Book Club bytes

06 May

Again, I’ve fallen behind on reviewing the books my book clubs have discussed.  I’m catching up with mini reviews and book club notes on each of them.  I’m starting with my Book Club M.

ZeitounZeitoun by Dave Eggers

was our book for February.  It’s the true story of a man who stayed to help during/after Hurricane Katrina, and the way he (and others) were treated.

My thoughts:

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

It’s a story that deserved to be told. It was an interesting tale. I enjoyed it, and was glad I read it.

However, the delivery of the story seemed flat. I’m not sure if the blame is more with the audiobook narrator or the word choice of the author. I’m guessing it is a little of both, with the author having more of an issue.

I’d have liked it more if the story had been a little wider, and if Zeitoun and family didn’t seem quite so perfect.

Club thoughts:

I was sick, so wasn’t there.  One other member was sick as well, which left a very small group to discuss the book.  From their comments afterward, I think they all liked it more than I did.  It sounds like they didn’t find a lot to talk about, although that might have changed if I was there, since I may have added a different viewpoint on Zeitoun.

Loving Frank

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

was our March book.  The book was based on the relationship between Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Borthwick Cheney.

My thoughts:

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought that this book sounded interesting, but I was wary of reading it– I usually find plots involving infidelity hard to sympathize with. In this case, it didn’t get in my way.  I enjoyed it, in spite of characters making decisions that made no sense to me personally (but were consistent with their personalities).

Club thoughts:

We had a good conversation on Loving Frank.

We enjoyed discussing the how much of this book was based on fact.  Several of us had gone to do some research before the meeting, since none of us were familiar with the events mentioned, or even with Frank Lloyd Wright’s work. In particular, none of us saw the ending coming. We were interested to know that the book follows the historical record, as far as it exists. Although some aspects of Wright’s life are well documented, there isn’t a much about Mamah Cheney.

It was interesting to examine how the attitudes of the time influenced the events of the book: if there was not expected for woman to marry, would the situations of the book have arisen in the first place?  Did this in any way excuse Mamah’s behaviour? How much could we understand, even if not forgive? Why did the other characters behave in the ways they did?

This is a case where we had a good discussion even though we all enjoyed the book. I know of other people who didn’t like it, and I can understand that.  I think the book can lead to a good conversation either way.

Making It Up Making It Up by Penelope Lively

was under discussion in May.

My thoughts:

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The concept of this book grabbed me right away:  Look back at your life.  Pick a point in the past.  What if something had gone differently at that point?

I still love the concept, but the execution isn’t what I’d hoped for.  It was often difficult to tell which character was supposed to be the author, and what the changes were from her life.  Often, her character was a very, very minor player in the story.

Taken as short stories, several of them were very captivating, although others were unmemorable.

I’d like to read another book by Lively, but I can see why this book was tricky to find.

Club thoughts:

I’d say the group as a whole would agree with what I wrote above.  We were all disappointed in the book. We had trouble discussing more than a few of the stories, because they had faded from memory after a few days.  (There were a couple that worked well for some of us, and we did spend time on them.)

In spite of this, we had a great meeting, because it led to discussion of turning points in our own lives.    If this appeals to you as a way to spend a book club meeting, I’d recommend this book.

Up Next

For the book club, we are discussing The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood this month, followed by The House on Fortune Street by Margot Livesey and  The Soloist by Steve Lopez. I aim to catch up on my other book club’s picks next week.

What has your book club been reading?  Tell me here, or leave a link to a post in your blog.


Posted by on May 6, 2010 in Book Club, books, L, M, reviews


Tags: , , , , , , ,

7 responses to “Book Club bytes

  1. Aarti

    May 6, 2010 at 11:45 am

    I feel like your book club chooses almost exclusively from my wish list and TBR piles! I have been on the lookout for both Zeitoun and Making it Up, so I’m sad you didn’t particularly enjoy either of them. Zeitoun sounds like another Eggers’ book, What is the What. Have you read that one? It’s about Sudan and is quite good.

    • Laura at Im Booking It

      May 6, 2010 at 2:35 pm

      I didn’t dislike either book!

      I think I had too much of an image in my mind as to what Making it Up was going to be. Maybe if I didn’t have as many expectations, I don’t know.

      Thinking about it, I’m wondering if part of my problem with Zeitoun was that it didn’t adapt well to audio. Everyone else in my book club really enjoyed it, even if it didn’t lead to a lot of discussion. I think the story is really worth reading, my problems were all with the delivery.

      I read What is the What with my other book club. I liked it more than Zeitoun– it seemed more balanced. I didn’t love it, either, though.

  2. Kari

    May 6, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    Based on the cover of Zeitoun, I would’ve bet money it was a graphic novel. Whoops. Guess that’s just Eggers style.

    I read The Blind Assassin a couple years ago. People seem to love Atwood—and that book—but I found it sooooooo boring and blehhhhh. I’ll be interested to see what you and your book club think.

    • Laura at Im Booking It

      May 6, 2010 at 2:31 pm

      I’m having a really hard time getting into The Blind Assassin, sigh. I’d actually read it for my other book club when it first came out, and all I remember is that I didn’t really like it. I’d hoped I’d do better with it this time around!

  3. Lisa

    May 6, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    Our group had a great discussion about Loving Frank, too. I thought the book dragged — particularly in the middle section but it was such an interesting story.

  4. Meg

    May 7, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    The premise of Making It Up is really interesting — sorry it didn’t quite live up to expectations! I’ve looked at Loving Frank for years but have yet to pick it up… like you said, I find it hard to sympathize with main characters who are cheaters, even if they have their “reasons,” etc. (And they always do, don’t they?!)


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