Tuesday, May 3, 2011

All Geraldine Brooks All the Time--Tickets, Special Offer, Recs, Book Club

Today is Geraldine Brooks day at Boswell. Caleb's Crossing goes on sale today (5/3). Our event is Thursday, May 12, 7 pm. So here are four things you need to know:

1. Tickets are $5. You can buy them in the store, online, or by phone.

2. But wait, there's more.  Buy the ticket and you'll get a special Boswell's Best price of $21.56 off on the book.  (Yes, that's $5.39 off the price for non ticket holders).

3. Our Anne loved it. Here's what she had to say about Caleb's Crossing:

"My favorite Geraldine Brooks novel up to this point has been Year of Wonders. Caleb’s Crossing is on a par. Colonial America is a period in history that I love reading about. The picture of life for women in that time period is both fascinating and appalling. The inventiveness that Bethia exhibited to get around all the constraints imposed on her was truly amazing. The characters were compelling, and the story line was wonderful. Loved it, loved it, loved it!"

4. I just finished reading People of the Book for our in-store lit group last night.  Yes, I know, very clever of me to schedule our discussion for the day just before the book goes on sale. I figured out that between the three of us, we'd read the book 13 times.  Two people read it twice, and one person had read it three times.  I think that's a record.

As the ga-jillions of folks who've read Brooks' last novel, the story is wrapped in a contemporary drama of Hanna Heath, an archivist analyzing the Sarajevo Haggadah, which has been rescued by a Muslim librarian. As each interesting detail about the book is discovered (a trace of salt, a wine stain, a hair), the story harkens back to the historical incident. There's concern that something is not right, giving the main narrative the drive of a thriller.

The discussion wound up being quite fascinating. Reactions to the book wound up ranging from mixed to "one of the best" (with most people trending to the latter), but there's no question that when this group comes together, we're always up for a good quibble.  Honestly, I don't know how authors can handle appearing at book club discussions.

One interesting conundrum is that sometimes what makes for great storytelling can be the very thing that trips you up in analysis.  And there's no question that Brooks is a great storyteller.  Her journalistic background really brings you into whatever world she's describing. 

For the contemporary story, we have Hanna's quest to analyze the manuscript and see if it can be restored, and I'll avoid mentioning the wrench thrown into that drama. There's a family discovery that relates back to the lives of the historical characters.  And yes, there's a little romance.

There was no question that we all really liked the historical parts of the book, though when it got down to rating each of them, I got a little confused by whether folks loved or hated Venice. It turned out we got mixed up with Vienna. But I think most of us were particularly taken with Lola's story.

So here's my question: Is Hanna Heath's story the novel itself, or is it the framing device for the novel? If you took out the historical parts of the book, would it still work as well? And if it did, would it make the historical parts seem extraneous? This is a problem every writer must balance, and I think Brooks did a good job with it, based on all the folks I know who love, love, love the book. But I don't have the answer to those questions.

Oh, we talked about other things as well. I'm always fascinated by historical novels that clearly have a tremendous amount of research in them, and yet are largely products of an author's imagination. Do folks who read them understand that they can't accept as fact everything they read, particularly the characters and plotlines? And if that's the case, how important is it to get the other details correct?  But somehow it is, just the way I want the geography of the city laid out correctly if you use real landmarks in a real city.

To conclude, People of the Book was a great discussion, and definitely worth recommending to other book clubs. And don't forget that Geraldine Brooks is coming to Boswell on Thursday, May 12. Can I link to tickets again?  Of course I can.

Here's our upcoming schedule for the in-store lit group, first Monday at 7 pm.
June 6, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, by David Mitchell
July, 4 (uh oh) Room, by Emma Donoghue.  We'll probably adjust a bit.  Details to follow

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