Between the Lines Book Club: At Home by Bill Bryson

between the lines book club logoWelcome back to Between the Lines Book Club. This month we’re reading At Home by Bill Bryson. It’s a long book, but a quick and easy read. We’ll be meeting to discuss it in person on January 27, 2018 at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30AM.

At Home is a nonfiction history of how and why houses are the way they are. Because of how the book is arranged, it’s easy to either read the book straight through or pick and choose chapters based on interest level. Here’s a quick rundown of the chapters and their topics:

Chapter One: The Year: Describes the year 1851, when the house was built.

Chapter Two: The Setting: The development of agriculture and ancient housing.

Chapter Three: The Hall: Covers the time when The Hall meant the entire interior of a house to the development of separate rooms.

Chapter Four: The Kitchen: Food! The development of ice as a common means of food preservation, mason jars, and cans, and the change in eating habits through the Victorian Era.

Chapter Five: The Scullery and Larder: In which being a servant was just awful.

Chapter Six: The Fuse Box: Life by candlelight, gaslight, and the development of the electric light.

Chapter Seven: The Drawing Room: The invention of comfortable furniture. Also, lots and lots of architecture.

Chapter Eight: The Dining Room: Spices, scurvy, salt, vitamins, coffee, and tea.

Chapter Nine: The Cellar: What was used to build homes in Britain and America, and why? If you have an interest in wood, bricks, stone, or cement, this is the chapter for you.

Chapter Ten: The Passage: The Eiffel Tower, The Gilded Age, the telephone.

Chapter Eleven: The Study: Mice and rats and bedbugs, oh my! Also germs and bats and locusts and lice!

Chapter Twelve: The Garden: Much architecture. The switch from formal to more naturalistic parks. The development of Central Park. The development of gardening as a hobby. The rise of the lawn.

Chapter Thirteen: The Plum Room: In which Bryson discusses Monticello and Mount Vernon.

Chapter Fourteen: The Stairs. Household hazards!

Chapter Fifteen: The Bedroom: Sex, disease, death, and burial.

Chapter Sixteen: The Bathroom: The very smelly history of hygiene.

Chapter Seventeen: The Dressing Room: Fashion!

Chapter Eighteen: The Nursery: Childbirth and child rearing is not for wimps.

Chapter Nineteen: The Attic: Darwin, economics, and the end of the parsonage era.

Enjoy, and feel free to pick and choose!

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Between the Lines Book Club: The Fishing Fleet

between the lines book club logoThis month we are reading The Fishing Fleet: Husband Hunting in the Raj, by Anne de Courcy. We’ll be discussing the book at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30AM on November 18th. Please note that this date is early! Usually Book Club meets on the fourth Saturday of each month, but in November we have it a week earlier to accomodate Thanksgiving travel.

The Fishing Fleet is a nonfiction book about the women who travelled to India from England in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries in search of husbands. One of these women was my great-grandaunt. Another, and much earlier, member of the Fishing Fleet was an older relative of Jane Austen’s.

Here are some reviews of the book:

New York Times

The Washington Times

History Today

 

Between the Lines Book Club: Shameless Self-Promotion

between the lines book club logoTomorrow (October 28, 2017) we will be meeting at Arden Dimick Library to discuss Jane Eyre. Our meeting is at 10:30AM.

Traditionally I bring food, and I plan to bring food tomorrow. But what to bring? Here’s a hilarious list of the awful meals in Jane Eyre from the website “The Toast.”

Back in 2014, I wrote a short eBook called Pride, Prejudice, and Popcorn: TV and Film Adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, and Jane EyreThis book is available online from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iBooks for $0.99.

In the book, I talk about the life stories of the authors, the central themes of the books, and some of the adaptations of the books. I had great fun ranting about the Brontes and their horrible health problems, and breaking down what I see as the most important aspects of Jane Eyre:

  1. Jane maintains her sense of self against all those who disparage her.
  2. During most of the book, Jane is lonely and frustrated by the bonds set on her by society.
  3. Jane has a strong sense of morality and a strong sense of spirituality, which is expressed in both Christian and supernatural terms.
  4. Any adaptation should show that Jane and Rochester have great chemistry and that they are good companions for each other.
  5. Despite their chemistry, there are also very good reasons for Jane to stay away from Rochester.
  6. The point of the story is not that Jane and Rochester get married. The point is that when they get married, Jane marries Rochester as his equal.
  7. Jane Eyre is, among other things, a gothic story, and as such any adaptation should include a sense of menace, mystery, melodrama, and isolation.

Happy viewing, Dear Readers!

Pride_PopcornCover_final

Between the Lines Book Club: Biographies and Spin-Offs

between the lines book club logoIt’s link time! Charlotte Bronte was a prickly person who experienced a great deal of loss in her short life. She lived long enough to see Jane Eyre be a success and even enjoyed some literary fame. Here’s a link to my review of Charlotte Bronte, A Fiery Heart, by Clare Harman. You might also enjoy The Bronte Cabinet: Three Lives in Nine Objects, by Diana Lutz (my review is here).

Many people have tried retelling Jane Eyre’s story from the viewpoints of different characters or in different time settings. The most depressing but also influential and challenging of these is Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys, who tells the story from Bertha’s perspective and challenges Victorian ideas about gender, race, colonialism, and sexuality. Another popular retelling is The Flight of Gemma Hardy, by Margot Livesey, which places the story in the 1950s. Here are links to my reviews of some retellings:

Reader, I Married Him, edited by Tracy Chevalier

This is a collection of short stories inspired by Jane Eyre and featuring variety in setting and tone.

Mr. Rochester, by Sarah Shoemaker

Mr. Rochester’s story, from childhood through the end of the events of Jane Eyre.

Jane Steele, by Lyndsay Faye

I loved this book! A Victorian orphan named Jane is inspired by Jane Eyre, with whom she has many life events in common. Jane Steele, however, is capable of using force to defend herself and her friends, which has far reaching consequences.

Jenna Starborn, by Sharon Shinn

A science fiction version which works surprisingly well.

Ironskin, by Tina Connolly

A dark fantasy, one of my favorites.

 

 

Between the Lines Book Club: Wuthering Heights Vs Jane Eyre Smack-Down

between the lines book club logoThis month we are reading Jane Eyre, one of my favorite books and also a book I’ve done a lot writing about in the past. We’ll be meeting to discuss Jane Eyre at Arden Dimick Library on October 28th, 2017 at 10:30AM.

Today I raise the question: can a person be equally besotted with both Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, and Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte? Generally speaking I’ve found that the answer is “No,” but there are exceptions. In this piece written for Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, I asked readers this question after comparing the two novels. what do you think?

Between the Lines Book Club: Jane Eyre

between the lines book club logoI am so excited about our October book, because it happens to be one of my favorites. We’ll be reading Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. Our next meeting is at Arden Dimick Library on October 28th, 2017 at 10:30AM.

Jane Eyre was first published on October 16, 1847 under the name Currer Bell. It was a more or less instant hit, which allowed Charlotte Bronte to know a significant measure of fame before her early death at the age of 38. It tells the story of an English governess who is “small, plain, and friendless” who becomes a governess at Thornfield Hall, home of the mysterious Mr. Rochester.

I love all of Jane Eyre but I have to admit that it takes a while to get going. Here is my top-secret tip – if you get stuck, skip ahead to Chapter 11 which is when Jane finally gets to Thornfield Hall. Until then it’s all back story about child abuse, possible ghost sightings, burnt porridge, typhus, and lectures about heaven that leave both Jane and the reader unimpressed. The mysterious Mr. Rochester doesn’t show up until Chapter 12.

I’m looking forward to discussing this book with you all in person and here in the comments!

Between the Lines Book Club: Interviews with Margot Lee Shetterly

between the lines book club logoThis month we are reading Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterly. It’s a spellbinding nonfiction book about the women who made the space race possible. You can join us to discuss this book at Arden Dimick Book Club at 10:30AM on September 23, 2017.

Margot Lee Shetterly is a passionate advocate of preserving and publicizing the contributions that Black women have made to science. Here are some interviews with her:

New York Times

On the importance of imagination:

Writing this book helped me understand just how powerful imagination is: having the clarity of mind to see the world as it is and then to see it as it might be. That’s what this whole thing is. That’s what “Star Trek” was: We don’t know how to make an ideal society, but we’re going to portray that, and then we’re going to work backward. I think that’s why science fiction — despite the dystopian parts — comes out of this super ideal that, eventually, we will get to some better place where we actually live up to our ideals. Without imagination, I don’t think there’s any progress.

Shadow and Act

On growing up in the world of NASA (her father worked there):

I did know them growing up. My dad worked with Mary Jackson very closely at one point. I knew Katherine Johnson as well. They were all part of this group of Black engineers and scientists within this larger NASA community. So these people on one weekend would go to the HBCU Alumni Association Dance, and then the next weekend they would go off to the National Tech Association where they would put on their science hats and be together and talk about that.

There was no disconnect between those parts of their identities; it was very normal. But you know, while I knew the women; I didn’t know their story and how they got there. It was really my husband who helped spark the idea. We were visiting my parents almost exactly six years ago and had run into one lady who is a Sunday School teacher, and my dad was talking about the work that she’d done, and it just turned into this larger conversation about these different women. My husband was like, “This is amazing! Wait a minute nobody knows about this!” And I was like, “Wow, I don’t know this story.” That was really the beginning of me saying, “OK, I need to know this story.” Six years later here we are.

NPR

On Katherine Johnson and John Glenn:

She started working at Langley in 1953. … Johnson did many things, but among them was co-author a report writing the trajectory equations for putting a craft into orbit around the Earth. One of the most notable moments of her career was leading up to the orbital launch of John Glenn’s flight, which was really a turning point in the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union.

You know, the Russians had got a real head-start into space; America was playing catch-up. And this was also a moment where electronic computers were taking over the task of much of the calculating that was necessary for these increasingly complex missions.

But as sort of a handoff moment between human computers and electronic computers, John Glenn asked Katherine Johnson — he actually asked “the girl”; all of the women working at that time were referred to as “girls.”

And he said: Get the girl to do it. I want this human computer to check the output of the electronic computer, and if she says they’re good, you know, I’m good to go as part of one of my pre-flight checklists.

So the astronaut who became a hero, looked to this black woman in the still-segregated South at the time as one of the key parts of making sure his mission would be a success.