 
An Artful, Thought-Provoking Read

If you're looking for an alternative to WWII historical fiction and something that will stay with you for weeks after you've finished reading it, this might be the book for you. It will definitely make you thankful for medicine and life in the 21st century!

Kathleen Kent writes beautifully. The language is near poetic at times as it paints a vivid picture of 17th century life in Salem, Massachusetts. Mare Winingham lends a perfect voice to the audiobook and truly captures the character's emotions and personalities. Daily life itself is a struggle to provide food and shelter for the family let alone surviving diseases and even worse, being shunned by the community and imprisoned for false accusations of witchcraft. Much of the book is about the family members and their relationships. A stern mother, a father that rarely speaks, a brother that is mentally handicapped, a rift in the family between the parents and the aunt and uncle - the people are hard and their lives seem even harder. That is what stands out to me; that life was very difficult and there did not seem to be very much joy for any of them. They endured many hardships and were steadfastly devoted to their loved ones.

The story moves at a rather slow, determined pace, yet it held my attention from the start to the end. I found it astounding that gossip and slander was adequate proof for the law to imprison and sentence the accused to their deaths. I found it astounding that people could live with themselves, all the while knowing that they were directly responsible for inflicting such grief and devastation to others. I was astonished by the superstitious hysteria that swept through the region and the hypocrisy of it all when the accusers pleadingly turned to accused to ask for miracles. Yet in all my astonishment I am reminded, now well over 3 centuries later, with all our culture and education, that in many ways people have not changed that much. Though events and circumstances change, human nature remains the same.

Happy Reading!

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The Dig by Michael Siemsen

The Dig by Michael Siemsen

The Dig

Matt Turner Series Book 1

Michael Siemsen

Pages: 378 pages / Audio book: 10 hrs 31 min
Published September 1st 2015 by Fantome Publishing

A mysterious woven metal artifact is found at a paleontological dig in Africa. Mystified experts, confounded by the impossible timeline they get from traditional dating methods, call upon a stubborn young man with a unique talent. Matthew Turner's gift is also his curse: Whenever he touches an object, his awareness is flooded with the thoughts and feelings of those who touched it before him. It's a talent that many covet, some fear, and almost no one understands.

Despite being exploited as a child and tormented by the unpleasant experiences imprinted on him from the various items he has "read," Matthew agrees to travel from New York to the forests of Kenya. There, threatened by unknown enemies and helped by a beautiful but prickly ally who begins to understand his strange ability, he journeys back in geological time to make a discovery so shocking that it forces us to rewrite all human history.


Novel Gobblers Perspective

Carol's Rating:  ★★

The premise of this story is great; discovering ancient artifacts, unveiling ancient cultures, psychic powers, Africa, intrigue,  mystery, and excitement.  The story starts out well but to my disappointment, it and the characters turned out to be - well, it all turned out to be dreadfully flat. I had such high hopes for this book but the lack of depth and development left me rather unsatisfied.  

Happy Reading!

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Vulcan’s Forge by Jack Du Brul

Vulcan’s Forge by Jack Du Brul

Vulcan's Forge

Jack Du Brul

Pages: 372
Published December 6th 2005 by NAL (first published January 1st 1998)

It begins deep beneath the Pacific Ocean, where a nuclear bomb strikes at the fiery hot heart of the earth. Churning, spewing boiling lava, a volcano rises with unnatural speed from the ocean floor -- the source of a new mineral that promises clean, limitless nuclear power.
It continues in hot spots around the globe: Hawaii, where a secessionist movement is about to turn violent and the American army may be asked to fire on U.S. citizens; Washington, D.C., where the subway system becomes the site of a running gun battle; the Far East, where disrupted diplomatic negotiations jeopardize world peace; a rogue Russian submarine, circling the infant volcano.

Caught in the middle is Philip Mercer, a geologist and a one-time commando with shady contacts in all the right (or is it wrong?) places. When Mercer learns that the daughter of an old friend is being kept under armed guard in a local hospital, he vows to rescue her, not knowing that this is the first step in unraveling the fantastic secrets of Vulcan's Forge.


Novel Gobblers Perspective

Carol's Rating:  ★★★

 

Happy Reading!

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The Marvels by Brian Selznick

The Marvels by Brian Selznick

The Marvels

Brian Selznick

Pages: 672
Published September 15th 2015 by Scholastic Press

From the Caldecott Medal-winning creator of The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck comes a breathtaking new voyage. In this magnificent reimagining of the form he originated, two stand-alone stories--the first in nearly 400 pages of continuous pictures, the second in prose--create a beguiling narrative puzzle.

The journey begins at sea in 1766, with a boy named Billy Marvel. After surviving a shipwreck, he finds work in a London theatre. There, his family flourishes for generations as brilliant actors until 1900, when young Leontes Marvel is banished from the stage. Nearly a century later, runaway Joseph Jervis seeks refuge with an uncle in London. Albert Nightingale's strange, beautiful house, with its mysterious portraits and ghostly presences, captivates Joseph and leads him on a search for clues about the house, his family, and the past.

A gripping adventure and an intriguing mystery The Marvels is a loving tribute to the power of story.


Novel Gobblers Perspective

Carol's Rating:  ★★★★

A Magical Jewel of a Book

The Marvels is an absolutely beautiful book all the way around. Its hefty 672 gilded pages felt like an indulgence the moment I picked it up. Then I opened it and the magic began. A majority of the book has no written words but instead, it has intricate sketches readily portraying emotions, plot, and scene of a story that spans 150 years and 5 generations of the Marvel family.

The sketches were my favorite part of the book. Through them you are transported to another time. I was completely captivated by the sketches and the emotions on the faces of the characters. It was a powerful, sentimental experience. So much so that now, even just seeing the book or thinking of it instantaneously evokes the experience again.

I admit the prose portion of the book was not as powerful as the sketches yet it was still intriguing and conjured detailed mental images. The story is easy to follow and the mystery surrounding the Uncle and his home will keep you wanting to know more. Plus, it unveils a surprising, unpredictable twist! True, it is a children’s book but that doesn’t mean it’s any less interesting. In fact, it made it much easier to read and engage with.

The Marvels is a magical jewel of a book for all ages. A wonderful personal read, it would also be a fantastic book to read with the family - leaving all members eager for more and treasuring the moments.

A Glimpse of What's Inside

Happy Reading!

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Shtum by Jem Lester

Shtum by Jem Lester

Shtum

Jem Lester

Pages: 313
Published April 7th 2016 by Orion

Powerful, darkly funny and heart-breaking, Shtum is a story about fathers and sons, autism, and dysfunctional relationships.

Ben Jewell has hit breaking point. His ten-year-old son Jonah has severe autism and Ben and his wife, Emma, are struggling to cope.

When Ben and Emma fake a separation - a strategic decision to further Jonah's case in an upcoming tribunal - Ben and Jonah move in with Georg, Ben's elderly father. In a small house in North London, three generations of men - one who can't talk; two who won't - are thrown together.

A powerful, emotional, but above all enjoyable read, perfect for fans of THE SHOCK OF THE FALL and THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME


Novel Gobblers Perspective

Carol's Rating:  ★★★★

His mind is like a dictionary with the pages glued together.

Shtum is a story about love and acceptance and how words can often be the least effective form of communication.

“Words become meaningless if you don’t tell your truth and they become weapons if you try to tell someone else theirs.”

The story sheds light on the complexities of raising an extremely autistic child and the fallibility of the systems intended to benefit them. It moves at a good pace and while it was predictable at times, I was continually surprised by the depth of devotion, gentleness, and wisdom expressed by some characters and the lack of it by others. I was surprised and gladdened by the growth in some characters, too.

Jem Lester’s writing is fluid and powerful as it easily carries you through heartaches, personal demons, joys, and triumphs to an ending where we learn the truths that made the characters who they are and leaves us loving them all the more.

 

happy-reading

Alexis Carew Vol 3 -The Little Ships by J.A. Sutherland

Alexis Carew Vol 3 -The Little Ships by J.A. Sutherland

The Little Ships

Alexis Carew Book 3

J.A. Sutherland

Pages: 325 / Audio: 11 hrs 44 min
Published November 8th 2015 by Createspace

Newly commissioned lieutenant, Alexis Carew is appointed into HMS Shrewsbury, a 74-gun ship of the line in New London's space navy. She expects Shrewsbury will be sent into action in the war against Hanover, but instead she finds that she and her new ship are pivotal in a Foreign Office plot to bring the star systems of the French Republic into the war and end the threat of Hanover forever.


Novel Gobblers Perspective

Carol's Rating:  ★★★★

 

Happy Reading!

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Alexis Carew Vol 2 -Mutineer by J.A. Sutherland

Alexis Carew Vol 2 -Mutineer by J.A. Sutherland

Mutineer

Alexis Carew Book 2

J.A. Sutherland

Pages: 280 / Audio: 9 hrs 56 min
Published February 14th 2015 by Createspace

Just as Midshipman Alexis Carew thinks she’s found a place in the Royal Navy, she’s transferred aboard H.M.S. Hermione. Her captain is a Tartar, free with the cat o' nine tails and who thinks girls have no place aboard ship. The other midshipmen in the berth are no better. The only advice she’s offered is to keep her head down and mouth shut – things Alexis is rarely able to do.


Novel Gobblers Perspective

Carol's Rating:  ★★★★

 

Happy Reading!

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Alexis Carew Vol 1 – Into The Dark by J.A. Sutherland

Alexis Carew Vol 1 – Into The Dark by J.A. Sutherland

Into The Dark

Alexis Carew Book 1

J.A. Sutherland

Pages: 250 / Audio: 9 hrs 25 min
Published November 1st 2014 by Createspace

At fifteen, Alexis Carew has to face an age old problem - she's a girl, and only a boy can inherit the family's vast holdings. Her options are few. She must marry and watch a stranger run the lands, or become a penniless tenant and see the lands she so dearly loves sold off. Yet there may be another option, one that involves becoming a midshipman on a shorthanded spaceship with no other women.


Novel Gobblers Perspective

Carol's Rating:  ★★★★★

So you don’t care much for Science Fiction, eh?
This series will change your mind.

Yes, that’s me. I don’t care much for Science Fiction. The robots, the metal, the darkness, the emptiness — it all leaves me cold. Until now. A friend so persistently encouraged me to read this book that I was curious to discover what his enthusiasm for it was all about.

Picture this:

Ships, captains, shipmates, sailing, naval adventures, pirates, enemies, New London, loved ones, action, drama, suspense, and a heroine - ALL SET IN DEEP SPACE.

It’s brilliant, it’s unique, it’s entertaining, and will have you rooting for Alexis in no time as she faces enemies from without and surprisingly from within.

Sutherland’s writing is smooth and adeptly blends the nostalgia of sailing ships with an imaginary yet ocasionally familiar universe. The story grabs you from the start and holds you to the end. Elizabeth Klett’s audio book narration is nothing short of spectacular and brings warmth and personality to the characters in such a way that you feel you know them personally. If you enjoy action, drama, suspense, and characters you can connect with, you’ll want to read this series.

 

Happy Reading!

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The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O’Connor McNees

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O’Connor McNees

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott

Kelly O'Connor McNees

Pages: 343 / audiobook: 8 hrs 49 mins
Published April 1st 2010 by Penguin Adult HC/TR

In the bestselling tradition of Loving Frank and March comes a novel for anyone who loves Little Women.

A richly imagined, remarkably written story of the woman who created Little Women- and how love changed her in ways she never expected.

Deftly mixing fact and fiction, Kelly O'Connor McNees returns to the summer of 1855, when vivacious Louisa May Alcott is twenty-two and bursting to free herself from family and societal constraints and do what she loves most. Stuck in small-town New Hampshire, she meets Joseph Singer, and as she opens her heart, Louisa finds herself torn between a love that takes her by surprise and her dream of independence as a writer in Boston. The choice she must make comes with a steep price that she will pay for the rest of her life.


Novel Gobblers Perspective

Carol's Rating:  ★★★

I enjoyed learning about Louisa May Alcott's family and friends and the place she grew up. The atmosphere and story felt very much like Little Women and while McNees mixes fact with fiction, this creative story is interesting and plausible. It moves at a nice pace and Louisa's personality rings true to a spirited woman determined to live as she chooses.

 

Happy Reading!

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Mariana by Susanna Kearsley

Mariana by Susanna Kearsley

Mariana

Susanna Kearsley

Pages: 352 / Audiobook: 11 hrs 20 min
Published August 1st 1995 by Bantam Books (Mm) (first published 1994)

A haunting, paranormal romance from a Romantic Times Readers Choice and RITA Award-winning author, a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author
When Julia Beckett moves into the beautiful old farmhouse, she soon discovers she's not alone there.

"Tread lightly, she is near."

She encounters haunting remnants of a beautiful young woman who lived and loved there centuries ago. She finds herself transported into 17th-century England, and into the world of Mariana.

Each time Julia travels back, she becomes more enthralled with the past... until she realizes Mariana's life is eclipsing her own. She must lay the past to rest or risk losing the chance for happiness in her own time.

A modern gothic historical fiction with elements of time travel, reincarnation, and romance from New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Susanna Kearsley.


Novel Gobblers Perspective

Carol's Rating:  ★★★★

"You can't cheat fate, Julia. If you don't go looking for the lessons of the past, then the past will come looking for you."

I was surprised by how much I liked this book. Though a bit slow at the start, it gradually builds into a gripping, suspenseful story set in two time periods, current-day and the mid-1700's. Yes, it's time travel, but it's so much more than that.I don't want to spoil the experience for you so I'll just say this: It's two intricately woven stories with intriguing characters and events set in a charming English village. The beautiful language, likable (and some unlikable) characters, surprising twists, and shrewd ending will leave you feeling well rewarded. I'll definitely be reading more books by this author.

Happy Reading!

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Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger

Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger

Last Days of Summer

Steve Kluger

368 pages
Published May 24th 2005 by Avon (first published 1998)

The hilarious and heart–warming story about a down–and–out kid who finds inspiration in his favourite baseball hero.

In Brooklyn, 1940, a wisecracking, baseball loving twelve–year–old boy, Joey Margolis, is in desperate need of a hero. His rich father has recently divorced his mother, leaving her all but penniless, and she is forced to move herself and her son to an Italian dominated part of Brooklyn, where he's the only Jew in the area. Constant abuse from other boys in the neighbourhood prompts Joey to send letters to Charlie Banks, an up–and–coming star with the New York Giants, asking for a home run so he can tell everyone that it was for him. Joey uses every trick in the book to get what he wants and the friendship that comes out of their simple correspondence will change them both forever.

This improbable friendship is woven together through letters, postcards, notes, telegrams, newspaper clippings, report cards and ticket stubs, and includes a colourful cast of supporting characters.

o The joys and sorrows growing up will always have an audience and this novel sheds light on all the complexity of those difficult times, with humour and joy.


Novel Gobblers Perspective

Carol's Rating:  ★★★★

Even though most of the characters seemed to have the same witty humor -- cheeky and irreverent but usually with good intentions -- I found this to be an amusing, nostalgic, rollicking fun story that had me laughing out and loud and a couple of times it even brought tears to my eyes. I loved the informal, unconventional format. Highly recommended if you're looking for a fast, entertaining read. 

Happy Reading!

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Neil Gaiman

Pages: 178 / Audiobook: 5 hrs 48 min
Published June 18th 2013 by William Morrow Books

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.


Novel Gobblers Perspective

Carol's Rating:  ★★★★

This is a haunting, mysterious, magical story. It's short. It's creative. It packs a punch. The words flow quickly and hold your attention to the end. I enjoyed it so much that I'm hoping the author will create a sequel.

The beautiful, fluid writing is succinct yet clearly conveys the intent of the author to scare the wits out you while at the same time reassuring you with his gentle voice that the powerful, capable women will keep the boy safe, and all will be well. I loved this story and as for the audiobook, Neil Gaiman delivers a fantastic performance!

Happy Reading!

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