The Good Earth Tea Party

At first glace this book might seem like just the story of a guy’s life in rural China at the turn of the century. (Not this most recent turn, the one before that.)

Bad stuff happens, good stuff happens, just like it does in real life.

However, it really is so much more than that! I’ve seen it on many book lists, but it isn’t one of those classics that everyone “should” read and no one likes.  I actually enjoyed it!!

There is a character list that you can print off in bookmark format, or here’s the list of characters for quick reference:

Wang Lung: A farmer about to start his own family 
Wang Lung’s father: Approximately 70 years old, retired from work as a farmer 
Uncle: Wang Lung’s father’s sly, younger brother
Cousin: Uncle’s son, close to Wang Lung’s age 
Old Lord Hwang: A rich landowner; keeps many slaves and concubines 
Ching: A small, quiet man; Wang Lung’s neighbor
Elder brother: Known as Nung En; “Nung” means one whose wealth is from the earth
Second son: Known as Nung Wen 
Liu: A successful grain dealer in town

O-lan: A kitchen slave in the House of Hwang
Lotus Flower: A “tea house” prostitute with bound feet 
Pear Blossom: A young slave girl Wang Lung buys
Uncle’s wife: Overweight, lazy and manipulative
Old Mistress Hwang: Addicted to opium
Cuckoo: Old Lord Hwang’s clever chamber slave

I hope you enjoy the book, and we’ll see you for the tea party!

April 12th @ 7:00pm
My house. Contact me for directions:
sarahronk (at) gmail (dot) com

Emma: Do YOU like her?

Title Page from Emma

Title Page from Emma

Before her novel Emma was published, Jane Austen said about the title character, “I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.” Emma Woodhouse is “handsome, clever and rich,” but also has tendencies toward being selfish, spoiled, snobby and meddlesome. The real trouble begins when Emma decides she is going to try her hand at matchmaking, taking the very naive Harriet Smith on as a project of sorts in order to bring Harriet into higher society and find her a husband.

While Emma schemes and goes about her daily life in the small village of Highbury, it is the interesting cast that brings life to the novel, and this work of Austen’s seems to have one of the largest assortments of quirky characters:

  • Emma’s father, Mr. Woodhouse, who is very fragile in health and always seems to think the health of others is every bit as fragile as his own and that they should follow his habits.
  • Harriet Smith, who is impressionable and flighty and will do anything for Emma’s approval.
  • Mr. Elton, who is a master at schmoozing and turns out to be a social climber.
  • Mrs. Elton (formerly Miss Hawkins), whom Mr. Elton marries to achieve higher social standing. Although she has money, she has horrible manners.
  • Miss Bates, who is an incessant talker.
  • Frank Churchill, who is an “auntie’s boy.”

And then there’s Emma herself. She’s very concerned about people’s rank in society, she schemes to get her way, and she has decided that she doesn’t like Jane Fairfax for what seems like no good reason. Although she has her faults, in some ways, she is like Scarlett O’Hara, where you can’t help but root for her throughout the book.

So, as you’re reading though Emma, who do you think is the quirkiest character so far? What do you think of Emma? Do you like her, or do you think Jane Austen was right?

Hope you can join us for our discussion of Jane Austen’s Emma on March 8 at 7 p.m. We’ll keep you posted on the location. Happy reading!

Happy To Be Here

Keeping with our name and purpose statement, you know that we read from a variety of genres. February we’ll be reading a collection of short stories. Hopefully they will bring a smile to your face and maybe even encourage a laugh.

by Garrison Keillor

The work focuses mainly on the everyday lives of ordinary people, especially in Minnesota and North Dakota. Among them are musings about trains, baseball, politics, farming, marriage, and the rights of shy people. (source)

Grab your copy of the book, arrange for that sitter, if needed, and we’ll see you February 9th at Paradise Bakery and Cafe at 7:00pm.

Introducing… The Help

For one summer during college I worked at a country club in one of the ritziest suburbs of Columbus, Ohio. I worked in the “play room” where I essentially babysat the country club members’ kids while they ate lunch, went to the pool, or attended a workout class. I didn’t mind watching the kids (most days), but I definitely felt like a second-class citizen working there. We could only enter through the laundry room door (never the front), we had to stay as out-of-the-way as possible and cut through the locker rooms to get to other places in the building instead of walking through the halls, and on really busy days at the club like the Fourth of July, we had to park out in a field and walk about a half a mile to the building so the members and their guests could use the staff parking spots. We were expected to try really hard to address all of the members by name, but I had people whose kids I watched very regularly who would introduce their kids to me every time they were dropped off, which showed they didn’t even notice the same person was watching their children over and over again. Later, when I would tell people of my experiences working there, I would jokingly refer to the myself and my fellow staff members as “the help,” since it seemed like that was how the members viewed us.

Although I had that summer feeling like “the help,” my experience pales in comparison to the characters in our January book, The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Set in Mississippi during the 1960s, the book focuses on the relationships of several African-American maids and their white employers. For the maids, their employment is more than just a summer college job—they have few options to do much else. They also have to deal with a culture where racism is deeply embedded, which affects how they are treated in their work. The book tells of what happens when the daughter of one of the prominent white families in the town begins to realize how differently her friends’ maids are treated from the ways white people are treated.

So what about you? Have you had an experience that helped you identify on some level with the characters in The Help? If you’ve finished the book already, what do you think? If you haven’t gotten the book yet, there’s still some time to put it on your Christmas list. We hope you can come join us on January 12 at 7 p.m. at Paradise Bakery and Café at Hamilton Town Center. Don’t forget that it’s also “Bring a Friend Month.” This is the perfect book to get someone plugged into the Book Club. We can’t wait to see you all there.

Happy reading!

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle: An Introduction

Who wouldn’t want to spend a year in the South of France? I’m thinking old cobblestones and outdoor markets, an abundance of farm and wild animals accompanied by charming and quirky characters, and scenery that would bring me to tears.

salon de the
through the arch
hike to the calanque
calanque de sugiton
old man and the sea

Most of us probably can’t afford an actual year in Provence, but A Year in Provence? Totally fits the budget!  It’s funny. It’s nostalgic. It’s travel writing at its best!

Join Peter and his wife as they face many of the everyday challenges we do, just in a more interesting place! Then, join us for the Christmas party on December 8th at 7pm. See you then!

Where’s your sense of adventure?

The Bagginses had lived in the neighborhood of The Hill for time out of mind, and people considered them very respectable, not only because most of them were rich, but also because they never had any adventures or did anything unexpected: you could tell what a Baggins would say on any question without the bother of asking him. This is a story of how a Baggins had an adventure, and found himself doing and saying things altogether unexpected. He may have lost the neighbours’ respect, but he gained–well, you will see whether he gained anything in the end. 

 –J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Do you seek out new experiences? Love to travel? Will you try just about anything once? Do you secretly enjoy getting lost because you get to be somewhere you hadn’t expected and might get to meet someone new? Or do you prefer the comforts of home and the familiar? Enjoy the company of close friends? Does the thought of traveling to places unknown make you uneasy? If presented with the opportunity, how quickly would you jump into an adventure?

In the passage above, J.R.R. Tolkien is introducing us to Bilbo Baggins, the hero of this month’s book, The Hobbit. In the full section of the chapter, we learn exactly what a hobbit is, and we find out that adventures are frowned upon and avoided in hobbit society. Bilbo’s quest goes against everything he has been taught as a hobbit, yet he goes anyway, and he finds himself in the middle of situations unlike anything he had ever imagined in his warm and safe hobbit hole.

So where is your sense of adventure? When an unexpected party of visitors comes knocking at the door of Bilbo’s hobbit hole will you join them on their journey? I hope you will accept their invitation and travel “There and Back Again” with Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit. And when you have come “Back Again, ” I hope you will join us for our dinner party on September 8th at 7 p.m. If you can make it, please RSVP in a comment or reply to the Facebook invitation. Can’t wait to see you there!

Don’t judge a book by its movie.

Now, granted I haven’t seen the movie Gone With The Wind. But… after hearing the general consensus of the group, I won’t.
The book, on the other hand, was highly rated by our gathering of 10 ladies. Most of us gave it an 8-9.5! I’d love to hear how you’d rate this book on a scale of 1-10 if you were unable to join us. Leave us a comment!

Since the mercury wasn’t dropping, we moved our summer picnic indoors.
And you women sure do know how to make a salad! Excellent food, ladies- excellent!
This summer is a rare one for me… all three of my sisters are local and were able to join us! Often the summers have found us on multiple continents!
Usually our discussions are peppered with discussion of the book that we read and the stories of our life.
This epic novel offered plenty of topics to discuss. I hope next time you will be able to join us as we chat great literature.
Next time we’ll meet August 11th at 7:00pm at Paradise Bakery and Cafe.
A Girl Named Zippy
This may not seem like “great literature” at first glance, but like they always say don’t judge it by it’s cover. This is a funny lady who grew up very near us and gives quite the comical view of small town life from the eyes of a tom-boy third grader. A quick read and not one to skip!
Remember to think of your book-loving friends! August is Bring A Friend month!
See you in two weeks,
Happy Reading!

Walking Contradiction: An Introduction to Gone with the Wind

From Gone with the Wind Chapter Six:

She heard the soft muffled sound of his footsteps dying away down the long hall, and the complete enormity of her actions came over her. She had lost him forever. Now he would hate her and every time he looked at her he would remember how she threw herself at him when he had given her no encouragement at all… And the thought stung her to a new rage, rage at herself, at Ashley, at the world. Because she hated herself, she hated them all with the fury of the thwarted and humiliated love of sixteen. Only a little true tenderness had been mixed into her love. Mostly it had been compounded out of vanity and complacent confidence in her own charms. Now she had lost and, greater than her sense of loss, was the fear that she had made a public spectacle of herself… Was everyone laughing at her? She began to shake at the thought.

Her hand dropped to a little table beside her, fingering a tiny china rosebowl on which two china cherubs smirked… She picked up the bowl and hurled it viciously across the room to toward the fireplace. It barely cleared the tall back of the sofa and splintered with a little crash against the marble mantlepiece.

“This,” said a voice from the depths of the sofa, “is too much.”

Nothing had ever startled her or frightened her so much, and her mouth went too dry for her to utter a sound. She caught hold of the back of the chair, her knees going weak under her, as Rhett Butler rose from the sofa where he had been lying and made her a bow of exaggerated politeness…

“Sir, you should have made known your presence.”

“Indeed?” His white teeth gleamed and his bold dark eyes laughed at her…

Her temper was beginning to rise again at the thought that this rude and impertinent man had heard everything–heard things she now wished she had died before she ever uttered.

“Eavesdroppers–” she began furiously.

“Eavesdroppers often hear highly entertaining and instructive things,” he grinned. “From a long experience in eavesdropping, I–“

“”Sir,” she said, “you are no gentleman!”

“An apt observation,” he answered airily. “And, you, Miss, are no lady.”

This scene early in Gone with the Wind is one of my favorites in both the book and the movie. Not only do we get a great preview of what many of Rhett and Scarlett’s interactions are going to be like throughout the story, but we get a lot of insight into their characters.

I always enjoyed the movie Gone with the Wind–for nerdy reasons like history is one of my favorite subjects and that it is a groundbreaking example of epic filmmaking–but it was when I read the book for the first time that I really fell in love with the story. It is the story of Scarlett O’Hara, a complicated character, an anti-hero of sorts, full of contradictions and powerful emotions–at the same time driven by love and hate, selfish ambition and loyalty, the desire to be a great lady like her mother and the need to shirk old societal conventions in order to rebuild a life in the South destroyed by the Civil War. The book lets us read Scarlett’s thoughts and gives us insight into her motives that we can only get a glimpse of in the movie. Margaret Mitchell’s brilliant writing makes Scarlett a character you’ll find yourself rooting for as she drives you crazy at the same time.

Please Note: Like our last book, I have to issue a disclaimer about some of the language, but for different reasons. The word d@*n (if you catch my drift) is used by some of the characters, and because it’s set in Georgia during the Civil War and Reconstruction when it would have been a common term, there is use of the “n-word” as well. In my opinion, it doesn’t detract from the story or the novel as a whole, but I wanted to be sure no one has any surprises–especially for those of you who might be listening to the audiobook with kids around. 🙂

Gone with the Wind is a long book, but that’s why we’re taking two months to read it! You still have plenty of time, and it’s a great summer read. We’ll be meeting July 28 at Geist Park for a picnic. I really hope you all enjoy meeting Ashley, Melanie, Aunt Pittypat, Mammy, Rhett, and of course, Scarlett O’Hara.

Happy reading!