Reading for pleasure

Book Suggestions for 2021

Book List 2020

Pleasures-Of-Reading-Book-List-2020

The Well by Elizabeth Jolly

THE-WELL-questions‑2

Discussion: Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier

Discussion-Questions-Rebecca-by-Daphne-Du-Maurier

Holding the Man by Lynley 

  1. What was your emotional response to the book?
  2. Was Tim a reliable narrator? Did you like him?
  3. What was the signi­fic­ance of the title?
  4. There seemed a poignant innocence to the char­ac­ters  in the 70s before the pandemic. Could you relate to this coming of age story and the era in which it was set?
  5. Was this nearer to a Shakespearean tragedy or (as one critic wrote) a gay Mills and Boon for you?
  6. Did you see the film? Faithful adapt­a­tion or cop out?
  7. Was the fact that Conigrave wrote it in a race against time apparent? 
  8. Many critics commented on the book’s raw honesty. Can you provide examples.
  9. What are the parallels to be found between HIV/AIDS pandemic and our current pandemic in terms of social, political and economic response. And what are the differ­ences?

TOO MUCH LIP  by Melissa Lucashenka 

for  U3A 12 October 2020

 Listen to  Podcast Interview  at  June 2020   Sydney Writers Festival   (54 mins) https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/sydney-writers-festival/id985898011?i=1000479346245

( Disclosure : written on 11 June  2020 in the week of BLM  demon­stra­tions   around the world  — because I have the novel from Library and also want to compare  it with The Yield  author  who is currently on a Guardian Zoom).

1.“ You wanna be with a black­fella, ya gunna hear stuff you’re not used to, sunshine. Cultural depro­gram­ming. ” p 282.  How well do these words of  Kerry to Steve fit our expanded view of intergen­er­a­tional trauma in one authentic Aboriginal family? Does  genuine reading  mean we have to be willing to  walk in the shoes of another person ? 

2.Do you find the Aboriginal  language peppered through the novel leaves you remem­bering some words ?  What are they? Compare the use of the Dictionary in THE YIELD. Does the gritty dialogue in TML add to the acerbic humour at times? Example? Does the fearless language add authen­ti­city?  

3.Is it fair to compare EAST OF EDEN’s alleg­ories and biblical under­tones with  touches of magic realism and the prodigal child in TML?

4.Is the anthro­po­morphism so powerful that animals have agency in the novel?  And do land­scapes and water­scapes reinforce the Aboriginal connec­tion to Nature? Your favourite  descriptive passage?

5. Do you think the crime and violence in the family is coun­ter­bal­anced by knowledge of colonial cruelty and systemic racism? p192. ” OUR LIVES MATTER  TOO ” p 98 . And  ” Crime was the solution. Not that she called it a crime. She called it repar­a­tion.” p 152 . Where are your sympathies during Kerry’s break-in to the Council ? Compare the Afterword. 

6. Is Kerry likable? Believable? Which character do you most admire?  Who seems most flawed? Do you think Martina is convin­cing in the first part of the novel? Did you notice  reports  on TV news  of child abuse  which parallel the lives of char­ac­ters in TML —  who as victims become perpet­rators .

7. Are there any situ­ations in the novel where you feel embar­rassed or uncom­fort­able ? Why?

8. Compare the land rights claims and  methods of protest  in  THE YIELD and TML. How is each resolved? Satisfactorily?

9. What do you think of the way Police are portrayed ? Are there different types of country cops like  these?    Might  the most corrupt/guilty char­ac­ters be those from the profes­sional class who have profited (prof­it­eered? )since occu­pa­tion?  Will the proposed Federal ICAC  be able to catch Australian crooks in real  life as well as in fiction?

10. Does Uncle Richard’s influence on the men offer hope for the future?  What do you imagine will become of each of the char­ac­ters ?

11. p 222–23 ”Still filming,” Zippo reminded the Sergeant. “ Ken was taunting the white man as history ran boiling through his brain.” Discuss the power of cameras and social media  in  current BLM issues and in continu­ally revealing  past  treatment of  Traditional Owners.

12. Discuss the different effects of alcohol on different family members in BLM?  What do you think the author is trying to explain? Eg Pretty Mary p242-43. And the  habits of smoking and gambling?

13.  How are Aboriginal politics intro­duced, in partic­ular the role of ATSIC  and Pop’s elevation?  Does the opening chapter on 1943 affect our attitude to him?

14. What do you think is the author’s reason for intro­du­cing the hapless white family who are easily duped over Real Estate and tarot cards?  How convin­cing is Steve with his gym project?   Depiction of  white mission­aries ?  

THE YIELD   

14 September 2020

(Acknowledging  book club notes) 

1. Tara June Winch chose to give voices to August, Albert Goondiwindi and Ferdinand Greenleaf. Why do you think she chose the split narrative? What is the impact of using such diverse voices and exper­i­ences ?.Poppy says, ‘Nothing ever really dies.’ In what way is this idea supported in The Yield? What impact do those who are no longer alive still have on family and community?

2.August Goondiwindi left Prosperous a long time ago but has never felt quite whole. Once back, August finds that she desper­ately wants to be home. What does Prosperous now offer her that it didn’t provide years ago? What are the funda­mental elements of ‘home’?

3. Poppy says ‘just tell the truth and someone will hear it even­tu­ally’. Is it important for everybody’s stories to be told? What are the dangers in silencing some people’s stories?

4.Elsie says, ‘There was a war here against the local people. In that war the biggest victim was the culture, you know…culture has no armies does it.’ What is it that Elsie is lamenting here?

5.Language is a powerful tool that can place and displace people, empower or take control away. August says every family has its own special language. How can families be seen to have their own language? How does this help to shape families? Why might it cause diffi­culties for people outside of the family?

 Do you think the SA govern­ment  will legislate or just consider the recog­ni­tion ?  How could it be imple­mented in SA? https://indaily.com.au/news/2020/06/19/parliament-to-consider-official-recognition-for-sas-aboriginal-languages/

The State Government 20/06/20 says it will consider legis­lating official recog­ni­tion for South Australian Aboriginal languages alongside English, following a parlia­mentary committee recom­mend­a­tion.

https://indaily.com.au/news/2020/06/19/parliament-to-consider-official-recognition-for-sas-aboriginal-languages/

6.How did you feel about Poppy’s method of bringing Wiradjuri language back through stories?

7.After they discover his letters, August defends Greenleaf’s actions saying that he believed that what he was doing was right and he regretted the outcome. Aunt Missy tells her that he only regretted it when it negat­ively affected him. Which perspective do you agree with? 

Compare the solutions to Land Rights issues in Too Much Lip(12 October U3A)  and The Yield. Winch said on zoom  that she and  Lucashenka  agreed  they were writing the same novel.

8.How do you interpret the title of the novel?

9.What is a short passage in the novel that you would like to read aloud  and/ or comment on? 

Questions: July 1

Clade

Questions-for-discussion-of-Clade-by-James-Bradley

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS    10th June   2020

East of Eden

EAST-OF-EDEN

Bleak House

  1. Choose a character you remember well. Describe him/her. Try and draw the person if you are inclined to do so, and talk about the role of this character. Others will try and guess who you are presenting! 

2. Choose an example of:

  • Effective social comment 
  • Melodrama
  • Humour

3. Dickens’s language. Discuss with at least one example. 

4. Most of the editions have the wonderful illus­tra­tions. Try to study them! 

5. What did you learn about life in the 1850’s?

Gorky Park

by Martin Cruz Smith

  1. Martin Cruz Smith states his writing is an excuse for going places you are not supposed to go, such as Moscow. How successful is he in taking the reader there too?
  1. This novel was published in 1981, when Russia was still part of the USSR. How accurate a depiction of communist Russia at the time do you think it is, or is it just a vehicle for the anti-communist feelings of that time?
    1. How effect­ively does Cruz Smith portray the political and social context of the novel? How important is this context to the plot?
    2. How effect­ively does he create a sense of place?
  1. Cruz Smith ascribes the success of his writing to the many and minute details he employs, details which “make up the mosaic of life” because he does “a combin­a­tion of fact and fiction”. Do you agree? 

Cruz Smith also states that “A wealth of detail is abso­lutely nothing without character”. Do you agree with him, with partic­ular reference to his minor char­ac­ters?

Were there any details, sections or scenes in the book which had partic­ular resonance for you?

  1. Cruz Smith is part American Indian. Arkady Renko, despite being Russian to the core, as a “truth-teller” seems too to be partly an outsider in the society he inhabits. Comment on this. 
  2. Renko’s truth differs from that of Zoya, Irina, Kirrwill, Pribluda and others. Do you believe truth is treated as a relative concept in the book? Why/why not?
  1. Throughout the narrative Arkady Renko exhibits a degree of ambi­val­ence about the systems in which he is operating. What has led to this ambi­val­ence? Would you describe him as a maverick and what do you see as his defining qualities? Is he inter­esting as a main character?
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Golden Child

by Claire Adam

1. Why is Clyde hesitant to accept help from people, even family? Do you think Uncle Vishnu is genuine in his desire to help? Do you trust him?

2. Why does Joy insist that the twins attend the same school?

3. Should Peter be respons­ible for looking after Paul, even if it impedes his progress?

4. While living, Uncle Vishnu helped keep the Deyalsinghs afloat, improving Peter’s prospects and securing his future. How does his death affect them in the immediate and distant future? How does his death affect the family, as a whole, in the immediate and distant future?

5. Is Romesh right in feeling that he, as well as the rest of the family, is entitled to a portion of the money that Uncle Vishnu left for Peter? How do you foresee this affecting rela­tion­ships within the family moving forward?

6. Does putting Paul in St. Saviour’s — a school he’s not qualified to attend — for the sake of keeping the twins together, help or hurt him?

7. What do you make of Father Kavanagh assuring Paul that he’s normal, contrary to what others have said his whole life? Is he right? Is too much made of Paul’s defi­cien­cies? Do you think Father Kavanagh oversteps his bound­aries in expressing this belief to Clyde?

8. What effect does Father Kavanagh’s assurance have on Paul? How does it affect their rela­tion­ship, as well as Father Kavanagh’s rela­tion­ship with Clyde?

 9. Paul initially stands up to the bandits during their attempted robbery. When they later approach him outside of the house, Paul all but surrenders. Why does he submit the second time around?

10. Why does Clyde opt not to use Vishnu’s money for Paul’s ransom despite the mounting pressure from the kidnap­pers, Joy, and, then, Peter?

11. Does Clyde make enough of an effort to bring Paul home safely? Because of his actions, or lack thereof, is he ulti­mately respons­ible for what happens to Paul?

12. Is it right to sacrifice the future (or life) of one child to ensure the future of another if the latter’s is assuredly brighter? Would you make the same decision as Clyde?

13. In the airport, Peter thinks to himself, Paul has played his part. Daddy has played his part. What do you make of each person’s role in Peter’s eventual success? How should Clyde feel about his role, espe­cially after Paul’s death? How do you think Paul would feel about his role? Do you think he sacri­ficed himself in order to protect his family?

14. Should Peter feel guilty about attending Harvard after Paul’s death?

15. What does Clyde’s reaction at the end of the book reveal about his guilt? Does he think what he did (or didn’t do) was worth it? In your opinion, was it worth it?

16. What do you think are a parent’s oblig­a­tions to his or her children?

Questions for Minotaur    meeting 27.4.20

  1. Discuss the signi­fic­ance of the title.
  2. Do you consider this book just a thriller? Was it a suspenseful page turner? Did it grip you?
  3. What do you think of the hard boiled tough guy dialogue? There are simil­ar­ities to the dialogue in Dashiell Hammets books, i.e I guess I can put 2 and 2 together. Sometimes the answer is 4 sometimes 22 or Play with murder enough and it gets you one of two ways. It makes you sick or you get to like it. Find a quote from a detective novelist even Goldsworthy and share it.
  4. Did you think the plot believ­able?
  5. Discuss the device of using Siri. Compare and contrast his rela­tion­ship with Willow and his guide dog.
  6. Did you enjoy the fact that it was set in Adelaide. Do you frequent any of those settings?
  7. Discuss the themes of forgive­ness and redemp­tion.
  8. What did you think of the door being left open for our hero to regain his sight?
  9. Who was your favourite character?
  10. Discuss the descrip­tions of sensory awareness.  I could almost smell the food in Chinatown.
  11. What did you think of the psycho­lo­gical cat and mouse games between Rick and the two psycho­lo­gists.
  12. What metaphors with Ricks blindness are used throughout?
  13. Have you read anything else by Peter Goldsworthy or another author in this genre that you enjoyed?

Mon 23rd March

HEART OF THE GRASS TREE By Molly Murn

DISCUSSION GUIDE

  1. Nell chooses not to talk, or simply can’t talk about her past trauma with her loved ones. What are the reper­cus­sions of this silence on Pearl, Diana and Lucy? In what ways are the women affected differ­ently by Nell’s silence?
  2. How is the notion of ‘silence’ commented upon more broadly in Heart Of The Grass Tree?
  3. Does the distance of Kangaroo Island from the mainland play into the storytelling at all?
  4. When Nell and Diana express them­selves artist­ic­ally, things are set in motion that are both painful and restor­ative. What is the role of art in the healing process for these women, and generally?
  5. Once the sealing camp has broken up, William and Maringani are relat­ively free to live how they want to. Why do you think they choose to remain on the island? 
  6. Do you think the novel makes a comment on the effect of forcibly removing children? Are there any echoes between the forced removal of Nell’s child, and the forced removal of Indigenous children under govern­ment policy? 
  7. What do you think the symbolism of the grass tree might represent? 
  8. Heart Of The Grass Tree is told across the centuries from different perspect­ives. How effective is this as a story-telling technique? Did you resonate with one timeframe more than another?
  9. Motherhood, in its myriad mani­fest­a­tions, is central to the novel, would you agree?  

Sun 15th March

Dear Reading for Pleasure members,

Last Saturday I was preparing for leave for my book group meeting at the art gallery when I received an email from another member.  She wrote,

“In light of the COVID 19 pandemic and the social distan­cing advocated by many in the medical profes­sion, I regret having to send my apologies to the book club this month. Small as it may be, I hope my action would contribute towards flat­tening the curve of the outbreak of the virus and save our medical system from being  over­whelmed.”

This note awakened my own sense of respons­ib­ility and I did not attend.

My decision as to attend U3A gath­er­ings has been fraught with mixed feelings.
I have a sense of abandoned respons­ib­ility as coordin­ator and I am frus­trated in that I will miss discussing “Pachinko”  which I recom­mended and gained much from.

I have changed my mind many times.

However the article below, printed in the Financial Times has further persuaded me not to attend.  I am also aware that the social distan­cing in our group is cramped.

I am really sorry for any incon­veni­ence I have caused and I want to stress that I respect and under­stand the viewpoint of others in this time of conflicting and changing advice.

Yours sincerely
Tric Topsfield

Dear Book Group members,

Happy New Year! Welcome to new members and welcome back to those members from previous years

Our first meeting will be on Monday, Feb 3rd at 1:00.

The novel set for discus­sion is ‘Pachinko’ by Min Jin Lee, which we will discuss until 2:00. The Questions have been posted below on the Uni3A website and Mei will present the biography and Alison, the reviews. In the remaining time we will determine our final reading list for 2020. Please come with your sugges­tions along with the no. of available copies from the libraries.


Thank you to those people who have emailed their recom­mend­a­tions.

Our second book will be ‘ A Passage to India’ by EM Forster which we will discuss on Feb. 17.

A further matter to determine will be whether we meet on Monday 2nd March which clashes with Writers week.

I am looking forward to seeing you all.
Good reading!

Tric Topsfield.

PASSAGE-TO-INDIA-FINAL-

PACHINKO

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 

  1. What did you take from this novel? What aspects of the story have stayed with you? Did the novel provide you with inform­a­tion that was new to you?
  2. Which char­ac­ters did you relate to most and why? Which did you admire, dislike and /or frustrate you?
  3. How much did history change their lives? How influ­en­tial is culture on character? Did history and circum­stance change aspects of person­ality and inner qualities?
  4. Comment on the dynamics between char­ac­ters. Were there any that stood out for you? Characters included Sunji, Hansu,Isaac, Noa, Mozasu, Kyangi, Sunji’mother, Yangjin, Hoonie, Kim Changho, Etsuko, Yumi, Phoebe, Haruki,Hans.
  5. Discuss the plot. Was it a fast paced page turner? Was it engaging? Was the story focussed more on char­ac­ters, or the plot? Were there too many char­ac­ters? Was it too long?
  6. What themes does the author discuss? Elaborate. 
  7. How much agency dies Sunji have over her life?
  8. Throughout the book char­ac­ters often have to choose between survival or tradition or morality. What examples embody this tension?
  9. Why do you think the author chose PACHINKO for the title?