Between the Lines Book Club: More Books About Domestic Life

between the lines book club logoTomorrow (January 27, 2018) we’ll be meeting at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30AM to discuss At Home, by Bill Bryson.

At Home is entertaining, but how accurate is it? Most of the book covers the Victorian Era. Here are some other nonfiction books about domestic life in Victorian (and Edwardian) times. If it’s a book I”ve reviewed, I’ve linked to the review.

Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners, by Therese O’Neill

Yes, the Victorians had their hangups, but they had a lot of sex too! I loved this book which was both fun and informative – and made me very happy not to have to wear a crinoline.

How to be a Victorian, by Ruth Goodman

Goodman, a historical re-enactor, never takes herself too seriously, but she supplements her well-researched book with anecdotes of her own experience. She also wrote How to be a Tudor.

What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew, by Daniel Pool

As the title suggests, this covers everyday life in the Regency and Victorian periods.

To Marry an English Lord, by Gail McColl and Carol McD. Wallace

Want to know how to marry an English Lord during the Edwardian Era? Here’s a hint – be very, very rich, and know your table manners.

 

Between the Lines Book Club: Interviews With Bill Bryson

between the lines book club logoThe month we are reading At Home by Bill Bryson. Bill Bryson is a prolific speaker – we had the pleasure of hearing him speak at the Sacramento Central Library on one occasion. Here are some interviews with him regarding At Home.

First, a fun Q and A from The Guardian.

Bill Bryson on Colbert Report is a hoot – check out his hybrid American/British accent (he was raised in the USA but has lived in England for many years).

Here he is on the radio program “Here and Now”

Finally, here’s a brief but entertaining interview with The New York Times.

We’ll be meeting to discuss it in person on January 27, 2018 at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30AM. Join us!

 

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!

Between the Lines Book Club: A Timeline

between the lines book club logoThis month we are reading In the Garden of Beasts, by Eric Larson. We will meet in person to discuss the book at Arden Dimick Library on August 26, 2017 at 10:30AM.

In the Garden of Beasts describes the lives of the Dodd family, who were Ambassadors to Germany from 1933 to 1937. For your reference, here is a timeline of Hitler’s rise to power so you can see where the Dodd years fell in the development of the Third Reich. This timeline is condensed from a much more detailed one at Open Learn.

1920: Hitler becomes the head of propaganda for the German Worker’s Party and changes the party’s name to the Nationalist Socialist German Worker’s Party (NAZI).

1925 – 1926: Publishes Mein Kampf while in prison for political activities.

1930 – 1933: The Nazi Party rises in prominence.

1933: Enabling Act passed following the Reichstag Fire. This act gives Hitler full legislative powers for four years. Hitler bans all other political parties and trade unions.

1933: William Dodd appointed US Ambassador, stationed in Berlin.

1934: Paul von Hindenburg, Germany’s elected president, dies. Hitler names himself head of state with the support of the military.

1935: Hitler re-arms the military and introduces military conscription.

1937: Dodd leaves Berlin and resigns as Ambassador.

1938: Crystal Night, a night of terror which is often thought of as the beginning of the Holocaust.

1941: The United States of America enters WWII.

 

Between the Lines Book Club: The Boys in the Boat

 

between the lines book club logoThis month we have a quick turnaround book-wise. We’ll be meeting to discuss The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown, on 11/19/16 at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30AM.

The Boys in the Boat tells the story of the University of Washington’s efforts to win a gold in rowing at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. The story focuses on Hitler’s efforts to convince the world that Germany was a benign power, and on the efforts of American Joe Rantz to survive the Depression and parental abandonment, finish college, and succeed in keeping his place on the crew team.

In this book trailer, at minute 1:10, you can see video of the incredible 1936 Olympic race:

 

If you have an hour, you can view the PBS documentary: The Boys of ’36, about the crew.

 

I hope you all enjoy this amazing story!

Between the Lines Book Club: A Short Bio of Mariynne Robinson

between the lines book club logoOur October book club selection is Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson. If you are in the Sacramento area, please join us at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30AM on October 29, 2016 for an in-person discussion of this lyrical book.

Marilynne Robinson was born in 1943 in Idaho, where she set her first novel, Housekeeping. She lives in Iowa City and is divorced with two adult sons. Robinson is a Congregationalist, and many of her works, both fiction and non-fiction, deal with issues of faith and human relationships.

In 2015, Robinson and President Obama had a conversation that was recorded by the New York Review of Books. In this conversation, which you can find at New York Review of Books, they talk about Robinson’s family, her faith, and her interest in politics.

There’s another interview with Robinson in the Paris Review. In this nterview, she discusses the relationship between science and faith, her background, and her writing process. At one point in this review, she has this to say about beauty, a major theme in her fiction:

You have to have a certain detachment in order to see beauty for yourself rather than something that has been put in quotation marks to be understood as “beauty.” Think about Dutch painting, where sunlight is falling on a basin of water and a woman is standing there in the clothes that she would wear when she wakes up in the morning—that beauty is a casual glimpse of something very ordinary. Or a painting like Rembrandt’s Carcass of Beef, where a simple piece of meat caught his eye because there was something mysterious about it. You also get that in Edward Hopper: Look at the sunlight! or Look at the human being! These are instances of genius. Cultures cherish artists because they are people who can say, Look at that. And it’s not Versailles. It’s a brick wall with a ray of sunlight falling on it.

At the same time, there has always been a basic human tendency toward a dubious notion of beauty. Think about cultures that rarify themselves into courts in which people paint themselves with lead paint and get dumber by the day, or women have ribs removed to have their waists cinched tighter. There’s no question that we have our versions of that now. The most destructive thing we can do is act as though this is some sign of cultural, spiritual decay rather than humans just acting human, which is what we’re doing most of the time.

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Between the Lines Book club: Gilead

between the lines book club logoTime to announce our October book club selection, Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson. If you are in the Sacramento area, please join us at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30AM on October 29, 2016 for an in-person discussion of this lyrical book.

Gilead, which was published in 2004, is Robinson’s second book. It won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for best fiction. Her first novel, Housekeeping, told the stories of three women. In Gilead, the story focuses on men – Reverend John Ames, his father, and hid grandfather. Ames is writing a series of letters to his son about the history of his family. The story deals with faith, conscience, mortality, and forgiveness.

Gilead is the first in what is known as “The Gilead Trilogy” although all three books in the trilogy work as stand-alone novels. It is followed by Home, which follows the struggles of Ames’ neighbors, and Lila, which tells the story of Ames’ wife. All three books pay tribute to the philosophies and writing styles of transcendental writers such as Emerson, Thoreau, and Emily Dickenson by using simple yet lyrical language to describe not only the dramatic events of life but the beauty of simple, everyday moments.

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We hope you enjoy this selection! You can participate in book club in person or by leaving comments here.

 

 

Between the Lines Book Club: Voices From Annawadi

between the lines book club logoBetween the Lines Book Club will be meeting tomorrow (September 24, 2016) at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30AM to discuss Behind the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo.

In this space, I’ve shared some interviews with Katherine Boo. After her book came out, people wanted to know how the book affected the neighborhood she wrote about (Annawadi, outside Mumbai). Here’s an interview in which she talks about the connection she has to the people of Annawadi, and how things have an have not changed. when asked if she still has a connection to people, she says this:

My husband (Sunil Khilnani) and I are still engaged with the community, funding education, training and emergency aid to help families get through health and other crises. Some students have risen heroically to the challenge of good private schools — schools where even the guards at the gates make them feel unwelcome.

“Inspiring” is an overused word, but those kids inspire me — seriously. But progress in communities like Annawadi is often incremental, given structural issues like the prevalence of disease and the almost total absence of permanent work.

As for individuals featured in the book, Manju now has a master’s degree, and she and her new husband run two tuition centers. She’s a very popular tutor, with a particular concern for poorer students. Manju’s brothers have become drivers — work they like — and are also doing well. The Husain family now owns a home and business outside of Mumbai, and four of the younger children are doing well in a private school that is considered the best in their area.

But one person I wrote about died of TB-related disease, and another is fighting an addiction. This is real life, not a fairy tale with a happy ending. And a month from now, the circumstances of the people I’ve just mentioned may be utterly different, because if there’s one constant in places like Annawadi, it’s change.

Reader’s will remember Manju’s drive to get an education. Manju has read the book, and in this thoughful peice for Dawn she talks about what she thinks of the book, and what her mother thinks of it:

“I have read the book, and I liked it even though it made me cry,” Manju, who speaks good English, told AFP in Annawadi, a slum located next to Mumbai’s international airport and tucked behind the five-star Hyatt Regency hotel.

“It is truth, not fiction,” she says. “Everyone in Annawadi knows. If I don’t say these things about my family, someone else will, so why let them gossip?”

If you are curious about what Annawadi looks like, here’s a very short video from 2012:

 

I hope you all enjoyed the book! See some of you on Saturday!

Between the Lines Book Club: Interviews with Katherine Boo

between the lines book club logoThis month we are reading Behind the Beautful Forevers by Katherine Boo. You can participate in book club by leaving comments after any book club post, or by meeting in person at Arden Dimick Library in Sacramento, California. Our next meeting will be on September 24, 2016 at 10:30AM.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers is a non-ficiton work that reads like a novel. Katherine Boo, with the aid of translators, spent about three years getting to know the residents of Annawadi, a slum on the edge of Mumbai, India. This review by Amit Chaudhuri gives an Indian perspective on the book (Boo is an American who married an Indian).

In this interview at npr, Boo talks about life in the slum as compared to the village, what it was like being a blonde American in the slum, and the lives of women. I found this especially interesting:

“Often in journalism, stories about the poor began with a reporter going to an NGO and saying, ‘Tell me about the good work you’re doing, and let me follow you, and maybe if you could just pick out some real success stories, I’ll write about them.’ I think that those kind of stories do an injustice to the enormous amount of creative and enterprising problem-solving that low-income people do for themselves, that most of the ways that people get out of poverty in the United States, in India and anywhere else I’ve ever been is through their own imaginations and their own fortitude.”

In a Q&A on her wepage, Boo goes into a lot of detail about why she chose the topic she chose, her writing process, and how she wanted readers to see the people as more than objects of pity:

When I talk to friends about Annawadi experiences that haunt me, they’ll sometimes ask, Why didn’t you write about that? But I was intent that this book not be some dolorous registry of the most terrible things that had ever happened at Annawadi. A book like that wouldn’t have done justice to what Annawadi felt like, day to day. Annawadi life was also about flagpole ring-toss and tell-all sessions among teenaged girls at the public toilet and parents comforting and delighting in their children. It was Sunil and Sonu the Blinky Boy applying their rich imaginations to gathering trash and figuring out their place in the world.

Sunil and Sonu have tough, tough lives but if a reader comes away from this book thinking of them only as pathetic socioeconomic specimens I’ll have failed as a writer. They’re cool, interesting kids, and I want the reader to sense that, too. Because we can talk all we want about how corruption or indifference robs people of opportunity–of the promise our societies squander–but if we don’t really grasp the intelligences of those who are being denied, we’re not going to grasp the potential that’s being lost.

The video below has interviews with Katherine Boo and with Meera Syal, an actress in the National Theater’s stage adaptation of the book. It also has footage of Annawadi and it’s residents.

Between the Lines Book Club: Behind the Beautiful Forevers

between the lines book club logoThis month’s book club pick is Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo. You can participate in book club by leaving comments after any book club post, or by meeting in person at Arden Dimick Library in Sacramento, California. Our next meeting will be on September 24, 2016 at 10:30AM.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers  is a non-fiction book about a slum (Annawadi) on the edge of Mumbai, India. The author, Katherine Boo, is an American woman who lived in Mumbai with her Indian husband for several years. She spent over three years following the lives of Annawadi’s residents. By keeping the focus on the lives of specific characters, she gives the book the feeling of a novel with the rigor of a peice of journalism.

Next week I’ll be providing links to some interviews with Katherine Boo. In the meantine, I have reading to do!

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Between the Lines Book Club: Feminism in Girl on the Train

between the lines book club logoBetween the Lines Book Club will be meeting tomorrow, August 27, 2016, at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30AM.  The Girl on the Train is one of a string of thrillers involving women, including Gone Girl and The Woman in Cabin 10. All of these thrillers involve women in the context of parenting, marriages, romantic relationships, and familial relation ships. They’ve hit a nerve, and some say it’s because by presenting women as the center of the story, and by presenting the reader with women who are not victims, the books are feminist in nature.

In “Why Everyone’s Talking About The Girl on the Train,”  Claire Fallon states:

By using our assumptions about how women can and should behave to set up shocking plot twists, or by pushing these assumptions to the logical extreme, a thriller can make use of its genre conventions to undermine societal conventions. In these novels, within the gripping mystery at its heart, the inherent dangers of femininity in modern life are gently unearthed, dusted off, and presented for us to see clearly. As much progress as women have made in our society over the past century, it’s clear that many of us are still hungry for this dramatic explosion of the sexism around us.

Heroine Jones points out that the characters in The Girl on the Train grow through a point in which they define themelves by the men in their lives into a place of more independence:

Without spoiling anything, I want to comment on the feminism of The Girl on the Train.  The message on traditional gender roles is subtle at first but eventually comes forward as an important final note.  Throughout the novel, Hawkins’ female characters all see their worth through the eyes of men.  As the story comes to a close, though, they all seem to find some level of personal strength to do what they know they have to do.  In confronting their individual fears of rejection in some form, they take one firm step towards emancipating themselves from the destructively limiting gender roles which they had previously fully accepted.

At Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, Elyse writes about the Gone Girl phenomena:

To me the killer in the basement is far less scary than a book that makes you question what the fuck is going on here? and by moving female characters out of the “victim” space and into something more complex and explored, it gives female characters more credit, makes them more human. The “innocent” blonde haired, blue eyed Midwestern girl gone missing will always draw readers — hell, it draws me — but I want my fiction to do more, to be a little bit more, and to give me the unexpected. I want more than the body in the woods. I want my female characters to be a little bit dangerous too.

Elyse lists several other books to try in the above article. She also reviewed The Woman in Cabin 10. In her review, it’s clear that The Woman in Cabin 10 deals with many of the same themes of manipulation that The Girl on the Train tackles:

Nilsson acts like Lo’s sleeplessness and antidepressants mean that Lo can’t be trusted to differentiate reality from fantasy, and the fact that she calls him on it is perfect. This is a common theme in mysteries/ thrillers/ horror fiction–you must be crazy! There’s not really a killer/ monster/ alien/ bigfoot hanging out here! Ooops I just got my face eaten, guess you were right. The thing is, most heroines don’t deal with their doubters are directly or forcefully as Lo.

What do you think? Did The Girl on the Train make you want to read more books in the genre? Do you think the book is feminist? Why or why not? Let us know in person tomorrow, or in the comments below!

Between the Lines Book Club: Interviews with Paula Hawkins

between the lines book club logoWelcome back to Between the Lines Book Club, where we are discussing The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. We will meet in person on August 27 at Arden Dimick Library, at 10:30AM, to discuss the book. Meanwhile, leave your comments below!

Since publishing The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins has been widely interviewed. Below, here are links to some interviews with her:

NPR

The Guardian

You can see an interview with Paula Hawkins here:

 

 

Meanwhile, Emily Blunt has been doing some press for the movie adaptation, which opens on October 7. You can see Emily Blunt talk about why playing Rachel was so challenging, and see the trailer for the movie, at Today.com.

 

 

Between the Lines Book Club: The Girl on the Train

between the lines book club logoThis month our selection is The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins. It’s a relatively short, fast, light read, just right for the end of summer. However, it’s also layered and complex in terms of it’s clever construction and it’s treatment of themes including alcoholism, memory, and the ways we deceive others and ourselves.

The Girl on the Train was a huge bestseller, and a movie adaptation starring Emily Blunt will be released on October 7, 2016. NPR raved about it, saying:

But what really makes The Girl on the Train such a gripping novel is Hawkins’ remarkable understanding of the limits of human knowledge, and the degree to which memory and imagination can become confused. Reflecting on her fellow passengers on her daily train ride to and from London, Rachel thinks, “I recognize them and they probably recognize me. I don’t know whether they see me, though, for what I really am.” They don’t, of course, and they can’t. It’s hard enough — maybe impossible — for a person even to see herself for what she really is.

The New York Times praised the book for its skillful manipulation of the reader, saying:

Ms. Hawkins keeps all these fibs, threats and innuendoes swirling through her book, to the point where they frighten and undermine each of her characters. None of them really know which of the others can be trusted or believed. And although there’s a lot of Hitchcock to the book’s diabolical plotting, there’s also a strong element of “Gaslight,” the classic story in which a man tries to convince his wife that she is going mad. All three women in the book are candidates for this treatment, and Ms. Hawkins puts it to very good use.

The reader is ready for some gaslighting, too. So Ms. Hawkins scrambles the timing of scenes, with Megan gone in one chapter and then present in the next. She also shifts well among her narrators’ points of view to keep the reader on edge, and only as the book progresses do these different perspectives begin to dovetail. Scrambling a story is easy, but it’s done here to tight, suspenseful effect. The book does have a lot of moving parts, and Ms. Hawkins takes longer than necessary to get them started. The second part of the story is much tighter and more suspenseful.

Even my favorite study guide, schmoop.com, got in on the action with an excellent analysis of the book – so if you want some extra things to consider, or a guide through the sometimes confusing events, check it out.

We will be meeting in person to discuss The Girl on the Train at Arden Dimick Library, on Saturday August 27, 2016, at 10:30AM. Happy reading!

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Between the Lines Book Club: Wright Brothers on Film.

between the lines book club logoThis month the Between the Lines Book Club is reading The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough. You can leave comments about the book here, or better yet meet up in person at Arden Dimick Library  at 10:30AM on Saturday, July 30, 2016.

Here’s some amazing footage of the Wright Brothers in action! It includes still photography, film footage of both brothers, film footage of the flights in Le Mans and Fort Meyer, and the first motion picture footage shot from an airplane. It also shows how the catapult system got the plane into the air. Enjoy!

Between the Lines Book Club: McCullough Speaks!

between the lines book club logoThis month the Between the Lines Book Club is reading The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough. You can leave comments about the book here, or better yet meet up in person at Arden Dimick Library  at 10:30AM on Saturday, July 30, 2016.

David McCullogh is a highly acclaimed author who has won two Pulitzer Prizes (for Truman and for John Adams) and a National Book Award (for The Path Between the Seas). He was born in Pennsylvania in 1933, and studied at Yale where Thornton Wilder became his mentor. He met his wife, Rosalee, when he was seventeen. They have five children and currently live in Boston.

McCullogh’s first book was The Jonestown Flood. Although he was approached to write about other disasters, he didn’t want to be labeled “Bad News McCullough” so he turned to a more cheery story, the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. He is probably best well known for John Adams and for 1776.

McCullough did a number of interviews about The Wright Brothers. Here are links to a few:

airspace.com

Saturday Evening Post – this interview has content about the book but also about McCullough’s life

And here’s a lengthy interview with McCullough and Ken Burns. McCullough narrated several of Burn’s documentaries.