Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Road


Lonely. Sorrow. Hope. When I was trying to describe this book those words came first in my head.

Lonely: Even though the man and boy were together the whole time, the rest of the world seemed empty. Nothing but somber ash. Even the way it was written captures the post-apocalyptic story, failing sentence structure and nameless characters. Who needs a complete sentence when everything else is broken?
Sorrow: The way things were haunts the Man, a Coke and canned pears bring on sadness because his son never tasted them before. Loved ones lost and flashback memories. And gray, everything is gray...the color of sadness.
Hope: In the end, when all seems lost and irreparable, people never give up. They want to live, no matter what obstacles they may face. People hold onto hope. "Goodness will find the little boy. It always has. It will again." pg. 281
This book was interesting and thought provoking...and dark. Overall, I felt it was a rewarding read.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Elisabeth Follows the Road


The Road is set in post-apocalyptic times.

Post. Apocalyptic.

Normally if I'd picked these words out in a book's description, I would've placed it firmly back on the shelf and dusted my hands off in a 'good riddance' sort of motion. But I had made the commitment to stay true to the spirit of our book club, so instead I found myself cautiously making my way through chapter 1.

Surprisingly (to myself - and not to any one on the committee who awarded C. McCarthy that little Prize called the Pulitzer) I liked it. This does not mean I officially recommend it - in fact this book falls into my 'you didn't hear about this from me' category.

But let's get back to the point of why I liked The Road (please note I didn't say enjoy). I went about finishing it in bits and pieces as the material was a bit intense for just sitting down and finishing off in one go. Society as we know it is gone, obliterated. And we are following a father and his son in their desperate journey to survive, and maintain their love and integrity, in the face of humanity fallen to pieces. Although I didn't enjoy the setting McCarthy chose, I could not help but like and undeniably respect the fact that this is one well written book. The man can turn a phrase, and artfully create characters that are full of life.

Although The Road is chock full of disturbing imagery that will return to haunt you months, perhaps even years later, when you least expect it (say just as you're dropping off to sleep) - McCarthy's tale will leave you thoughtful each and every time you pick it up. The world McCarthy created was so vivid and believable, that every time I put down my book I was surprised to look up and find my world, as I knew it, still existed.

Finishing this book is rewarding too. McCarthy shows us he wisely believes in the good qualities of humanity, just as much as he believes in the bad.

This was a truly great, thought provoking read, and I'm glad that Amber picked it for us. Just remember though, you didn't hear that from me.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

THE sad and forsaken ROAD

A favorite conversation between the main characters, man and boy:

"Just remember that the things you put into your head are there forever. You might want to think about that."

"You forget some things, don't you?"

"Yes. You forget what you want to remember, and you remember what you want to forget."

True, right? It has been 2 years and 1 month since I read The Road and I can only remember the things I wish to forget. Please don't confuse my admonition as a plead not to read. This book is simply written but portrays a vivid post-apocalyptic picture. This savage world without boundaries made me wonder: Would mankind, if allowed, turn on each other so cruely? Man and boy's fight for survival and love for one another makes for a moving and powerful story. This is my first Cormac McCarthy book and although I never ran to the bookstore to read his others I did enjoy the writing style of this book. (Just maybe should've read a comedy between Sawtelle and The Road.)

Friday, January 21, 2011

'The Road' Review and Meeting

I love post-apocalyptic stories. However, I have never read one with as little happiness and hope as Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.” Although it was an excellently written novel, I considered not finishing it. I kept thinking, “How in the world can this end well?” And yet, despite all of that, I did finish it, and found the ending to be satisfying, a ray of light in such a dark and dreary story.

The narrative follows a nomadic man and his son, struggling to survive the harsh world leftover from an unidentified disaster that took place years before. Food is scarce, and most of the remaining people are cannibals, constantly on the prowl for their next meal. The only hope of survival is to keep moving.

A couple of things I found interesting: It was impressive to me that by leaving the man and boy nameless, Mr. McCarthy was able to make the reader really FEEL the emptiness of the world he created, and yet it didn’t hinder the ability to connect with the characters. Also, because the story was so dark and hopeless, when something good happened, I felt on edge, uncomfortable, afraid to believe it could last.

A story like this begs the question: What would YOU do? Would you fight to the death for survival, cling to hope when there is none? Would you keep your humanity, or give yourself over to what most did, cannibalism?

The Meeting

As hostess of this book club meeting, I wanted to have a nice campfire, and eat food from cans, but it was November and freezing, and really, cold canned food is not appealing in the slightest. Instead, I built a “campfire” with candles on my living room floor, and we sat on big comfy pillows.



For food, I went with a fall theme, including maple glazed smoked sausages, pumpkin spiced nut mix, baked brie, and mulled wine.


It took me awhile to figure out a gift for the ladies. One of the most exciting and hopeful parts of the story was when, after days of hunger, the man and boy find a hidden underground storehouse filled with food and supplies. The first thing they ate was pears, savoring the sweetness of the juices, and the feeling of their empty stomachs finally being satiated. I spent part of that late summer canning pears, so it seemed perfect to give a jar to each girl. Attached was a tag with the quote from the book, “These will be the best pears you ever tasted, he said. The best. Just you wait.”

All in all, to the extent possible in such a dismal story, I really enjoyed this read. So, if you like post-apocalyptic tales and can stomach a bit of despondency and cannibalism, this is the book for you.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Premature Posting

This is a completely unscheduled and unauthorized post, but I couldn’t hold back until February 14 when our official “I am Number Four” week kicks off.  As I was watching American Idol tonight, I saw for the first time an official 100% legit commercial for I am Number Four.  Not only was I thrilled with seeing it on TV with my own eyes, to make it even better, the accompanying song made me giddy with delight.  What band, may you ask, can inspire such joy?  Only the very band I was supposed to see live in Seattle last night—Thirty Seconds to Mars.

If you have not had the chance to check them out yet, find their newest album “This is War”.  You will not regret it!

I’d like to add some songs here, but I haven’t figured out how yet.  Sorry!  I hope you all are just as excited about I am Number Four as we are.  If not, get reading so you can be a fan girl (or boy), too.
Enjoy!  (And you’re welcome!)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Wrapping it up...

Someone asked me recently if anyone ever got offended if someone didn’t like the book they picked. Well, number one, our book clubs singular rule is that the book pick has to be one that no one has read. We all go into a book equally ignorant of it’s content, this relieves anyone of accountability. Secondly, what fun would book club really be if we all agreed on everything, a little debate makes for good discussion and it hasn’t come to blows yet.
Which brings me to Five Quarters of the Orange. I don’t think I can add anything to the previous reviews. I personally did not find it the most compelling read, I blame some of that on seasonal blahs, but some (most really) found themselves invested from the get-go. I was a little frustrated that some of the story lines didn’t feel completely developed. Why did Framboise have such a troubled relationship with her own daughters? What was with her mother’s aversion to the smell of oranges? Was it triggered by some traumatic event? However, some (Debbe), argued that it wasn’t their story so those plots didn’t matter. I also found it interesting that when I was reading, and admittedly speed reading at the end, I found Tomas a likable character. I saw him through Framboise’s eyes and I really missed a lot of his true character until it got hashed out at book club. We all agreed that the book was beautifully written, Joanne Harris certainly has a way with words, her descriptions were incredibly poetic. In the end, we had a great night discussing the book, all without throwing punches and hurt feelings.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Oh, Mother

This one starts with a confession—this was the first book I didn’t finish reading before book club began.  That being said, it wasn’t because I didn’t love the book, which I absolutely did, but because of some family business taking a large slice of my time.  I wouldn’t recommend doing a book club when you haven’t read the book because, as I found at this one, I learned the answers to the mysteries without being able to solve them, or at least try, for myself.
I was hooked on this book right away, but something was pecking at my brain like a rabid chicken, bothering me so much I couldn’t focus on the drama anymore.  The voice of the story was Framboise.  As American and uncultured as I am, I had no idea how to say that name.  Did it rhyme with Fram-toys?  Was it Boise like the capital of Idaho? This was driving me to insanity!  Finally, I went online to determine how to pronounce a French name.  Turns out, it was pronounced like Fram-bwah, just like the raspberry liqueur.  OK, mystery solved…moving on.  But then at book club, someone said they saw a reference in the book stating it really was Fram-capital of Idaho.  Confusion again, but whatevs.  I’ll continue to pretend I’m Frenchy legit and think it’s Fram-bwah.
This book had it all…Nazi invaders; family secrets; love, hate and betrayal; manipulation and misunderstandings; childish cruelty; provincial legends and superstition.  But the one thing that captured my interest the most was the mother.  Oddly enough, I felt not only shock and disgust at the way she treated her children, but also a twinge of protectiveness towards her.  These days, it’s more en vogue to express every emotion that darts across your gray matter, but I’ve always been, much like my own mother, more of the ‘hold it in’ mentality.  While I express happy and loving emotion without reservation, it’s the negative emotion that I try to contain.  The mother in the book took the ‘hold it in’ mentality to the extreme and in the opposite way that I do.  She couldn’t express any softness at all.  That’s not to say that she didn’t have any softness, as there were several cracks in her armor when her tenderness showed fluorescent, but because she had built up such a record of abuse, the children weren’t able to trust that the kindhearted moments were real.  I feel like the mother had a deep wealth of love for her kids, but from her own private demons, possibly a childhood trauma or mental illness, she was locked into a pattern of behavior impossible for her to break free from.   When it all comes down to it, though, it doesn’t matter what you’ve been through, don’t take it out on your kids!!!  Tell them you love them every day, no matter what!  OK, I’m done with the soapbox, but it just needed to be said. 
All in all, Joanne Harris wrote not only a great novel, but a great book club pick.  I would highly recommend it at your next'll have much to discuss and even more to mull over on your own.


Food for thought on "Five Quarters of the Orange"

1) brief, forceful, and meaningful in expression; full of vigor, substance, or meaning; terse; forcible: a pithy observation

2) of, like, or abounding in pith.

the soft fibrous tissue lining the inside of the rind in fruits such as the orange and grapefruit

This was a most fitting description because it is truly how I would describe this book. It was both forceful and full of substance. I thought the main character, Framboise, and her mother, Mirabelle, were wonderfully penned. They are so alike in their intensity and emotional confinement. In a way they were each others nemesis. They both needed understanding and compassion; they both felt alone.

I felt Mirabelle in particular was beautifully written. Seen through young Framboise's eyes you loathed her. She was harsh, demanding and unlovable. You think "There is no excuse, a mother should never treat her children that way!" And then you see the other side. Bit by bit, Joanne Harris ( the author) picks away the shell and you start to feel pity for a sad, suffering and troubled woman.

One of my favorite quotes:

"This sweetness

like some bright fruit
plum peach apricot
watermelon perhaps
from myself
this sweetness

It is a whimsical touch, which surprises and troubles me. That this stony and prosaic woman should in her secret moments harbor such thoughts. For she was sealed off from us-from everyone-with such fierceness that I had thought her incapable of yielding" Page 5

I thought it was so ironic that Framboise became what she loathed, her mother.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Elisabeth Dissects 'Five Quarters of the Orange'


On page 7 of 'Five Quarters of the Orange' the main character, Framboise Dartigen, tells us 'I know what you're thinking. You wish I'd get on with the story . . . ' and by golly she was RIGHT. I had JUST been thinking that - the first seven pages had moved slowly for me you see, and I was growing restless. Joanne Harris, author of said book, evidently has a sharp eye for what her readers are going through at any given point. In light of her honesty I decided to settle down and see what lay ahead.

I was glad I did. The book unwinds entirely from the perspective of Framboise, both current day (when she's in her 60's) and during World War II when she's 9. Framboise gives us a taste of her childhood, growing up in a small town in France during the German occupation, raised with her older brother and sister by a single mother. We also follow her through modern day while she's refurbishing and breathing new life into her abandoned childhood home, trying to keep her identity a secret from the town's current residents. It's the tantalizing secret behind Framboise's desire for anonymity and the unveiling of her mother's troubled personality through the diary she left behind, that kept me turning the pages.

Harris also does an excellent job describing aspects of Framboise's surroundings and cooking, so much so that you can almost taste and smell her culinary creations or feel the heat of a dry summer.

This is a book to be savored, take time to enjoy the world Harris creates while on your way to discovering answers to the book's mysteries.


'Five Quarters of the Orange' has a satisfying, I would even say romantic ending - which as I may have mentioned previously, is something I'm pretty partial to (at least the satisfying part). Not that it doesn't have its elements of tragedy and sadness, but in the end very well wrapped up. Also noteworthy, a pretty clean read. On my official 'Clean-o-Meter', with 1 = to 'so clean you could refer it to respected aged relatives without worry' and 10 = to 'read at your OWN risk - and you didn't hear about it from me', I'd give it a 3. One or two usages of adult language, and some adult subject matter, which is more alluded to rather than detailed in grisly language.


A last word of advice - if you choose this read for your book club, do try and follow Caisse's excellent example and include a lovely large bar of Lindt's 'dark chocolate orange intense' as one of your book-inspired-favors for your fellow readers, they will think of you with kind, complimentary thoughts for weeks after.

Friday, January 7, 2011

'Orange' book meeting

This is against protocol, but I'd like to take a moment to be sappy and tell my kindred Book Babes how wonderful they are. We have read and dissected over twenty books since our book club began. Think how we've suffered through books, we've planned and stressed over meals and gift ideas, we've spent hours searching book stores and online sites looking for the perfect book, and we continued when we had good reasons to quit....... So glad we didn't 'cause we've had so much fun! I love you gals!!

I'd like to think that in some way our awesomeness had inspired the formation of a new local book club. The OLBC aka Old Lady Book Club. This month we decided to join forces for Five Quarters of the Orange. Debbe so graciously offered her home for the 10 of us. I made a Beef Burgundy (with a hint of orange) dish in the crockpot accompanied by mashed potatoes (thank you Sara), and garlic bread. Debbe made a delicious green salad with oranges and goat cheese, orange juice cocktails, and french popcorn. For the book momento I gave everyone an orange "stash" that had an assortment of orange goodies.

I really enjoyed the special treat of all of us together sharing different viewpoints and thoughts of this book. I definitely think this should be an annual event!

By the third attempt Maryanne got her book right. Hehe Love ya M!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Five Quarters of the Orange

A story of what could happen when there's.....selfish inclinations.....desire for attention....opportunity......

Joanne Harris wrote 'Five Quarters' from the perspective of Framboise at the age of 9 and 64. The young Framboise was clever and found a way to induce her mother's migraines. I didn't judge her for this- if she were my mother I might have too. Framboise described her as awakening with a mouth full of barbed wire and not a kind thought in her head. But Framboise was no cherub, in fact, her and her 2 siblings were little heathens who snitched on their neighbors to get lipstick, oranges, chewing gum, bars of chocolate and other unimportant things.
I don't want to give too much away about this book because unlike other books I actually hope you read this one. I will admit it starts off a bit slow but stick with it! Once I got into it I really wanted to know how it all played out. If you continue to follow our blog you'll learn I love to read but don't have a lot of time and so I struggle to finish some of the books. This was a quick read which was a BIG plus.
Joanne gives enough information about the characters so you can start to understand them, and in some ways relate, but doesn't overload you with details. You may be left with questions at the end, but as it was brought out in our book club discussion, it was from a 9 year olds point of view.
Lines I love:
" that moment I loved him completely and with a suddenness which startled away my rage."
"Hope scratched a thin silver trail across my heart."
"The feeling you get when a recipe turns out perfectly right...It's the feeling which tells me that any woman can be beautiful in the eyes of a man who loves her."
"Laure's eyes shot me with hate-shrapnel". (A phrase I'd like to use.)