Skip to main content

Thursday Night Book Club -- June, 2017


On June 15th, Wallingford Public Library's Thursday Night Book Club met to discuss Ann Patchett's award winning novel, Bel Canto.  Set in an unnamed third world country but inspired by the 1996 hostage crisis at the Japanese Embassy in Lima, Peru, Bel Canto is the story of a group of dignitaries and businessmen, and one very famous opera singer, held hostage by a terrorist group known as La Familia de Martin Suarez. Over the course of what becomes a four-month hostage situation, the lines between the hostages and the terrorists begin to blur, and the connections that develop around music, chess, cooking, and soccer, and above all, around love, begin to obscure the reality of the situation. As one of the hostages notes, "Who knew that life could be so unexpected? I thought we would be dead by now, or if not dead than regularly begging for our lives, but instead I sit and I consider opera."

Our discussion began with a brief synopsis of Patchett's life and writing career (in addition to Bel Canto, Patchett is the author of the novels The Patron Saint of Liars, Taft, The Magician's Assistant, Run, State of Wonder, and Commonwealth, an essay collection entitled This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, Truth & Beauty, a memoir about Patchett's friendship with the poet Lucy Grealy, and What Now, a book containing Patchett's 2006 commencement address at Sarah Lawrence College). We also discussed Patchett's opening of an independent bookstore in 2011 at a time when bookstores, and books themselves, were thought to be on the decline, and how Patchett has become a champion of independent bookstores and of reading.

While there were a few members of the book club who could not engage with the novel's story or characters, most of us enjoyed the book a great deal.  There was general agreement about the high, almost lyrical, quality of Patchett's writing and about the intensity of the setting and the plot. We spent the majority of our time together talking with increasing amounts of energy about the ending of the novel. Most of us felt that the book ended abruptly and somewhat shockingly, and that the brief and startling epilogue was jarring and a little uncomfortable. Members of the club offered theories for why Patchett chose to end the novel as she did, some more complimentary than others. What seems clear is that many of us had grown very attached to several of the characters in the novel, and we wanted to know more about them, especially about what happened to the hostages after they were freed. While the ending of Bel Canto may have left some of the members of the book club dissatisfied, the group's discussion of the novel was feisty, engaged and very satisfying indeed.

Join us at 7 pm on July 20th when we will be discussing Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell.  Copies of the book are available at the Information Desk.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The 2018 Women's Prize for Fiction Longlist

March is Women's History Month, and Thursday, March 8th was International Women's Day. So it is timely and appropriate that the 2018 longlist for The Women's Prize for Fiction was released on Wednesday, March 7th. The Women's Prize for Fiction is an award that celebrates the best full-length fiction written each year by women. The idea for the Prize stemmed from the release of the 1991 Booker Prize shortlist, which did not include a single novel written by a woman. Although in the early 1990s, 60% of the novels published in the United Kingdom were written by women, by 1992 only 10% of the novelists ever to appear on the Booker Prize shortlist had been female The Women's Prize for Fiction was developed in response to this disparity. It was first awarded in 1996 (then known as the Orange Prize for Fiction) and is the United Kingdom's most prestigious annual book award for fiction written by a woman.

The judging panel for The Women's Prize for Fiction is made…

Winter by Ali Smith

Winter is the season when nature lies dormant, when the light is at its low point, when the world seems dead. Ali Smith's captivating new novel, Winter, begins with an extraordinary list of all the things that are "dead," which seems to encompass everything -- "God was dead: to begin with," Smith writes, and not just God, but chivalry, history, the welfare state, neoliberalism, hope, TV, marriage, flowers, religion, the media, the internet and love. But if there is anything Winterisn't, it's dead. Like the rest of this wonderful novel, this list of supposedly dead things is filled with vitality, word play and teasing fun.


Ali Smith was born in Inverness, Scotland in 1962. She is the author of nine novels and five short story collections. Her first collection of short stories, Free Love and Other Stories, won the Saltire First Book Award in 1995. Her second novel, Hotel World, won three awards and was shortlisted for both the Orange Prize and the Man Bo…

A Sense of Place

Teresa Kristan remembers when the Wallingford Public Library was located down the block, where the Library Wine Bar and Bistro now holds pride of place at 60 North Main Street.  She remembers because she worked there and because her grandfather was a custodian for the library several decades ago. Teresa is an ardent baseball fan, so summer is an especially good time for her. She is both a Circulation Librarian and a Reference Librarian at the library, and she is one of the four library staff members currently stocking the Staff Picks display in the North Main Book Nook. Teresa's bio on the Staff Picks display includes this sentence: "If I could have read in the living womb, I would've, but the light was bad." She has a lot to say about books and reading, and she shares some thoughts below:

I was thinking about a different sense of place that I get when I read, not where the book or article is set, but where I am while I'm reading it.

There's a sweet children…