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June 2008

The Almost Moon
By Alice Sebold

  1. Helen Knightly the protagonist of this novel is a complex character. Her relationship with her mother is very fraught. What significance does hair play in this relationship?

  2. Why does Helen pose for art students? How does this occupation relate to her mother?

  3. The daughters Emily and Sarah are very different. Was Helen a better mother than her own mother?

  4. Why do you think Helen’s mother and father did not seek professional help for their obvious mental problems?

  5. Why do you think Helen killed her mother?

  6. How did her father die?

  7. Helen’s parents have a strange relationship. Why does her father stay with her mother all those years? (Daniel and Clare)

  8. Helen’s husband, Jake, is probably the sanest character in the book, but he also has problems. How does he cope with this tragedy?

  9. A neighbour, Mr. Forrest, provides succour to her family. Why does he relate to them?

  10. This story is a very bizarre tale of old age. Not only is Clair is aging, but her neighbours are too, as well as her neighbourhood. Do you have plans for your old age?

May 2008

The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austin
By Syrie James

  1. Do you feel that the author accomplished the goal of making this book a memoir written by Jane Austin?

  2. How does money and the class system impact on the life of Jane Austin in this memoir?

  3. Novels were considered déclassé in the 18th century, much the same as comic books in the 1950s, television and video games at present. Do you think this is the only reason, Jane Austin kept her books anonymous?

  4. The author paints a very good picture of family life in the 18th century with multi generations living together. Do you think this was an easy solution for the women involved?

  5. How does the character of Isabella Churchill work in the plot of this book?

  6. Jane’s sister Cassandra severely edited her letters before she died. Why would she do this?

  7. The author weaves characters from Jane Austin’s novels in this memoir. Who is Mr. Ashford based on?

  8. Do you think that marrying for love the best way to choose a husband? Marriage is a contract between two people. It is most important decision that most people make in their lives.

  9. Did you learn anything new about Jane Austin and/or the 18th century when you read the memoir?

  10. What do you think of the following quotation from Sense and Sensibility: A women of seven and twenty can never hope to inspire affection again.

April 2008

A Thousand Splendid Suns
By Khaled Hosseini

  1. Compare the collapse of society in Afganistan described in “A Thousand Splendid Suns and the similar collapse of society in France described in “Suite Francais”.

  2. Does Mariam’s upbringing prepare her for her life and marriage with Rasheed?

  3. Both Mariam and Laila had difficult relationships with their mothers. How this impact on their relationship with each other?

  4. The title “A Thousand Splendid Suns” is from a quote from a poem by Saib-e-Tabrizi. How does the novel reflect this phrase?

  5. How are men depicted in the book? Are there any similarities with western men?

  6. Why do you think the film “Titanic” became such an underground and legitimate hit in Afganistan?

  7. During Taliban control, hospitals refused to treat women in labour because men and women are supposed to be seen a different hospitals. How does this concept impact on the women is this novel?

  8. Why does Mariam go to prison refusing to see anyone and not defending herself?

  9. Laila’s father is very different from the other men portrayed in this novel. Why does reason and intelligence fail in comparison to brute force?

  10. What chance does Laila’s daughter have growing up in this society?
     

Mar 2008

Late Nights on Air
by Elizabeth Hay

  1. How does the city of Yellowknife contribute to the story: plot, characters, and atmosphere?

  2. Harry Boyd is the voice of experience in CBC Radio. How does interact with his fellow employees?

  3. Radio is a unique medium in which the voice is supreme. How does sound manifest itself in this book.

  4. Both Dido and Gwen are young newcomers to CBC and being radio announcers. Dido starts out as a strong, vibrant personality, but ends up a tired disappointment. Gwen has a hard time in the beginning, but ends as a success. What do you think about this character reversal?

  5. Judge Thomas Berger and his commission are real life counterpoints in this novel. How does this expand the reader’s involvement and explores what is happening to the indigenous population and to Canada in this time period?

  6. This novel discusses the relationship of radio and television. Do these two media compliment each other or compete? How does Harry Boyd relate to them both?

  7. This is a book about ecology, about the way that people, animals and their environment interact. How is this shown in this novel?

  8. The author interweaves history as well in this novel. The explorer John Hornby counterpoints many themes. What themes are most interesting to you?

  9. The interactions of staff at this small radio station are very typical of groups. Why do you think Harry Boyd failed at being the station manager?

  10. Which love story interested you the most?

Feb 2008

Radiance
by Shaena Lambert

  1. Do you think the question of guilt for Hiroshima by the average US citizen is explored in this novel?

  2. The book is set in the 1950’s. How do you feel this area was explored?

  3. Irene and Daisy are friends. How does their friendship work? Is it realistic?

  4. The story of Keiko is one of the stories in the book. How does it play out?

  5. The protest movement or concerned citizens movement is also one of the stories in the book. Contrast this with present day protest movements.

  6. How are the men portrayed in this story?

  7. What was the most interesting part of the novel for you?

  8. Does the title reflect what is going on the stories?

  9. Keiko’s situation is a direct result of war as seen from the victim’s point-of-view. Are there as similarities between this story and “Suite Francoise” by Irene Nemirovsky?

  10. Which character was your favourite?

Nov 2007

Suite Française
By Irène Némirovsky

Storm In June

  1. p 32. “It was impossible to make the servants listen to reason. They were trembling with fear. Even though they wanted leave too, their need to follow a routine was stronger than their terror; and they insisted on doing everything exactly as they had always done when getting ready to go to the countryside for the summer holidays. The trunks had to be packed in the usual way, with everything in its correct place. They hadn’t understood the reality of the situation. They were living two different moments, you might say, half in the present and half deep in the past, as if what was happening could only seep into a small part of their consciousnesses, the superficial part, leaving all the deeper regions peacefully asleep. Péricand family.
    1. What you pack if you suddenly had to leave your home and town because of an emergency?
    2. Could you change your routine to actually leave?
    3. What were the servants packing that you thought not necessary?
     

  2. p 36. “A thing of Beauty is a guilt for ever.” A misquote of “A thing of Beauty is a joy for ever.” by Keats. Charles Langelet.
    1. The author attributes this misquote to her character Charles Langelet who owns many antiques. Does he feel guilt?
    2. What do his possessions mean to him?
    3. How does his story fit into the theme of the book?
     

  3. p 159-160 “…we don’t really understand what is going on. These events will have an unimaginable impact, believe me, unimaginable…. People’s lives will be changed for generations. We’ll be hungry this winter.” Gabriel Corte and Forence
    1. Do you think Florence really does not understand what is going on?
     

  4. p 164-165 “They were living proof that nothing was changing. Contrary to belief, they weren’t witnessing some extraordinary cataclysm, the end of the world, but rather a series of purely human events, limited in time and space, which, all in all, affected only the lives of people they didn’t know." Gabriel Corte and Florence.
    1. Is Gabriel, a writer, in tune with his time period? Do you think he will change?
     

  5. p 137-138 “His temptation was different: it was a kind of impatience to be holy, the desire to gather liberated souls around him, a ripple of urgency which, once he had opened someone’s heart to God, propelled him towards other conquests, leaving him for ever frustrated, dissatisfied, disappointed with himself. It wasn’t enough! No. Lord Jesus, it wasn’t enough!” Father Péricand
    1. Father Péricand’s holiness was not enough to protect him from his charges. Did you expect this ending for him?
    2. Do you think his grandfather had a clue about helping children?
     

  6. p 177 “But why are we always the ones who have to suffer? … Us and people like us? Ordinary people, the lower middle classes. If war is declared or the franc devalues, if there’s unemployment or a revolution, or any sort of crisis, the other manage to get through all right. We’re always the ones who are trampled!… The workers fight back, the rich are powerful. We’re just sheep to the slaughter.” Jeanne & Maurice Michaud (bank employees)
    1. Do you agree with the above statement?
    2. Did Jeanne & Maurice have any control over their lives?

    Dolce
     

  7. p. 233 “Benoît was taciturn and cloaked in a triple armour of decency: masculine, provincial and French. She didn’t know what he hated or what he liked, just that he was capable of both love and hatred.” Madeleine and Benoît Sabarie
    1. Was their marriage successful?
    2. Would their lives been different if they war did not happen?
     

  8. p 284 “… this is the principal problem of our times: What is more important, the individual or society? War is the collaborative act par excellence, is it not? We Germans believe in the communal spirit—the spirit one finds among bees, the spirit of the hive.” Lucille Angellier and the German officer.
    1. What do you think is more important – the individual or society?
    2. What does the Canadian society promote

Sept 2007

An Audience of Chairs
by
Joan Clark

  1. Moranna MacKenzie, the heroine of An Audience of Chairs, starts out her life as a favoured daughter and school figure. When does things start going wrong for her?

  2. Do you think that Moranna would have had the same problems no matter how she lived her life?

  3. How does her husband, Duncan Fraser, contribute to Moranna’s problems?

  4. Do you think the children, Bonnie and Brianna, were better off without their mother in their lives?

  5. Is the community Moranna lives in supportive of her?

  6. Moranna thinks that television is “is a sure sign of intellectual decay and drone hood, a kind of voluntary anesthesia not much different from swallowing tranquilizers or giving yourself a lobotomy. Before you realize what’s happening, your grey matter shrivels and you haven’t an original thought in your head”. Do you agree with her? Is she a Luddite?

  7. Mental illness takes a toll on Moranna, her family, and complicates her life in the community. How does the author create a realistic world that is very believable?

  8. Do you think mental illness and creativity are common?

  9. Do you think post-partum depression explains some of the problems faced by Moranna?

  10. Could Moranna prevented the way her life turned out?