Group Reads

For Bookworms like me, who enjoy discussing books almost as much as reading them!  Please join us.

We are currently reading, It's Raining in Mango by Thea Astley

Our past selections are:

The Saint Zita Society by Ruth Rendell. (11 September 2012)
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway ( 10 July 2012 )
Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James ( 13 June 2012 )

APOLOGY:  Because of technical difficulties, this page has been disabled.  Our Group Read  is continuing on the 'Posts' page.  Find it easily by using the 'Group Read' Label.

207 comments:

  1. 1. "Fifty Shades of Grey" E.L. James.
    When literature student Anastasia Steele is drafted to interview the successful young entrepreneur Christian Grey for her campus magazine, she finds him attractive, enigmatic and intimidating. Convinced their meeting went badly, she tries to put Grey out of her mind - until he turns up at the store where she works part-time. He invites her for dinner, and soon they are on a passionate journey which will take them to places they never imagined... Romantic, page-turning and hugely liberating, Fifty Shades of Grey is a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.

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    1. How shall we manage this group read? My suggestion is that we divide the book into sections of the story, say Chapters 1-5, and add comments (as replies) as we go. Any other suggestions? Would you like to host it, Madeleinea?

      I am looking forward to this. In groups which meet monthly, we comment on the book as a whole, only discussing the more important sections or those which impressed us most. This way, we are able to explore the story as it is happening and share and compare our thoughts and impressions as the story develops. A book with an uncomplicated storyline (as this book promises to be) is an ideal start.

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    2. Delighted to host it - but as my presence on website is irratic at present due to work committments am abdicating the position of host and offering it to our host Sanmac. When do we start the read?

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    3. Thanks (?) Madeleinea, I’m happy to host. As to starting, I've read far enough to start the discussion and I assume Madeleinea has too. Jaywalker has her copy and will be reading it next week and Moi will have hers this weekend (unless she is tempted by lingerie). Perhaps we could start the discussion in earnest next weekend to give Leonie and the others some time? Shall we make the first five chapters our goal?

      In the meantime, what does everyone think of the dedication to her husband? On the way home from picking up my copy, I turned to my husband and whispered, 'you are the master of my universe', all doe-eyed. He laughed, then thought and said, quite seriously, "Aren't you well?". I guess I'm a leopard.

      Does it raise your feminist hackles?

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  2. I have bought it from itunes for my ipad for $9 and this review was on the order page. It should be a laugh if nothing else.

    **So cliche.

    by NYCJessB
    For a book trying to stretch the boundaries sexually, why would the author use the same overdone heroine who is so beautiful (but just doesn't know it) and is a virgin yet orgasms immediately and takes to sex like a fish to water. Even worse, are we supposed to believe a girl in college is just getting email? If Ana says "Oh My" one more time, I'll vomit. It sounds like something my mother in law would say, not a 22 year old.

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    1. I just came across this by accident. How much of a coincidence is that? I didn't know about the Australian connection.

      Fifty Shades of Grey
      by E.L. James

      Released in May 2011 by an obscure publisher in Australia, Fifty Shades of Grey made headlines as the first erotic e-book phenomenon. The novel—which began as Twilight fan fiction and centers around a BDSM relationship between college student Anastasia Steele and billionaire tycoon Christian Grey—developed a tremendous word-of-mouth following among women. But what truly ignited sales, the Wall Street Journal noted, that the book’s small print run made buying it digitally a necessity. Beyond that, e-readers gave people a veil of privacy. (In other words, no one could judge your book choice by its cover.) Now No. 1. on the New York Times combined Print & E-book Best Seller List, James’ steamy novel—and the two other books in the trilogy—were recently purchased by Vintage Books for seven figures and will be widely available in print next month.

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    2. 'Fifty Shades of Grey' was featured in last night's "Jennifer Byrne Presents" programme on erotic fiction. I missed the first part when FSOG was being discussed but will catch it once it becomes available on the net. Surprisingly, David Malouf was a panellist.

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  3. PS I won't be able to read it till we get to the UK next week.

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    1. Bon voyage! Have a great time. I hope you'll still be able to keep in touch with us. Cheers.

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  4. I'll sit this one out but will join you at the end of July. Happy reading.

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  5. Hi all,

    Give me a week or so to get myself organised - a few things on the go at present. Hopefully I won't have any difficulty getting a copy.

    Cheers.

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    1. I picked up my copy from Big W ($9.95) yesterday. I'm ready to go whenever everyone else is.

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    2. I will pick up a copy this weekend.

      Apparently, there is a line of lingerie and perfume being marketed to coincise with the book sale.

      I think I will refrain in this instance

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  6. I am afraid I have already started. My first attempt at analysis came up with memores of Robin Cook's books - who usually has a very involved science fiction plot with an ongoing and maturing relationship accompanying it. My second reaction as it 'go hotter' was that it was not dissimilar to Luke Rinshardts'The Diceman'....
    I began reading the book on the train - I am on that train one and three quarter hours twice a day, and a book to read really helps time pass.
    The first night I met a psychologist friend (much younger) who was off to 'The Monster Ball' with lady Gaga. I suppose I was a little sarcastic about it. I passed over my book at her request and she read the back flap 'would have thought Mills and Boon more your style' she said with even more sarcasm. Deflated I read on - a pleasant book..... a noble pursuit..... a guy with a helicopter... and then suddenly the book nearly ended up under the seat, and my panicking mind was thinking 'can other passengers know what I am reading? is my face red? Can I put a plain cover on the front? Was I really so abandoned as to think other people might enjoy it?' So far I haven't read on... but I will. Its not the sort of book your frustrated mind reads parts of over and over again.... one can only read on wondering what comes next'

    Moi, darling, don't worry about those underclothes.... you meet a man like this and he will buy them for you...

    So far, my summing up is 1/.Not the sort of book you let others know you enjoy
    2. Interesting, easy to read, promising to be mind boggling'
    Happy reading dear friends....
    3. Gee I missed a lot in my lifetime

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    1. Haha. Now you understand why I thought you may have been teasing. Perhaps you should disguise yourself so the other commuters don't recognise you....a domino mask?
      Well, has Madeleinea whetted your appetite? Are you 'panting' for more? LOL.
      Let's begin! we can comment as we read and please be mindful of 'spoilers'. We'll leave the helicopter ride and its aftermath until the next installment.

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  7. SHADES OF GREY - Chapters 1-5
    The book opens inauspiciously as we share Ana’s ‘bad hair day’. It seems to be the traditional Cinderella story, the twist being the not so subtle hints that the prince is not charming.
    I know that there’s no presumption of literature here but these first 5 chapters, in the hands of a skilled writer, could have been condensed into a few paragraphs or a chapter at most. As it is, there’s not much of substance yet.
    We are shown several situations which show Ana’s naivety, lack of confidence and essential ‘wholesome goodness’. (Didn’t we ‘get the message’ after the first one or two?). Enough criticism, let’s concentrate on the story.
    Is it believable, do you think? She’s 22, has roomed with Kate in the city for 4 years, is intelligent and has just finished her final exams at uni/college. (Does it matter whether she is believable?) How do the characters affect you? Do you like Ana? Kate? Christian? What are your impressions, so far? Are you finding it unputdownable?

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    1. Hi all,

      I'm on a bit of a catch up at present re: Group Read - but will buy my copy and start reading today.

      Cheers. Leonie.

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    2. Don't stress, Leonie. It's straightforward reading. You'll soon catch up.

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    3. Hi fellow group readers,

      Just finished chapter 3 and agree Sandra that `shades' of Cinderella (Pretty Woman, Mr. Darcy etc.) are certainly evident thus far. And of course `classism' is ever present with her rich and privately schooled mate Kate being able to interact with Christian as an equal, and Jose Rodriguez the first in his family to make it to college.

      But early days yet and I'll keep on plugging along, but think we should get some discussion from this read - title might be worth reflecting on as well.

      And HOW do you peek up at someone through your lashes?

      Cheers.

      Leonie

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    4. Yes, Leonie, James offers quite a few discussion topics, apart from the story itself, but she doesn't develop them. I'm having difficulty being positive about this book.
      And I can't peek through my lashes either!

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  8. I am about to close the computer down and head off overseas. I will let you into a little secret before I go seeing that I won't be here to hear your responses. I have read a lot of porn in my time and have led a somewhat free spirited life including two marriages, a long affair with a married man, a two year romance in Sweden and a mad passionate 12 month affair with a Spaniard. I guess, like a book, you should never judge a person by their outward appearance eh? So, I will be interested to see if it shocks me. I very much doubt it will. I usually find 'porn' of this variety more amusing than shocking because transcribing sex into words in any serious way requires literary talent which these sorts of writers rarely have. BTW - I don't mean this to sound as if I'm showing off but that people do lead different sorts of lives due to chance, circumstance, luck etc. However, keep in mind that D H Lawrence's "The Rainbow" was described as 'the dirtiest book ever published" by one early critic.

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  9. I don't regard this book as porn... so far anyway. And judging by the contract drawn up any sado mach. bits - if any- are going to be very mild.
    Am I being seduced along with Ana by the writer... probably, but it sure beats books on welfare.....
    Wish I could stop analysing the relationship - little bit of cut and thrust there, little bit of withdrawal and disassociation there....
    What do you mean the hero isn't charming.... he's everywoman's dream... but I hate curley red hair....
    Bon Voyage Jatwalker -= I'll continue on my fantasy trip...

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  10. Right- any identification (and envy) I had with Ana has vanished. Any man who treated me to a bout of physical injury would end up with two black eyes, an end of the relationship and possibly a Law Suit...
    I also want to know how the poor wretch escaped multiple urinary infections, haematuria and possible kidney damage as well...
    I note he gives her cranberry juice and water to drink ---- tell you a secret, I don't think it would be effective in preventing anything
    This book is promoting Domestic Violence....

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  11. It's certainly not giving a positive message to young girls, is it?

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  12. Sorry I haven't joined in earlier. Travels got in the way. Now settled in to cottage in Hastings for two weeks and have finally started reading. All I can say is that any author who repeatedly uses phrases such as "she murmured" and "a hint of a smile played on his lips" has lost my vote straight away. This is indeed "crap" as the character herself keeps noting.
    While I was downloading it from amazon I noticed that several spoofs have been written already, one called A million shades of green, another called Fifty Shades of Black and Blue, And a third called Fifty Shades of Beige. At least they might be amusing. However, I will read on!

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  13. PS. I recommend you go to amazon.com and search for Fifty Shades of Green. I think you will find the review quite enlightening.

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  14. I find it a beautiful, if unrealistic fantasy (can fantasies be realistic?)- apart from the occasional episodes of outward cruelty. I'd love to see a review by someone such as Bettina Arrdt - sex therapist. I keep thinking 'how does she (the author) know that?' and turn to the back of the book for a reference... of course its not there.
    Its obviously a moneymaker. Why? If it wasn't for the newspaper reviews I wouldn't be reading it. Doesn't the author and perhaps young heroine (or sucker? - pun not intended) realise life doesn't start and end with sex? Sex will pall... and orgasms become very rare.And she isn't really enjoying herself. She hasn't backpacked over Europe, she hasn't solved any Crisis that will make her grow up... she is not allowed a career, even though she studied for it....her friendships are strained...
    Well, I find it an easy read. Also a book you can put down for a few days because it doesn't have a plot to entice you in unwinding it. If it wasn't for the group read it might be another book cast into the wheelybin
    Certainly wouldn't win any Book Awards if I were on the judging panels. But why would the author care? Lots and lots of money falling her way

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  15. Madeleine....did you read how the book came into existence? It was deliberately plagiarized from a short BDS&M fan porn novel called Master of the Universe (hence the dedication) as a money making venture. It's described as a spectacular literary heist.
    I've skim read the first five chapters because I just can't cope with the cliche ridden, banal prose any other way. So have reached the nitty gritty to find exactly the same stuff as you can buy in erotic bookshops or can download from women's erotica websites.
    It's long been accepted that many women find domination erotic and rape fantasies of the Mills and Boon variety have always been best sellers. However, like most things in current day life, it's where and how you draw the line about what is acceptable to the individual and what constitutes choice, free will or force. Like all current entertainment, writers and film makers are pushing the envelope, pardon the cliche, in order to shock and make money. When what used to be off limits no longer is, then they have to go to the next level. The danger is this stuff being read by young immature women who are led to believe that this sort of relationship and activity is OK.
    There is a huge difference between controlled fantasy or controlled role play in sex and being forced or coerced or even seduced into activity which is harmful either physically or emotionally.This is not just a bit of heavy seduction by Mr Rochester or Mr Darcy. It's leading women to question their own experiences and whether they are somehow being short changed. That's fine if it leads on to a more varied and fulfilling experience but not if it takes them down the path of accepting whatever is demanded or asked of them in the belief that men will expect it of them.

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  16. I'd agree with that Jaywalker - 'its leading women to question their own experience and whether they are being shortchanged'
    and - no, I hadn't read of the books origins. I am suprised it even got printed, because I don't think it adds anything to literature
    And what is to happen to this young girl when love eventually fades? Will this be the beginning of a nymphomania as she seeks for further excesses?
    AND I do not find the book shocking....

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  17. Sanmac - lets know when you want us to officially discuss the book (when everyone has finished it)
    My comments so far have just been that - comments

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    1. No, you haven't posted any spoilers and I agree with your impressions. Maybe Leonie and Jaywalker will tell us what point they have reached in their reading?

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  18. Well, I have finished the book, and believe it should be banned.....or better still never published. It describes even glorifies what is a perfect replica of the model for continuing domestic violence. I will elaborate furher when we come to formal discussion.
    Sanmac - when is that taking place?

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    1. I have finished the book too and so have been reluctant to post. It's too difficult to avoid spoilers. Leonie and Jaywalker are still reading, I think.
      I had thought to have a formal discussion as we read but everyone was at a different stage of the book. I guess we wait till everyone has finished reading?

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    2. Hi Sandra and Madeleeine,

      Sorry groupreaders I'm dragging my feet a bit on this one, only up to chapter 9. I've got a few things on the go at present but also finding little joy in the read thus far and at this stage finding both Ana and Christian unimpressive for similar and different reasons.....if that makes any sense.

      No doubt I'll have a bit more to say if I ever finish the book but I'm OK with you discussing it now if you've finished. For now though I'll just `gird my loins' (and I'm unsure if women even have loins - but Christian would know) and soldier on.

      Cheers. Leonie

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  19. Before we start discussing I fewel I must justify my choice for our first Book Read, which so many of you were unhappy with.
    When I first started my Uni training, our introductory sociological subjects demanded we watch certain TV programs and criticised them. To my horror one was 'The Young Doctors' a program I scorned which was on at 7 p.m. and drew a wide audience from the TV viewers. I reckon I learnt more from that initial analysis than any other subject that semester. For one thing when making a bed every one stood behind the bed facing the cameras... and there were many other bits that were 'unreal'. Since that time I've learnt to view most literacture/documentaries books etc with a sceptic eye and a tough pen.
    This book is a best seller. It is in the homes of so many of our young women that it must have something in it to attract. And one can only ask - what is missing in those women's lives that causes them to read this so avididly? What message is it giving? And is it a 'healthy read' or just the opposite. What can we learn from this book? It is no where as sordid as 'No 96'; or 'The Box' on our TVs 30-40 years ago...Why is our female populatioon so sold on the book?
    Me? don't think its porn; I don't think its shocking; I don't find it erotic.....I think its distasteful, promotes brutality in marriage (or relationships)and is unreal. I am glad I read it because now I think those of us who have read it will be able to criticise it together and perhaps understand more fully what is missing in the generation X and Y so avididly absorbing it.
    Sanmac - let discussion begin ASAP and then lets move on to something a little bit classier....(sociology moved us on to books like 'Damn Whores and God's Police...'

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  20. And... mind you you'd never find me crouching in my panties in any room - red, black or any other colour - just not my scene

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  21. To be honest I don't really want to finish it or discuss it much further except to say that I saw a footpath notice board outside a bookshop here in Hastings UK where we are staying with a chalk written message saying they had it in stock again so Madeleine is right about its popularity.

    I have to disagree about it not being porn. What else is it? And erotica is whatever turns you on, so this will be erotica for some readers. It's most certainly a deliberate commercial enterprise, a money making venture.
    Perhaps what it has done is bring "porn" into the open by publishing it in the mainstream rather than just another in the "black lace" erotica series on the back shelves. So women can go in and buy it as a best selling title on the front table and avoid the embarrassment of buying something from the erotica shelves. A high percentage of men either look at or read porn either openly or secretly and perhaps this is also another last bastion of equality like smoking and binge drinking has become for so many young women. I think I'll leave my contribution at that.

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  22. Let the discussion begin!
    I must say, Madeleinea, that your comments have been very interesting. I’ve been mostly concerned with the story and the writing style and so, I was reluctant to post ‘spoilers’. You have taken the wider view and cleverly placed the book in a social context. It is not what I would usually choose to read (and I won’t be reading the sequels) but leaving one’s comfort zone is one of the attractions of reading in a group.

    By the way, ‘Damn Whores’ was on my suggested reading list at uni, but I didn’t read it. Is it worthwhile?

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  23. Damned Whores and God's Police is really a historical account of women in the early days of Australia. I didn't enjoy it much, but it is promoted because it is by a feminist Australian author.....I suppose (Anne Somers).
    In the 70s it was part of my feminist course. Easier to read than Germaine Greer... and definitely historical - not a novel

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  24. AND - I am not going to read the sequels either, Jaywalker. From my experience in Emergency Departments and the Health System I can almost tell you what is the most likely senario. Inevitably she will go back to him. He will probably marry her (respectability). She will be old before her time, always wearing long sleeves to cover the bruising on her arms and wrists; Her upper clothing will be high necked - to cover lacerations on her back, and her stockings will be thick. Inevitably as the victim she will end up in hospitals (that violence will increase and increase). If a private hospital her injuries will most likely be treated and she will be discharged. If a public hospital she will be referred to a social worker, and the senior one will sign deeply (shes seen it all before) and send a junior down to discuss her options with her. There are women's refuges and legal meausure she can take to get above the situation. Inevitably she won't benefit... research by Centrelink (I think) has shown it takes about 7 episodes of injry and violence before the victim leaves the relationship.
    With spomeone as important and rich as Christian she may have to go into hiding to avoid him coming after her and beating her up.... money buys a lot of 'lack of action' or very good legal representation to avoid the charge if she chooses to have him charge.
    Society has no room for dominant and submissive personalities in a relationship. We are a nation of equals and should keep it that way, let the members of that relationship become victim and perpetrator.
    Murder is a common outcome of such a relationship... serious injury, mental ill health (of both parties) and suicide often occur. If she has a child he/she will probably be removed from her care... unless she leaves her husband. Todays children are scared by Domestic Violence....
    If women find this book erotic they shoud seek help.... is my opinion

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  25. Jaywalker, at your suggestion, I did read the 'Million Shades of Grey' post but when I tried to check my memory before posting this morning, Sean's blog has been removed! Did it not begin as a take on Twilight or similar as 'Master of the Universe' and then morph into 50 Shades?

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    1. Yes, it was a deliberate money making venture. Apparently the two authors plagiarized a Twilight type novel and plotted to get it into mainstream publishing. Hence the dedication which is obviously a jokey reference to the whole idea. The book which explains all this is called Fifty Shades of Green....perhaps a pun about money?

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  26. Lack of literary merit.

    I cannot see any reason for the book's popularity. It's poorly written, repetitive and I didn't find it erotic. James (or someone) should be congratulated on their marketing expertise. I read somewhere that it had eclipsed JK Rowling's sales, probably not in total but in the rate of increase, perhaps.

    There is no plot to speak of, just enough to provide a framework for the so-called erotica.

    Early in the book, I thought Christian's saving grace may have been his philanthropy but, apart from references to his interest in feeding the world and to his (secret) global corporate interests which are scattered throughout the book, this came to nothing, as did the references to his grey tie. Although this tie, presumably, is featured on the cover and used in the Red Room, it was not mentioned again. Nor was Christian’s issue with food developed or the jealousy felt by both the main characters.

    The minor characters were not even sketched. They were props only. Taylor, Elliott, Mrs Jones, Christian and Ana’s family – all were mere puppets. Even Kate was only used to voice suspicions about Christian’s character.

    The device of using an internal conversation between Ana and her 'internal goddess' (and, sometimes, her subconscious (?) in a 3-way conversation) to indicate Ana's doubts and indecision was so overused, I groaned. Email messages between Ana and Christian provided the only real dialogue between the two.

    The sinister overtones of Kate going on holiday and her mother being unable to visit, leaving Ana alone with Christian, also came to nothing. I kept seeking the premise of the story. Was it only whether Ana would sign the contract? As there are two sequels, it seemed obvious that she would but, finally, it didn’t matter. Was it Christian’s early childhood and experiences with Mrs Robinson, details of which were only hinted at, maybe only as a foil for the sex scenes? It seems that we are not expected to read the book as a story but, like school children, only to hurry to the ‘naughty bits’. No, I couldn’t find a premise or argument, or anything really, to encourage me to read on. Finally, nothing was resolved. The book ends abruptly, with Ana’s sudden about-face. However, as there are sequels, we know there will be a reconciliation. It should have been labelled Part I.

    There was no reason for the book, other than the erotica. Moral issues weren’t explored. I agree with Madeleinea about the personal ramifications of relationships such as these and strongly believe that it sends the wrong message. To my mind, it is not deserving of it’s popularity and should be relegated from mainstream to trashlit.

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  27. Christian said at one point he was born to a prostitute and was not adopted until 4 years - does that hint that James belives sadomachocism is genetically acquired? He also said he went to 'special school' to hone his skills...
    I found the book very readible which is sad for our young women who are evidently the main buyers (mummy porn one paper called it). And Christian was delightful at first - attending to her needs, always having - not one, but several condoms to hand; and her pleasure before his; showering her with luxuries, taking her for a ride in his helicopter (would have preferred a yacht myself), buying her a red Audi Car (don't like the colour but better than any car I have ever had); his family were supportive, in fact delighted he had found 'a girl'... I mean how many of us have had such luxury and consideration at the beginning of a relationship?
    I am concerned about our young Gen X and Y women.... is oral sex ok? He mentions anal sex? Well she will have a faecal incontinence problem in no time if they try that..
    Is that what young women want?
    And again I repeat it should be banned because it promotes Domestic Violence. (is she a sook? Did she consent? etc). Isn't it nice of her to obey his instructions to tell nobody? Can the reader spice up her own bedroom life to include some of the practices mentioned in the book? YUK

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  28. Hi all,

    I've enjoyed reading the comments and other information re: Our `group read' and mostly agree with everything written thus far. Also I would like to congratulate Madeleine on choosing `50 Shades of Grey' as our first read, after all it is a best seller and I find it intriguing to gauge what is or is not considered a `best seller' in 2012. I'm fairly unfamiliar with this genre but agree with Sandra when she suggested we are wise to broaden our literary comfort zones - or words to that effect. (I think it was Sandra who said this but correct me if I'm wrong).

    OK I haven't finished the book and seriously unsure if I can commit to ever doing so - 500 pages plus!

    However like others I have also read other reviews re: the book and agree with someone out there in cyberspace who suggested `the entire book is not much more than a series of erotic encounters cobbled together with hardly anything in between'. Sadly much of the writing seems immature in the adolescent fiction sense, and at times has the feel of teenage diary entries - and I was surprised to discover that E.L. James is probably in her mid-30s.

    Sadly I could not warm to either Christian or Ana both of whom I found unbelievable, pretty bland, and fairly stereotypical and didn't see any real substance or originality in these characters. The selling point of the novel its `erotica/porn' or whatever you want to call it was explicit but not shocking, and after their initial sexual encounter it quickly became repetitive and fairly boring - just another `grunt, groan, and grope session' - sorry ladies but this is how it seemed to me. And to be absolutely honest I even got a bit confused about body parts i.e. what was going where, when and how.

    There are some writers who can say almost nothing but their style is captivating, entertaning, engaging. Sadly James is not one of them and in the main I found her style ordinary and at times forced, almost as though she was trying too hard to keep the reader interested. I kept on thinking maybe I'm missing something and she has cleverly woven a fascinating story into this one and started to look for things like symbolism even biblical references - and there are a few e.g. `Christian' follower of Christ. `Anatasia' - means resurrection apparently. Russian saint whose feast day was traditionally 25th December. Privileging of virginity (of course Ana had to be a virgin), and the root cause of Christian's downfall was the abuse he suffered at the hands of an older woman - Eve as the temptress etc. But I'm waffling and overall I think the story is just what it is meant to be.

    Likewise I'm surprised it is a best seller and the label `Mommy Porn' grates considerably. A waste of $9.95 - I disliked it a lot.

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  29. Wholeheartedly agree, leonie. It just saddens me that this "bestseller" is symptomatic of the current state of our western civilization. I know there are still fine examples of the arts around but there is so much more dross and a greater inability to distinguish between the good and the awful.

    What will we read next? Any thoughts?

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  30. Next read? I leave that to someone else to choose - but please make it light......this biography of Janet Frame is very heavy, and as it is a very thick book cannot be taken to bed with you or read in the train....

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    1. Looks like we crossed in cyberspace, Madeleinea.

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  31. It seems we are all in agreement about 'Fifty Shades of Grey'. (By the way, I read in the weekend papers that James' husband is also writing a book but in a more serious vein.)

    Is there more to say? or shall we move on to the next book?

    Do you have a suggestion for our next group read?

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  32. As there have been no suggestions posted, here are five titles, none of which I have read. I want the book to be new to me too. Feel free to suggest others.

    Leonie mentioned Norman Mailer - Tough Guys Don't Dance. It will be a good opportunity for those, like me, who have never read Mailer.

    Sadie Jones - Outcast. It attracted media attention when it was published in 2008 and Jones has just released her new book. It's set in England in 1957 and the blurb reads,"As menacing as it is beautiful. 'The Outcast' is a devastating portrait of transgression and redemption."

    Geraldine Brooks - Year of Wonders, A Novel of the Plague. I enjoy Brooks' historical fiction and this book has been personally recommended to me several times.

    John Katzenbach - Day of Reckoning. A thriller, for something different. I've read most of his books and have enjoyed them all. For my money, he's better than Michael Connelly.

    Anna Funder - All That I Am. This year's Miles Franklin winner about the Holocaust.

    Please advise if you will be joining in and which book you would like.

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    1. As we will be on board ship for the next month I won't join in this one as Internet access will be expensive. I have read Year of Wonders but not any of the others. May pop in now and again but it won't be regularly. A few years ago some English friends took us to the village which is the setting for the book....Eyam in Derbyshire...where there are some very moving memorials to the victims.

      Delete
  33. My apologies for not being able to participate in the 50 Shades of discussion. Looking forward to the next read however.

    Freom the abovementioned titles I personally would opt for the Mailer, or Anna Funders's Holocaust effort.

    Mailer's first published novel, The Naked and The Dead, was a book I first read when I was a teenager way back when, and ignited my interest in war novels.It was written in '48 and is based on the author's wartime experiences in the Phillipines.

    Now for some trivia.When at the recent Bookfest in Brisbane with Sanmac I purchased the 50th anniversay edition of this book. A bargain at $2-50. Since regifted to my son in law in the defence forces.

    It was interesting to reread with a different perspective 40 years on. It also included a note from Mailer who commented on the book from his perspective so many years later also. Said he was a bit embarrassed because it was crude and raw.

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    1. There's no point to hiding behind 'Anonymous'. We know who you are.

      There are two of us, so far, for the group read. Madeleinea? Leonie? Trish? Sylvia? Will you be joining us? We'd like a male perspective, too. John? Ron? Are you available?

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  34. I would be OK with Norman Mailer.

    Saw a snippet of a Today Show interview with Bettina Arndt Re: `50 Shades of Grey' - Sunday morning. Hers seemed to be a fairly positive spin on the book, and from what I could glean,she was suggesting that although women are probably the main readers of the book it was men who were benefitting from its message - in that women (wives, partners, girlfriends etc.) were somehow attempting to make themselves more sexually adventurous and desirable.

    However it's not the message I got from the book and in the main think the human psyche (both male and female) probably requires something quite different (from what was on offer in `50 Shades of Grey') for real connection and intimacy.

    But as I said I only saw snippets of the interview and may be mistaken.....Anyone see it?

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  35. I'll go aong with whatever we decide to read... Mailer and the Holocaust book both seem interesting... hope they are easily obtainable...

    I agree with Bettina - about time our prospective bridegrooms learnt a few manners in the bedroom - but lets heavily censor the book first - don't want any beatings up for the brides....

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    1. Availability may be a problem. In the Brisbane library system, there is only one copy of Mailer available. Published in 1984, bookshops may not have it in stock. I've not checked online. There are oodles of Funder at the library but as of today, there are 209 holds on them. Winning the Miles Franklin has obviously made a difference to its popularity. It should be readily available in bookshops and online.

      I have another suggestion. Hemingway's 'The Old Man and the Sea'. It's a slim book, almost a novella, for Madeleinea; some of us have read Paula McLain's 'The Paris Wife', a fictionalised account of Hemingway's first wife; it's readily available, at the library and in good bookshops; and it may appeal to the 'fellas' as well. What do you think? I've read it several times but there's always something new.

      Delete
    2. "The Old Man and the Sea" ? Terrific!!! Watched the movie with Spencer Tracey only last week. ( Only kidding : I know Sanmac hates it when a good read is butchered by going to movie version. LOL )

      Still, this book will be good with a glass of red and a cheese platter.

      Delete
  36. 'Tis true, I do, but I have seen this movie. It was quite good (didn't butcher it too much), although the book was better, as always. lol

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  37. SO - the Old Man and the Sea.... is that our next read?

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    1. I'm happy with any of the books. Mailer and Funder may have availability problems. Has anyone sourced them? I have a copy of Hemingway and Mailer and am willing to buy Funder. I'm ready to start. Perhaps we could start with Hemingway and leave the others for another time?

      This is a link to my favourite Hemingway anecdote:

      http://www.sixwordstories.net/2008/12/for-sale-baby-shoes-never-used-ernest-hemmingway/

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    2. Ok . I will grab a copy over the weekend. Raring to go girls and boys

      Delete
  38. If I can get hold of `The Old Man and Sea' either from the library or local bookshops - I'm in as well.

    Cheers.

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    1. Hemmingway it is! I'm confident it will be available at your library, if not stand alone, in a collection or an anthology. The Brisbane library system has several copies and the better bookshops should stock it. It's really a novella but there's plenty of points for discussion.

      We are 4, so far (everyone is welcome to join in) and I nominate Madeleinea as leader.

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    2. I bought a copy from a discount bookshop - you know, those little stores that pop up for a month and then disappear - for $5.

      Happy reading everyone !

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  39. Off to order a copy....

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    1. It was Hemingway's birthday yesterday, 21 July 1899 - 2 July 1961

      So now we are 4. Is anyone else interested? It is good reading.

      Delete
  40. Still waiting for the Library to come up with a copy

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    1. Leonie is waiting too.

      In the meantime, I found this link to the full text.

      http://www.classic-enotes.com/american-literature/american-novel/ernest-hemingway/the-old-man-and-the-sea/full-text-of-the-old-man-and-the-sea-by-ernest-hemingway/

      It may be downloadable if you have an e-reader. I'm not sure how that works.

      Delete
  41. No, no e-reader
    I think the book might be on a University or other Course's Reading List....
    Should be here soon

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    1. There's no hurry, but you could make a start if you wish. An e-reader is not necessary, you can read it online.

      Moi and I have our copies but Leonie is still waiting for hers.
      Are you happy to moderate?

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  42. Hi All,

    A bit annoyingly my copy of our Group Read took a while to become available but have been advised I can collect it tomorrow, so should be set to start my read then.

    Cheers.

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    Replies
    1. Madeleinea is still waiting but is expecting it soon so we should be all ready to start by the weekend.

      Delete
  43. Now - my copy has arrived.....I'll collect it tomorrow......then I am looking forward to the weekend

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    1. Great. Leonie should have her copy by now so we are 'all set'. Over to you Madeleinea.

      Delete
  44. I am finding the book hard 'to get into'. The writing is beautiful etc but the plot seems very thin... if there at all.... any suggestion sto make me more enthusiastic?

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    1. Well, there is not a lot of action. It's a deceptively simple tale, almost a fable really, but it explores some big issues: loyalty, pride, honour. Hemingway offers no explanations; he presents the 'facts' and leaves it to the readers to make up their own mind. It's a book that, once read, stays with you forever. It's rich with imagery which should make for an interesting discussion.
      My suggestion is to read it slowly while thinking about the feelings it is evoking. An older Spencer Tracey played Santiago in the movie if it helps to visualise.

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  45. I initially read this book thirty years ago.Too young to appreciate it. Re read it on the train to and fro work last week and detested it. However, on the basis that I thought there must be something more to it as it has become such a benchmark bravely went back and reread it over the weekend. Very pleased that I did. Lot more to it that meets the eye.

    Stick with it Mdeleinea, and yes, Sanmac's suggestion is a good one

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    1. Detested it? I wouldn't have thought it would produce such a strong feeling. :-D I agree that it improves on rereading. Once you know the story, you are free to think about the meaning and also to savour the writing.

      Assuming that Leonie now has her copy, are we ready to start the discussion, Madeleinea?

      Delete
    2. Ok Sanmac, you have given me something to ponder on here...A good thing I'de say.....

      Upon reflection I would say that I live my life in a very rushed manner.My personal situation means that I have little time for simply stopping. I do relax, but I have to fit this in between other tasks. Most of my reading I do whilst travelling. How I long for a couch, a glass of red and a book in front of the fire....

      This toing and froing is an issue and there are strategies in place to make changes.

      So I will change my statement about detesting this novel. It simply does not fit with the pace of my lifestyle. And maybe that is confrontational

      Thanks for making me look at this differently

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  46. Hi Sandra, yes I have my copy and am about halfway through. Should finish reading in the next day or so. Cheers. Leonie

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  47. Hi Groupreaders,

    Have finished the book and OK to start the discussion when everyone else is ready. Cheers.

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  48. yes, persevering with the book.....I think those of you who saw Spencer Tracey in the role of Old Man have a distinct advantage....

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    1. Sorry that you are not enjoying the book, Madeleine. What is it that you don't like?
      (I wonder if you could hire the movie from your local video rental store, if you think it would help? ) The film, from what I remember, is true to the book.
      Did you enjoy it, Leonie?

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    2. Hi Madeleine,

      It's just a suggestion but thought you might enjoy (or maybe you have already read it) `Angela's Ashes' by Frank McCourt. It won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize, is biographical, and overall thought it was a darn good read.... and resonates loud and clear for anyone steeped in the doctrine of Irish Catholicism. This was McCourt's first book I believe.... and although he had a couple of follow-ups they never really matched `Angela's Ashes'....at times sad but also very funny in places. Cheers.

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    3. Angela's Ashes - I read this a few years ago; certainly a must-read! It tells of shocking poverty, the cruelty of Irish Catholicism which has a lot to answer for even nowadays (as a Roman Catholic myself but not Irish, I am not biased!) How Frank survived childhood is a wonder!

      Delete
  49. Hi Sandra,

    Initially I did struggle and agree that it does have a `fable-like`, even a `parable` like quality to it with much symbolism and metaphor which should enhance discussion. Cheers.

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  50. Just to let you know I' m back from our trip and will probably catch up with the comments over the next few days. Had a great time and the cruise, though long, was filled with fascinating experiences , of which passing through the Panama Canal was probably the most interesting. I read Old Man at school but have totally forgotten it. Maybe I'll join in the next discussion. Cheers to all of you.

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  51. I think my aversion might be to all American authors and their books..... I shall try again
    I admit it is beautifully written - but fishing has never appealed to me.... there are no women in the book.....
    Just one man's stuggles against the Universe

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    1. Hi Madeleine,

      Yes I guess you're right there are no women actively engaged in the plot of the story but believe there are real feminine influences at work in the book. I understand Hemingway was married several times but apart from that I have no real insight into his personal relationships with women but quite like the references he uses. For example in relation to the sea as female

      "They spoke of her as a contestant or a place or even an enemy. But the old man always thought of her as feminine as something that gave or withheld great favours, and if she did wild or wicked thngs it was because she could not help them. The moon affects he as it does a woman, he thought".

      To my way of thinking this passage suggests that Hemingway liked but perhaps realistically found real life relationships with women challenging. Also really liked Santiago's reference to his wife -

      "Once there had been a tinted photograph of his wife on the wall but he had taken it down because it made him too lonely to see it and it was on the shelf in the corner under his clean shirt".

      Suggesting perhaps that Hemingway was capable of caring deeply for a woman (or women)with tenderness on an intimate level....rather than just sexually...

      Other female references 'The Virgin of Cobre', Portuguese man-of-war - which he referred to as "You whore".

      BUT I'VE SAID ENOUGH...Cheers.

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  52. madeleine - I have to agree with you...with a few exceptions I don't like American books - very prejudiced of me I know but there it is, each to his own.

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  53. I have said to myself as did one of Gilbert and Sullivan's charactors
    That book (Man) is a Classic (Duke) and I WILL read (love) it (him)- and borrowed a critique from the library - hope that will help - no good having a Book Club if members don't read the books!

    Angela's Ashes'? Thanks for the hint....

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  54. OK - I am well into 'The Old Man and the Sea' and really enjoying it now. When do we start discussing?

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    1. We can start whenever you are ready but I am intrigued. What changed your opinion of the book?

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  55. I've found the full text online so I can join in too shortly.

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  56. It certainly wasn't Spencer Tracey, Sanmac.... but I read a bit of the critique.... and plowed thru a bit more before starting to enjoy it
    Can't say it will be a favourite, but will say I am intrigued by his writing and may try other of his books
    I am fed up with trying to prove I am NOT a robot!!!!

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    1. Madeleine, you are a member of Bookworm Live! You do not have to prove anything. Just sign in to the site (you have the option to stay signed in) and your details should automatically be there, with no robot test. 'smile'. Thanks for the feedback. Please let me know if there is another irritant.

      Delete
    2. Know exactly what you mean Madeleine.The perservence pays off though doesn't it ................

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  57. Yes, sorry, another. Is there anyway of reversing order of entries? Scrolling through 97 entries is easy enough, but could get very frustrating as time goes on
    Re current read? All waiting for Jaywalker?

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    1. Hi Madeleine, Sorry but unfortunately, the order of comments is set and can't be changed. The last topic appears first on the Home page but comments are listed in order of posting. There's nothing I can do about it. However, I've rewritten (and tested) the instructions on the Info page. Please check it out and let me know if there is anything that was missed.

      We can start the Group Read discussion whenever you are ready to begin. Jaywalker will have no trouble catching up with us.

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  58. I'm half way through so do start.

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  59. Well, first thing I saw that 'jumped out at me was on first page. It said the old man had 'a benevolent skin cancer' and I thought 'the Cancer Council won't like that', but it really puts the book in a bygone era.....
    so if you read it as part of the context of a by gone age its more believable.....
    My impression was the story was 'a bit of whimsey' sort of run up quickly...by the author - for the magazine in which it was first published

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  60. I think I read in 'Paris Wife' that Hemingway was always trying to pare down his writing style to the barest, simplest form. He wanted to create modern fables of American life and perhaps he has succeeded in doing that in this story. The style is certainly that of fable and legend and is not meant to be read literally but rather for the reader to absorb the essence of what he is saying about change, ageing, poverty etc.

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    1. Yes, I picked up on that in McLain's book, too. In my view, he succeeded. For instance, just from the colour of Santiago's eyes, we know that he is an outsider and this is later developed by other characters' reactions to him.

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  61. Thinking the book over again - does the Old Man and his battle with fish and sharks - represent Hemingways own battle with his mental illness? Like his father Hemingway also suicided - I think with a shot gun. Suicide in two generations suggest a genetically transmitted mental illness - such as Bipolar Disease
    The alienation and isolation of the Old Man; his determination to outride the battle with the Fish, and then to fight off the Sharks, may suggest his own battle with his own demons - what do other readers think?

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    1. I hadn't thought in these terms - good point Madeleine. The following quote, then, can be taken two ways -

      'But man is not made for defeat, he said. A man can be destroyed but not defeated. '

      Hemingway destroyed himself, was he defeated?

      There is a theory that he wrote this in response to literary criticism. It was his last book and he was suffering from depression. I'm not sure but I think there was a suicide int the 3rd generation as well.

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    2. Quite correct. A grandaughter , a model, committed suicide also. Very sad.

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  62. Poor man. Being born brillant (in literacy) he also had to suffer the effects of an inherited mental illness

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  63. Interesting Madeleine. Hadn't thought at all about this book being a statement about Hemingways own battle with his personal demons......

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  64. Its only a thought. But I have doubts he could get so much emotion into the Old Man's fight without relating it to some personal issue. The critique I borrowed from the library doesn't say that, however....

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  65. I was struck by the old man's perseverance (84 days) and determination (going out so far) and strength! With a handline in a rowboat, even if the line was as thick as a pencil. Have you seen those game fishing shows on TV? They are strapped in a chair and sometimes work in relays.

    The critique I read emphasised the religious references. Most passed me by. Did anyone feel Hemingway had something to say here?

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    1. Think I better write something re: Our group read before I forget what it was about and have to read it again. This is my first Hemingway read but over the years have heard much about Hemingway with his fishin', shootin', big game huntin', deep-sea fishin', hard drinkin', a man's man lifestyle but it's only through a bit more research related to this read that I discovered he was also pretty religious.....And yes I thought there were many religious references throughout the book and basically saw most of the novella as largely metaphorical.

      For example the first paragraph of the story refers to "But 40 days without a fish". The number 40 is mentioned many times throughout the bible i.e. 40 days of lent; Jesus was tempted for 40 days and 40 nights in the deset by the devil to name a couple, and the references to `fish' and 'ocean' are commonplace in biblical stories. i.e. The parable of the `Loaves and the fishes'; 'Jesus calms and walks on the water'; The fish symbol used by the early Christians as a safe and discreet form of recognition with others of their faith.

      Also thought the relationship between Santiago and Manolin had much of the `messiah/disciple dynamic' rather than the young boy simply feeling pity and affection in what he does for him, and seems to have more of a serving and seeking guidance feel to it. And like a few other references I saw about here and there and saw much of the monastic in Santiago's way of life ....i.e. Poverty, fasting, self-discipline. A world without women. Being part of something, and in this case the fishing community he lives in, but still somehow isolated and on the margins, never quite understood by the other fishermen. Also saw a reference to the Christ's crucifixion being seen in the boat's mast being carried up the hill by Santiago to his hut in much the same way as Jesus carried his cross to Calvary.

      But anyway these are some of the religious references I noticed here and there throughout the story.

      Delete
  66. I did not pick up on the religious references, other than the regular reminders that man and the fruits of the sea ( nature ) are one. Santiago is constantly talking to nature as equals :the fish, birds, himself, marlin, even his injured hand.At one stage he even calls the marlin his brother. "But I have killed this fish which is my brother and now I must do the slave work"

    I wondered if the lions on the beach that Santiago was constantly dreaming about were religious connotations because I had no other idea of their place in the novella . Any input here please ?

    As for the quote " But man is not made for defeat, he said.A man can be destroyed but not defeated".

    Santiago is one tough cookie. He is elderly, he has minimal and basic fishing equipment only, it appears that he eats only thanks to the benevolence of the boy, ( or raw fish when out on the sea), and his needs are few.However, in his struggle with the marlin he does not give up.He does not give up when the sharks eat the marlin. He continues to fight on. He refuses to be defeated.He returns to port without his catch but is undefeated.

    Santiago talks to himself "You did not kill the fish only to keep alive and to sell for food, he thought.You killed him for pride and because you are a fisherman.You loved him when he was alive and loved him after".

    This centres around the human spirit not being defeated.

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  67. The critique I have says quite a bit about religious inferences... but of interest to me is the socio economic times it portrays - when fishing was divided between the traditional fisherman with a skill passed down thru generations - and the new fishing industry growing up where entrails and other parts of marine life were needed for industry.
    It is set in Cuba - so the Old Man's religious beliefs would (possibly) be expected in an uneducated fisherman
    Book also mentions Hemingway was ingaged in Marlin fishing for a while - as was his Dad

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  68. Is it a very masculine book? The themes of pride, and struggle with nature, and having enemies to defeat and kill all seem very male oriented to me.

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  69. having never been a male I really can't answer that.... but I can't imagine any woman being prepared to battle as did the Old Man

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    Replies
    1. I don't know. Reckon Gina Rhineheart might give it her best shot!!!!

      I don't think its a masculine book. Santiago certainly shows his feminine side with regards to nature - the birds, fish, turtles, dolphins

      Delete
    2. Hi Moi,

      Interesting thought re: The link between nature and Santiago's feminine side. Basically though I saw Hemingway using Santiago's awareness of and participation in nature as a way of dismissing the petty in people's lives. No petty gossip or small talk among the novella's characters. e.g.

      "It was considered a virtue not to talk unneccessarily at sea and the old man had always considered it so and respected it".

      Kind of saw Santiago regarding the ocean with reverence almost as though he was in a 'holy place'.

      The weather, the ocean, the birds, animals, are recounted in detail suggesting perhaps that we are part, or be it a small part of something greater. And this connection/interaction with nature requires respect, skill and intelligence....all of which Santiago brings to the challenge of catching the marlin (the marlin being a metaphor for life) and working with the elements. Hope this makes sense.

      BUT I'VE SAID ENOUGH. Cheers.

      Delete
  70. I suppose it is male orientated (aren't all of Hemingway's books?)however, it doesn't seem to me to be a book for the boys. It is man against nature, in one sense, but it is more meditative than action. The themes are universal and Hemingway uses an 'old man' to illustrate them. You might enjoy it, Jaywalker.

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  71. Moi, the lions on the beach reference is not really clear to me either. It recurs in the book, so it must have significance. Perhaps it's a pointer to the natural world of survival or the life/death cycle? Maybe it's Santiago's idea of an idyllic life? What does everyone else think?

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  72. I have finished reading it sanmac - or rereading it - although I can barely remember it from Uni days. It's not my personal cup of tea, Hemingway never was, but I can see the literary merit in it.

    I found this on the internet.

    This passage, which describes Santiago’s dreams on the night before he sets out for his fishing expedition (the first day that the narrative covers), simultaneously confirms and moves beyond Hemingway’s immediately recognizable vision of the universe. Hemingway made his career telling stories about “great occurrences,” “great fish,” and “contests of strength.” The fact that Santiago no longer dreams of any of these makes him unique among Hemingway’s heroes. Of course, by dreaming of lions he is still in a recognizably “Hemingwayesque” world, but the lions here are at play and thus suggest a time of youth and ease. They are also linked explicitly to Manolin, a connection that is made apparent at the end of the novel as the boy watches over his aged friend as Santiago’s dream of the lions returns.

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  73. Hi Jaywalker and all,

    Thanks for that passage and also thought the 'Lions on the Beach' reference was linked to Santiago's memories of youth - playfulness, vigour, good health, virility, even dominance perhaps.

    And this may be myth more than fact but have heard that the aging brain often retains good and accurate youthful memories because our brains are in good shape when these experiences occur and have a more lasting impact on the brain. Whereas short term memory loss is common in the elderly because the aging brain is unable to retain experiences that occur in old age. My 88 year old father lives in a nursing home and suffers from short term memory loss and often struggles to remember our names but can often recount in pretty good detail experiences of his youth and childhood.

    Perhaps this sort of explains on some level the clarity of Santiago's memories, and in the process reveals Hemmingway's insightful grasp on the aging process...Just a thought. Cheers.

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  74. There have been very interesting comments and points which I had not considered. Thank you. Is it time for a summing up Madeleinea?

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  75. Yup -sum up by all means.....

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    1. Well, although it took a while for us to get into the book but, after discussion, most of us enjoyed Hemingway's tale.
      And there was much to discuss, apart from the events: the religious symbolism, the themes of pride and honour, the references to Nature and, not least, the writing style. I really enjoyed your responses. You've given me much to ponder and it's made the book unforgettable. Thank you.

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  76. I must admit 'Farewell to Arms' and 'The sun also rises' are now on my reading list - despite the fact I didn't think I liked American writers.
    And No Sanmac - I am no longer asked to prove I am NOT a robot, Still finding it tedious to scroll down, however....
    What's next for The Book Club?

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    Replies
    1. I am pleased that you enjoyed Hemingway enough to add more of him to your list, Madeleine. I hope that your list is not as long as mine!

      As for our next read, a crime novel has been suggested as a change of genre. This year's contenders for the Crime Writers' Association "Golden Dagger" awards are listed on Bookworm under 'Award Winners' (Sept 1). The only one I have read is 'Bereft', which is not what is generally expected as a crime novel.

      Perhaps our 'Queen of Crime', Jaywalker :P, has a suggestion?

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    2. Madeleine

      I agree- beaut that you are now comfortable with reading more Hemingway.

      "The Sun Also Rises" was turned into a movie back in the late 1950's. Probably not that true to the book but it was one of Errol Flynn's last acting efforts, and although he was unwell and no longer considered the pretty boy, the role was considered was one of his best acting efforts.

      Delete
  77. What about the brand new Ruth Rendell - The Saint Zita Society. I have just bought it and haven't started it yet. BigW and Target has it for about $20 and I would think libraries would have it or it's available as an ebook for $23 from Bookworld or £8.75 from amazon.uk

    She is an easy read but often has subtle things to say about society and modern life.

    or alternatively, a Scandinavian "noir" crime novel of which there are many, not just Stieg Larsson. A Norwegian woman writer who is well thought of is Anne Holt:

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=anne+holt&x=0&y=0

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  78. I'm happy with any of those,,,,,

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  79. Happy to go with the flow. May I say its a bit of fun to change genres....Looking forward to the read

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  80. Shall we go with the Ruth Rendell then? Probably easy for us all to find.

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  81. St Zita it is!

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  82. In that case here is a very interesting article about her.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/donotmigrate/3640185/Her-dark-materials.html

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  83. I'm in - have never read any Ruth Rendell....but good with `The Saint Zita's Society'. Cheers.

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  84. I've ordered my copy. I like Rendell and am looking forward to the change of genre.

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  85. I've read the first chapter and won't tell you anything except that I think the term 'area' used in reference to old London houses is the bit of space underneath the front steps and in front of the basement window below street level. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong because I'm not totally certain and can't find it by googling.

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  86. Off to purchase book tomorrow. ...

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  87. yes, I have my copy... took some tracking down as Target and QBD didn't have it - was just about to get the energy to go into Big W in town... when I found it at K-Mart
    $23... but worth it I'd say....I will now start my reading....

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  88. Jaywalker - thank you. A delightful, humorous novel which is easy to read and hard to put down. Really enjoying it!

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  89. Pleased you're enjoying it. You would like her previous one too......The Vault.

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  90. The first chapter reads like a logic puzzle :)Do you know the ones I mean? It's an observation, not a criticism. The layout of the street and who is in which house must be important to solving the crime. Here I am in solution mode and the crime has not yet been committed. Good choice Jaywalker. Leonie, Moi, are you with us?

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  91. You're right sanmac - and some books have a map of the town or village or houses involved in the plot and perhaps this one should have had too but then again it's a good exercise for the imagination.

    I did think I might google for a photo of a London square which might look a bit like this on and post it here.

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  92. If any of you have Google Earth Street View on your computer put Albert Place, Kensington, London into the search and I think it's pretty close to what Hexam Place might look like.

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  93. I started to draw up my own 'who lives where' and 'what do they do there' but it all started falling into place....
    This is a satire? Is it not? And the snobbishness is delightfully awful!

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  94. Yes, I think Rendell is giving us her version of the modern day "Upstairs/Downstairs" which is what it must be like in wealthy inner London leafy suburbs now - au pairs from Spain, Muslim nannies, Jamaican cleaners and African chauffeurs. You just can't get nice little English working class girls into service anymore!!!!

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  95. Very foreign environment to me. As far as I know Nannies and Carers for the Aged are usually the only 'live in staff' common in Australia. A very few may have housekeepers.....Of the ones I know Nannies are employed where the mother is a professional person returning to work, and with a few too many children to make Child Care a reasonable option.
    Housekeeper? I have no skills in housework and would love one. Any offers? But I don't have the money. even employed, to hire one
    Carers? Usually poverty stricken.....existing on the Carer's pension.....
    Certainly there is little that is servile amongst the hospitality staff in this book...and after dark barriers don't really exist do they?

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  96. You're right - it's a very different world from Australia. I've walked round some of these areas in London - Kensington, Chelsea, Hampstead, Holland Park - and the money in those suburbs is palpable. They are MPs, top lawyers and medical specialists, bankers, diplomats or "something in the city" as is sometimes said. London is another world when it comes to wealth and power.

    In the interview with Rendell it mentions that now she is a Life Peer she goes to the House of Lords every sitting day so she certainly has first hand knowledge.

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  97. Many year ago - when Whitlam ruled the States I was lucky enough to go to University. I was in my early 30s, but us mature aged students were not valued by our lecturers - who liked them young and charming!
    I fell into Sociology - a nice easy discipline. We were taught dogmatically that Social Class depended on Education, Occupation and Income. I had my own ideas, but unless we gave whjat was expected we were failed.. ruthlessly.
    This book is a perfect example of how that classification works out: Dr Jefferies - from an impoverished background to a large income via a Degree in Medicine. Preston Still - lots of dough and probably the education.The Princess - bloody snob; Studley? Am MP. Are any of them really upper middle class? More like rabble to me.
    Thea - a secretary - who reports she cannot be a servant - she has a degree!

    The snobbery in the book is marvellous - I love it

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  98. Ah Ah... working now. Com'on Sanmac Mo and everyone else. I am sick of doing a lot of analysis on my own. Or am I appropaching this discussion the wrong way? Never been in a book club before. Sanmac perhaps we need some rules

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    1. Ah, Madeleine, the only rule is that there are no rules. (Who said that?) Your comments are spot-on - to the point and interesting. I love hearing others' opinions; they often show a different perspective. I googled reading guides and found a list of general points to consider when reviewing. It may be of help.

      http://www.bookbrowse.com/bookclubs/advice/index.cfm/fuseaction/diy_guides

      Most publishers produce a reading guide, with questions specific to the book but I couldn't find one on The Saint Zita Society. Here is one on Hemingway to give you an idea.

      http://readersplace.co.uk/view-reading-guide/the-old-man-and-the-sea/

      When you read them you will discover that you have been discussing 'the right way' all along!

      Delete
  99. Well, I was expecting a whodunit and spent the first part of the book looking for clues, trying to sort out the 'logic' puzzle and expecting Inspector Wexford to arrive. Instead, Rendell relates the events as they happen in an almost Maeve Binchy style. Her characters are somewhat one dimensional (it's the genre) but we fully understand their motivation. Like Madeleine, I enjoyed the gentle satire of the English 'upper class' and could recognise the 'types' she was lampooning. Was she not also 'having a go' at the celebrity cult? The portrayal of the tension between the 'toffs' and their employees was realistic. I smiled at Henry's predicament but thought the black comedy of transporting Rad around the countryside was a bit heavy-handed. Rendell reflected England's multiculturalism and individual stories, such as Rabia's, were interesting. I did notice that all of the 'elite' were English. Perhaps the plight of Dex is an example of the British Health system. There was a lot packed into that small volume.

    Thanks, Jaywalker, for the Google Earth link. It fitted exactly. I remember from my travels that English pubs are often only as big as our small coffee shops.

    Slightly off the topic, Rendell also writes as Barbara Vine. Can anyone explain how the Vine books differ?

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  100. I agree with both of you in your comments above. This is not the best of Rendell's writing - hate to think age may be encroaching but she has definitely written better ones. However, that said, I did enjoy it and the snobbery is wonderful as madeleine said.

    I've read most of her Barbara Vine books and they tend to be more "in depth" psychological dramas where there is sometimes a crime but not always and it isn't the raison d'etre for the novel. If you both liked this I'd strongly suggest you read one of her Vine novels. She's written 15 as BV and I just noticed there is a new one out this year.

    Class snobbery is much more alive and well in the UK than Australia, where it tends to be only about money and education - here it's all about being able to afford a top private school while in the UK that won't always overcome family background even nowadays. And I do agree that the moving of Rad's body WAS a bit heavy handed and not up to her usual standard. Her last one The Vault which was a 'Wexford in retirement ' plot was better.

    She just about touched on every social problem Britain has - immigration, racism, class distinction, gay relationships, politics, aged care, mental health - I'm sure sitting in the House of Lords broadens one awareness of such things.

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  101. I find her portrait of some characters delightful. Montserrat for example - naive, sheltered life; ignorant of the male sex - but especially delightful in her thinking... she cannot be friends with Thea if Thea marries Jimmy....because if she marries Preston he wouldn't like mixing with a servant (Jimmy)
    This is typical of sociological thinking as to class. I couldn't believe it when I was trying to become a person in my own right to be told - 'a woman's class depends on her husbands'... and when I asked about divorced or widowed women I got the same answer...
    Never asked what they did with the single women...

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  102. I have finished the book, and have some criticisms of it - but will wait until everybody has finished before airing them. I always feel anyway if someone has the talent to write a book, who am I as a reader to criticise? Must get over that.

    Its very much in British style to write about social problems, isn't it Jaywalker? I was an avid fan of Charles Dickens from an early age.

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  103. madeleine - as I said above I felt it wasn't her best book by any means. Many of her earlier ones have been better plotted so don't worry about criticism. I think her characters are all fascinating and she creates a wonderful picture of one little enclave in London but the plot was definitely weak.

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  104. I found the way it ended heavy with sarcasm - or is it irony? June becomes a member of the elite with loads of money. Jimmy becomes a 'housemate' for Dr Jefferson. Henry literally falls on his feet - but is he to keep up with Lord Stuckly's wife in his new - obviously going to be privledged existence. Dex will of course be incarcerated again - but will his quality of life be any different than his presently dim witted existence?
    Look, I enjoyed the book. The plot was there and very obvious to me, but it unfolded late I thought, the first two thirds of the book being concerned with 'charactor' drawings.
    Thanks Jaywalker - she is also on my list for further readings. You are all talking me out of further boring study and into a world of unfetted enjoyment

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  105. C'mon, Leonie and Mo - you must have some very valid criticisms....

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    Replies
    1. Perhaps we should consider a new 'group read'? Are there any suggestions for a book or genre? Thanks to Jaywalker for Rendell; she gave an insight into British society and there was much to discuss.

      Delete
  106. Ita Buttrose and Elton John have biographies on the shelves.
    Historical novels another choice? But I am not up to date on any good such novelists

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    Replies
    1. Shall we start a new group read now, or wait a bit? Please, can we have a 'show of hands' from those interested in continuing?

      Delete
    2. Hi Sandra,

      Got a few time consuming but unexpected commitments over the next 6- 7 weeks or so and will probably be pretty busy. So in my case would prefer to wait for a bit in relation to the next group read.....but that's just me and understand others may be keen on another group read at this time.

      Despite that still really enjoy reading about what others have read, sharing ideas, photos, opinions, and reading the writing of other Bookworm members. Cheers for now.

      Leonie

      Delete
    3. Leonie, Thanks for letting us know. Do pop in when you can. Take care, and be careful not to run yourself ragged. I'll keep in touch.

      Delete
  107. Doesn't seem much interest any more does there? Your choice, Sandra

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  108. My apologies girls (and boys). Had a couple of frantic weeks with work and assignments due for study. Back on top of all that I think. Work is about to get busy again, and I have taken on more study, but hey, life's like that.....Will manage.

    Bring it on.......

    And just managed to get through my other book club committment . 800 pages of "A Game of Thrones". Now 800 pages is a big committment girls (and boys).

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    Replies
    1. Good one, Moi! It must be your turn to choose our book. Please, not an 800 page tome!

      I've not read Martin and am eagerly awaiting your review. :)

      Delete
  109. After 800 odd pages I'm going to suggest a lighter read : Its Raining in Mango by Thea Astley. The book is set in North Queensland , written by an Aussie, and is part of the Penquin classics so can be picked up new for around $10.

    What does Team Bookworm think ?

    As for "The Game of Thrones". Not my genre, and the first few chapters were a real hurdle, with imaginery creatures and references to long ago times.I must admit that I nearly threw the towel in on several occassions.Just a few whinges along the way hey JohnN ?

    Sixty pages in and I was hooked. An epic tale, great story telling, lots of action and thoroughly enjoyed it. Have purchased Book 2 (of 6)Looking for a cheap copy of Book 3....................

    Ummm, I did tell my Bookclub friends over a G @ T that Mr Martin had not reinvented the wheel but a good read and great escapist stuff.

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    Replies
    1. Sounds like it is well worth reading. (That's two recommendations - yours and John's.) At 800 pages, I might have to wait for my holidays and, like you, I'll want to read all in the series. So many books.....so little time.

      Delete
  110. I just googled and I can get it for my e-reader for $7.99 from Dymocks so that's fine with me.

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  111. Good choice,Moi!. I like Astley and 'It's Raining in Mango' is on my to-be-read shelf. I'm ready to go.

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  112. I have just got 3 Ruth Rendall's from library (not knowing of any other authors 'light' enough to entetain my boring days)
    I have ordered an ebook reader - it hasn't come yet
    But - difficulties aside I am happy to read suggested book and am especially pleased it is set in Queensland and by an Aussie

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    Replies
    1. With 3 Rendell's and the group read, I know what you'll be doing in the next couple of weeks. :) Which reader did you order? I've just acquired a Sony.
      'Raining in Mango' promises to be interesting. I've read only the first few pages and am not yet comfortable with Astley's style, however, it bodes well.

      Delete
  113. I've read the first few pages too and am surprised that I am 'taking to it' better than I anticipated.

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  114. Have you read Joanne Trollope, madeleine? Light reading but very accurate accounts of modern society, families, relationships. She is the great-granddaughter of Anthony Trollope and she writes well but a very easy style. With your sociology background I think you would find her insights fascinating. She's written 21 so far so if you like them they will keep you going for a while!

    http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/t/joanna-trollope/

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  115. thanks, Jaywalker.. will put Ms Trollope on my list

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    Replies
    1. Joanna Trollope is one of my favourite authors too!

      Delete
  116. So, Group Readers, a little interesting background on Thea Astley before we go any further (with thanks to Wikipeadia).




    Thea Astley (25 August 1925 – 17 August 2004) was an Australian novelist and short story writer. She was a prolific writer who was published for over 40 years from 1958. At the time of her death, she had won more Miles Franklin Awards, Australia's major literary award, than any other writer. As well as being a writer, she taught at all levels of education - primary, secondary and tertiary.
    Born in Brisbane and educated at All Hallows' School, Astley studied arts at the University of Queensland then trained to become a teacher. After marrying in 1948, she moved to Sydney where she taught at various high schools, as well as kept up with her writing. She tutored at Macquarie University from 1968 to 1980, before retiring to write full time, at which time she and her husband moved to Kuranda in North Queensland. In the late 1980s they moved to Nowra on the NSW South Coast, and, after her husband's death in 2003, she moved to Byron Bay to be near her only child.
    It has been said that "in person and in print, the chain-smoking Astley was unsentimental, wickedly funny and yet had a deep kindness and a loathing of injustice towards Aborigines, underdogs and misfits"
    Astley's novels won four Miles Franklin Awards and in 1989 the author won the Patrick White Award for services to Australian literature and was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Queensland. Much of her writing, which draws heavily from her early childhood, is set in Queensland, which she has described as "the place where the tall yarn happens, where it is lived out by people who are the dramatis personae of the tall yarns.

    So Group Readers , have we all made a start on "Its Raining In Mango " yet?

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    1. I've just realised that, as the novel was published in 1987, Astley was writing during what I remember as the long lead-up to the Bicentenary celebrations. (I may be slow, but I get there.)

      Delete
  117. Moving on, I would like to put two things to the Group for consideration.....

    1) What do you think of Astley's writing style in this novel? Do you agree that she writes without sentimentality ?

    and

    2) What do you get from the title of the novel ?

    Happy reading .....

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    Replies
    1. That's right, Moi, let's jump right in. Good points!

      1a) Her style took some getting used to but after 20 or 30 pages, I was into the swing of it. I like it - she gets to the nitty-gritty straight away. Nothing is superfluous.

      1b) No. Although she writes in a straight forward manner, reporting 'facts' as it were, there is no doubt of her own opinions and sentiments. She doesn't dwell or judge incidents in the book but she presents them in such a way that the reader is persuaded to agree with her.

      2) Not a lot, so far. It could be a literal reference to the wet season or figuratively to bad times, as in 'rainy days'. There is a chapter with that title, so I expect that there'll be more clues in that.

      Another point for consideration

      3) What are your thoughts on the novel's structure? Do you think it adds to or detracts from the overall success of the book?

      Great choice, Moi

      Delete
  118. Will start this week - busy with nose in "The Vault' at present

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  119. Nose is now out of 'The Vault'
    BUT I cannot locate the book.... Brisbane Library has only an audiotape..... Librarians tell me the book is 'to old'

    With so many Bookstores closed in Brisbane I now don't know where to look.... can someone help?

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  120. My nose is now out of 'The vault'

    BUT I am unable to access Astley's book - Brisbane Libraries have nothing but an audiotape
    And so many bookstores have closed I don't know where to find a copy (it is OLD)
    Anyone help?

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  121. As a last resort you might be able to download it on to,your PC if you don't mind reading it from your screen. It was only 7.99 as an ebook.

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  122. Angus and Robinson have it as an ePub file which you can download and read on any screen. You can Google their website.

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  123. Hi Jaywalker - and thanks. Got the Penguin Book thru Angus and Robertson at $8.99
    Due to arrive mid next week.
    ebook reader is taking some time to arrive - but don't mind the extra dollar

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  124. That's good. I've only read the first 47 pages so far - must make time to read more but other things keep intervening.

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  125. My copy has arrivd. Looks interesting. Will start it this weekend

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  126. I have finished reading am am looking forward to the discussion. :)

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  127. Yes, I too have finished this book.Found that although the first chapters were a bit of a hard slog, mainly because of Astley's writing style,I did get into the story and wanted to find out what happened to the family.

    So :
    1) I agree Sanmac, I think although Astley's style is concise and straight to the point, she does make it clear what her values are in regards to issues, particularly the indigenous situation in the early days of Australia's colonisation. I do not believe this makes her sentimental at all. This book also includes other issues : homsexuality, the place of religion,the place of women,unwed mothers.Astley reflects on society's values of the past in a direct and factual manner . There is nil sentimentality in her writing.

    2) The structure of the book. Battled with this for a short while because I found it quite different.Most generational books are 800 pages long ( sarcastic reference to Game of Thrones, but you get my drift).But this made the story telling quick and without peripheryl information that can sometimes just be a page filler.Thus I found it worked.

    3)It's Raining In Mango. Like the title: evocative of hot humid summers in North Queensland.Immediately sets the scene. I have suffered from those summers: there is nothing quite like the humidity of Cairns in October.....

    It is a soft title, an evocative title, and whilst Billy Mumbler is in gaol he receives a letter from his mum with all the faily news, none of it happy news and primarily as a result of their indigenous socioeconomic demographic. The only good, or seemingly positive news contained in this letter, is the weather report from Mango.The tragedy being that of course when Billy Mumbler returns home to Mango, the world has not changed, the situation has not changed, and there is still not a positive or happy vibe.


    How are the rest of the team going ?????


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  128. I'm 3/4 of way through it and I totally agree about the style...I like it....concise, precise, unadorned but surprisingly evocative. I didn't have any trouble with the way the story is developed, It seemed to go well with her prose style...no messing about, just very effective pulling along of the storyline. She is quite proactive and more contemporary than I had expected. Will,finish soon and get back.

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  129. i am eagerly devouring the book,
    The early pages I found the use of 'flowery adjectives' a bit hard to take, but that settled down later.
    I find it a 'sad' book, writing about the worst of our early days - the poverty, lack of education, prostitution,(and the exploitation that went with it), policy of protectionism and its effects on both indigenous and white people. It certianly hasn't raised my spirits at all.. (like Ruth Rendall does) but it is a worthwhile read.
    Does it do anything else but rain in Mango Country?

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  130. I just reread my comment and i meant to type - provocative, not pro-active!! And I agree it's not a happy book although somehow the human spirit does shine through and there is humour in it in flashes.

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    Replies
    1. The human spirit does shine through amongst all the sadness. And there is sadness, but wouldn't a lot of that be a product of the time you think ? Accidents on the land, flu epidemics etc.

      None of the characters seem to lead a joyful life, do they, although Jessica appears to have a happy time running her pub.Interestingly, this happiness doesn't seem to last long as once retired she seems to become a "grumpy old woman".

      What do you think ?

      Delete
  131. Family - rather haphazard don't you think? No signs of a dynasty forming -

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  132. Interesting comment about the lack of dynasty forming in this novel, Madeleinea

    Drownings, accidents on the land (fencing), flu epidemics were all major causes of death in Australia's early days without modern medicine.

    I would have to agree with you.

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  133. But even if you haven't experienced any of these things, I found myself deeply empathising with the characters. I felt so sad for both Connie and Will and their loneliness and isolation and felt like smacking the hippy family who had such hypocritical values and morals. Astley certainly has the power to move the emotions.

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  134. Structure (see Moi - I kept your question to the fore) is very loose - a list of memories of an old lady tied loosely together by a mythical family......
    And education in the latter years - boarding school from Connie and Will down, and Uni for Reefter - is prominent. Were bush families rich enough to afford such luxuries.....
    But - a very gripping well written story

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  135. Boarding school and uni? - yes, because they were Catholic, even if lapsed ones, and in those days the Church would provide, and did. I actually thought the structure was clever as it gave you different viewpoints of the same people and events yet led the storyline on. I didn't feel it was loose but a quite deliberate style of presenting the events and characters over a long period of time yet constantly linking and overlapping them which is what happens in real life.

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