Between the Lines Book Club: A Gentleman in Moscow

between the lines book club logoThis month Between the Lines Book Club is reading A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles. The book tells the story of Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, an aristocrat who is sentenced to house arrest at the lavish Metropol Hotel in Moscow in 1922. The Count lives in the hotel for decades, somewimtes working as a waiter. Outside regimes come and go, but the Count does his best to igmore all that and focus on certain eternal truths, such as the importance of an asparagus server at the table.

The book was adored by critics, although readers tend to find it a “love it or hate it” book. Here are a few reviews to sample:


Washington Post

New York Times

We will be meeting in person to discuss the book at Arden Dimick Library, at 10:30AM on June 24, 2017. Please join us, and/or leave comments below!

Between the Lines Book Club: A Gentleman in Moscow

between the lines book club logoWelcome back to Between the Lines Book Club! Our next book is A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles. We’ll meet to discuss the book at Arden Dimick Library on June 24, 2017 at 10:30AM. Please join us!

A Gentleman in Moscow is about a Russian nobleman, Count Rostov. In 1922, he is sentenced by the Soviet government to house arrest in the Metropol Hotel. For thirty years, he sees Soviet life from the window and through the stories of the hotel’s visitors. Despite the grim history of the USSR through WWII and beyond, the book never lacks for humor and fun.

I hope you all enjoy the book! Leave comments here!

Between the Lines Book Club: Anne Tyler

between the lines book club logoThis month we are reading Vinegar Girl, by Anne Tyler, for our Between the Lines Book Club. We will be discussing the book in person at Arden Dimick Library on May 20, 2017, at 10:30AM. Please note that we usually meet on the fourth Saturday of the month, but this month we are meeting on week early (May 20th).

Anne Tyler was raised in a small, rural Quaker community until she was eleven. When she and her family moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, she felt like an outsider, a quality she brings to life in many of her books. As a graduate student in New York City, she loved riding trains and subways and writing descriptions of the people she encountered. Her first novel, If Morning Ever Comes, was published in 1964 (she hates it).

Tyler married an Iranian political refugee who was also a writer as well as a child psychiatrist (he died of lymphoma in 1997). In 1965 the newly married Tyler moved to Baltimore with her husband, where they had two children. Almost all of her novels written after this date are set in or near Baltimore, where she continues to live. She has published two children’s books and twenty novels.

Tyler is famous for her emphasis on family, quirky characters, and domestic life. In an interview in the Guardian, she responded to criticism of her work as being “milk and cookies.”

“For one thing I think it is sort of true. I would say piss and vinegar for Roth and for me milk and cookies. I can’t deny it.” She does however stress that there’s more “edge under some of my soft language than people realise. I don’t think I’m like one of those little old ladies where everything is so sweet that there’s no traction there.” She thinks Franzen is “an amazing writer”, but also “a little bit cruel to his characters. I didn’t like Patty and I wonder if I could have lived with her for however long it took him to write Freedom. It is probably that I just want to be with nice people, which sounds very milk and cookies, I know.”


Between the Lines Book Club: Vinegar Girl, by Anne Tyler

between the lines book club logoMay is (almost) here and it’s time for a new book club book – Vinegar Girl, by anne Tyler. Set in Tyler’s beloved Baltimore, this book is a modern retelling of The Taming of the Shrew. It’s part of the Hogarth Shakespeare Series, in which authors such as Margaret Atwood,Anne Tyler, Jeanette Winterson, and others write modern re-tellings of Shakepeare’s plots.

In Vinegar Girl, Katherine lives with her eccentric scientist father. Her father has a Russian research assistant whose visa is about to expire. Dad wants Katherine to marry the assistant so that the assistant can stay in the country. Hilarity ensues.

Please note that this month we are meeting a little early – on May 20th, 2017, at 10:30AM, Arden Dimick Library. Attend in person, or leave a comment!

Between the Lines Book Club: Harold Fry and other Pilgrimages

between the lines book club logoThis month we have been reading The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. You can join us at Arden Dimick Library on April 22, 2017 at 10:30 for discussion and snacks, or leave your comments here!

Here’s how wikipedia defines a pilgrimage:

pilgrimage is a journey or search of moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person’s beliefs and faith, although sometimes it can be a metaphorical journey into someone’s own beliefs. Many religions attach spiritual importance to particular places: the place of birth or death of founders or saints, or to the place of their “calling” or spiritual awakening, or of their connection (visual or verbal) with the divine, to locations where miracles were performed or witnessed, or locations where a deity is said to live or be “housed”, or any site that is seen to have special spiritual powers. Such sites may be commemorated with shrines or temples that devotees are encouraged to visit for their own spiritual benefit: to be healed or have questions answered or to achieve some other spiritual benefit. A person who makes such a journey is called a pilgrim. As a common human experience, pilgrimage has been proposed as a Jungian archetype by Wallace Clift and Jean Dalby Clift.

If you are interested in the concept of the pilgrimage as a literary device, here are some books to look at:

Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan – a Christian allegory written in 1678. Trivia alert: the March sisters get copies of this book and strive to emulate it in Little Women.

The Pilgrimage: A Contemporary Quest for Ancient Wisdom, by Paulo Coelho – this is a companion book to his famous novel, The Alchemist. In this story, the author travels along the road of San Tiago, in Spain.

The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffry Chaucer – A ribald collection of 24 stories about pilrims on their way to Canterbury. The stories were written between 1387 and 1400.

Hyperion, by Dan Simmons – inspired by Canterbury Tales, this science fiction novel tells the stories of seven pilgrims who tell each other stories during a long space voyage. Through their stories, the reader is introduced to the world of Hyperion and the Time Tombs which the pilgrims want to visit.

Between the Lines Book Club: Rachel Joyce Talks Sequels

between the lines book club logoTechnically, Rachel Joyce’s novel, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy is not a sequel to her book The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Instead, it’s a parellel story. In Harold, Harold goes on a journey to visit his friend Queenie, who is in hospice care. In Queenie, Queenie tells the story of her time in hospice and her relationship with Harold from her own point of view.

In this piece for The Guardian, Rachel Joyce explains how she came to write Queenie.

The Guardian: “Rachel Joyce: my unexpected followup to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: It’s not easy to write a life-affirming book about a woman dying in a hospice, but The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy was a story I just had to tell.”