Life After Lifergg_lifeafterlife
STONE SKY GOLD MOUNTAIN, Mirandi Riwoe 6 Sept
1. Stone Sky Gold Mountain is set in the 1870s in Maytown, 200km S/W of Cooktown today. Does this novel offer a different cultural portrait of a North Qld township from the usual perspective (past and present)? Did you have a favourite scene in the book? What are some memorable descriptions that situate the reader in land largely uncharted by white Australians and the Chinese?
2. What are the limitations to the relationship between Ying and Merri? Without Ying’s abrupt departure, what do you think her future with Merri would have been? Do you think she will ever return to Australia?
3. Lai Yue struggles with his responsibilities as the eldest son and brother in a Chinese family. In what way does his character represent the tribulations of this position in his family? Does this help to shift readers’ perspectives on his behaviour?
4. What is your interpretation of Shan’s role in the novel for Lai Yue? How did his character make you feel? Is the symbolism of Death and the black bird powerful? Colonial Gothic? Is the dialogue too theatrical?
5. Does the author depict the treatment of Aboriginals and contrasting Torres Strait Islander sea ‑cucumber sellers without being didactic ? What is the effect of this on the tone of the book? Is there historical evidence of the slaughter of Aboriginals at the Palmer River?
6. In what different ways do Meriem and Sophie respond to the Palmer River surroundings ? How well do we understand their past lives? And predict their futures?
7. The writer evokes all our senses with her command of language, as in simile (a honey sucker as sombre as a monk p127 ) and metaphor ( She is a bright sea anemone,shivery and fragile p198) . What figures of speech most strike you in the novel? And how does FOOD constantly express feelings and atmosphere ?
8. Which aspects of racism, immigration policy, language,violence, privilege, class, exile, identity, sexism, gender etc are still contested issues in society today? Do you think the situation has improved or worsened?
9. Who do you think is the bravest character in Stone Sky Gold Mountain?
The novel’s first epigraph is a quote from Taam Sze Pui, whose descendants built Innisfail’s department store known as See Poy’s, which was still going strong in the 1960s and I use bed linen I bought there. My friends are Sue Yeks and See Poys who maintain the Joss House. Innisfail Historical Museum celebrates the family with precious memorabilia.(Julanne’s disclosure).
Dictionary Of Lost Words by Pip Williams
- What does The Dictionary of Lost Words tell us about power?
- How do you think not having a mother influenced the trajectory of Esme’s life and her character?
- While this book is based on the true events surrounding the publication of the first Oxford Dictionary, Esme herself is a fictional character. Why do you think Williams chose to have Esme grow up on the precise timeline she did?
- Is the ending of the book just? Do the characters get what they deserve?
- Do you think this is a hopeful story? Consider arguments for and against.
- Consider Esme and Lizzie’s relationship. In what ways are the women similar? How are they different? Consider the extent to which nature/ nurture shapes their expectations and behaviours.
- Pip Williams is a celebrated author because of her ability to establish a compelling sense of time and place. How do the changing settings influence the tone of the narrative?
- Why do you think Esperanto comes to play such an important role in Esme’s life, given she grew up with a love of the English language?
- The Dictionary of Lost Words explores linguistic inequality – the idea that not all words are equal. To what extent do you think this phenomenon exists in modern English? Consider the word ‘like’ and its place in modern speech. Who uses it? How is it used? How has its use changed?
- Can the evolution of language ever be a bad thing?
- Williams depicts the lexicographers at the Scriptorium as the gatekeepers to the English language. Should the English language have gatekeepers? Should the dictionaries we use today help us to define our language, or should they reflect it back at us?
Neal Ascherson in INDEPENDENT https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/the-truth-about- casaubon-a-great-intellect-destroyed-by-a-silly-woman-1395385.html
Book List 2021PLEASURES-OF-READING-BOOK-LIST-2021-v3
Book List 2020Pleasures-Of-Reading-Book-List-2020
Michelle de Kretser Oct 26
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The Well by Elizabeth JollyTHE-WELL-questions‑2
Discussion: Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurierDiscussion-Questions-Rebecca-by-Daphne-Du-Maurier
Holding the Man by Lynley
- What was your emotional response to the book?
- Was Tim a reliable narrator? Did you like him?
- What was the significance of the title?
- 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?
- Was this nearer to a Shakespearean tragedy or (as one critic wrote) a gay Mills and Boon for you?
- Did you see the film? Faithful adaptation or cop out?
- Was the fact that Conigrave wrote it in a race against time apparent?
- Many critics commented on the book’s raw honesty. Can you provide examples.
- 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 ?
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.
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
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 10th June 2020
East of EdenEAST-OF-EDEN
- 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
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?
by Martin Cruz Smith
- 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?
- 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?
- How effectively does Cruz Smith portray the political and social context of the novel? How important is this context to the plot?
- How effectively does he create a sense of place?
- 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?
- 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.
- 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?
- 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?
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
- Discuss the significance of the title.
- Do you consider this book just a thriller? Was it a suspenseful page turner? Did it grip you?
- 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.
- Did you think the plot believable?
- Discuss the device of using Siri. Compare and contrast his relationship with Willow and his guide dog.
- Did you enjoy the fact that it was set in Adelaide. Do you frequent any of those settings?
- Discuss the themes of forgiveness and redemption.
- What did you think of the door being left open for our hero to regain his sight?
- Who was your favourite character?
- Discuss the descriptions of sensory awareness. I could almost smell the food in Chinatown.
- What did you think of the psychological cat and mouse games between Rick and the two psychologists.
- What metaphors with Ricks blindness are used throughout?
- 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
- 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?
- How is the notion of ‘silence’ commented upon more broadly in Heart Of The Grass Tree?
- Does the distance of Kangaroo Island from the mainland play into the storytelling at all?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- What do you think the symbolism of the grass tree might represent?
- 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?
- 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.
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.
- 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?
- Which characters did you relate to most and why? Which did you admire, dislike and /or frustrate you?
- How much did history change their lives? How influential is culture on character? Did history and circumstance change aspects of personality and inner qualities?
- 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.
- 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?
- What themes does the author discuss? Elaborate.
- How much agency dies Sunji have over her life?
- Throughout the book characters often have to choose between survival or tradition or morality. What examples embody this tension?
- Why do you think the author chose PACHINKO for the title?