Sunday, February 13, 2011

February 2011 Book Club

Summary: It is 1998, the year in which America is whipped into a frenzy of prurience by the impeachment of a president, and in a small New England town, an aging classics professor, Coleman Silk, is forced to retire when his colleagues decree that he is a racist. The charge is a lie, but the real truth about Silk would have astonished even his most virulent accuser.

Coleman Silk has a secret, one which has been kept for fifty years from his wife, his four children, his colleagues, and his friends, including the writer Nathan Zuckerman. It is Zuckerman who stumbles upon Silk's secret and sets out to reconstruct the unknown biography of this eminent, upright man, esteemed as an educator for nearly all his life, and to understand how this ingeniously contrived life came unraveled. And to understand also how Silk's astonishing private history is, in the words of
The Wall Street Journal, "magnificently" interwoven with "the larger public history of modern America." -- Vintage

A few days ago, my book club met to discuss THE HUMAN STAIN by Philip Roth. I have to be honest -- it wasn't my favorite book. It was a terribly difficult read for me and I'm still debating if I will even review it. I'm kind of done with it already, but I will say that I'm very proud of myself for finishing it when I really wanted to quit.

Because THE HUMAN STAIN was such a tedious book, I was very curious to see how many of us would actually finish it. I was pleasantly surprised that the majority of us did. (I think that's really saying something about the awesomeness of my friends!) Most of us didn't really appreciate Mr. Roth's writing style; however, two members kind of liked the novel -- or at least liked parts of the story.

Despite my misgivings about THE HUMAN STAIN, I thought our discussion was excellent. There is no doubt that there is a great deal to discuss within the pages this novel. And maybe that's the beauty of this story -- it did make us think about human nature. Having said that, I still didn't enjoy the book. But I did enjoy our discussion!

Next month we will be reading a book that I'm very excited about -- MAJOR PETTIGREW'S LAST STAND by Helen Simonson. I have been wanting to read this book for quite awhile and I love that I now have an excuse to read it! I'm pretty sure it will be a hit with our group and I have to think that it's a lighter read than THE HUMAN STAIN. For that reason alone, I'm pretty sure we'll all appreciate it!

Summary: In the small village of Edgecombe St. Mary in the English countryside lives Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), the unlikely hero of Helen Simonson’s wondrous debut. Wry, courtly, opinionated, and completely endearing, the Major leads a quiet life valuing the proper things that Englishmen have lived by for generations: honor, duty, decorum, and a properly brewed cup of tea. But then his brother’s death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. Drawn together by their shared love of literature and the loss of their spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. But village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and regarding her as the permanent foreigner. Can their relationship survive the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of culture and tradition? -- Random House


Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

I tried to get into The Human Stain and could not read much. I think I finally gave it away. I have also tried a few other Roth books. I have been able to finish two, but I can't say that most of his underlying themes and choice of topic appeal to me very much.

bermudaonion said...

Too bad it was so difficult to finish - at least it made for a good discussion. I've never tried any of Roth's work.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I have to say I pretty much despise Philip Roth! He's way to misogynist and scatological for me.

I loved Pettigrew though! :--)

Beth Hoffman said...

*sigh* Roth isn't for me either.

Rebecca Rasmussen said...

To be honest, I couldn't even watch that movie, though I have enjoyed other Roth pieces.

Yay for Major Pettigrew though!

Amy said...

I read The Human Stain several years ago and didn't care for it. It sounded like such an interesting, good story but it was dry & tedious.

The Human Stain wasn't the first Roth book I tried to read. There have been several others and although I read more of some than others, I have yet to finish one simply because there's nothing engaing about them as far as I'm concerned. I know people who rave about Roth's work but I've pretty much given up I'm sorry to say!

Your next Book club pick, Major Pettigrew couldn't be more different I'd imagine. I haven't read it yet but all of the reviews are fantastic!

Marg said...

The good thing about Major Pettigrew is that it is a fun read and you should get lots of discussion out of it as well!