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by Anne van Oorschot.
08 October 2020. With the Netherlands adopting stricter Corona rules – 3 guests per household – having our regular book discussion gathering was impossible. Fortunately, there are numerous online meeting platforms that make holding a virtual meeting easy to arrange and attend and I was happy to have a total of 9 attend our evening on October 8th. Two of those who attended were new to our small group and, while they hadn’t read the book, they wanted to get a feel for how our discussion evenings go.
While everyone was positive about the book, the intricacies of Kingsolver’s language, while nice once you got used to it, were initially challenging for those who were non-native English speakers. We saw similarities between the butterflies and Dellarobia, the main character, with her flame colored hair and her sense of being lost in her own life. It was interesting to see her change throughout the book: no more vanity so the needed glasses were always on, stop smoking, venturing out of her comfort zone to work with the scientists and finally taking charge of her life by setting a new course closer to her true desires for herself. We reflected on the pre-conceived notions both the area residents and the scientists had of each other. People the world over do the same thing, making it hard for differing groups to really see and understand each other.
Kingsolver, who was trained as a scientist before becoming an author, poses a lot of challenging ideas about climate change in the book. While the habits and behavior of the Monarch Butterflies described in the book is accurate, their unexplained landing in the Appalachian area rather than their usual spot in Mexico was made up. (It gave the author the opportunity to set the novel in an area she is familiar with.) However, the changes occurring in the butterflies normal roost area were accurate and pose questions about what effect a changing climate has on the fragile life cycle of Monarchs.
Another point as how can 2 groups look at information and come up with such different conclusions? Dellarobia felt that the realities of climate change were simply too far from her daily worries and explains that her work is, “meeting the bus on time…getting the kids to eat supper, getting teeth brushed. No cavities next time. Little hopes, you know? There’s just not room at our house for the end of the world.”
This thinking also illustrates the difference in the carbon footprint between the poor and those more well off. When a man comes to the Butterfly sight to get others to sign a sustainability pledge to reduce their carbon footprint, he reads off the questions/goals to Dellarobia and is stunned to learn that the majority of them don’t apply:
“Number one. Bring your own Tupperware to a restaurant for leftovers, as often as possible.”
“I’ve not eaten in a restaurant in over two years.
“Okay, number two. Try bringing your own mug for tea or coffee. Does not apply, I guess. Carry your own Nalgene bottle instead of buying bottled water.”
“Our well water is good. We wouldn’t pay for store-bought. Is that it?” she asked.
“No. There are five other categories.”
“Let’s hear them…. You came all this way. To get us on board.”
“Okay – Everyday Necessities. Try your best to buy reused. Use Craigslist.” “What is that?” she asked, although she had a pretty good idea.
“Craigslist,” he said. “On the internet.”
“I don’t have a computer.”
“Or find your local reuse stores.”
“Find them,” she said.
“Switch some of your stocks and mutual funds to socially responsible investments, skip, skip. Okay, Home-slash-office. Make sure old computers get recycled. Turn your monitor off when not in use. I think we’ve got a lot of not applicable here.” ….. “Okay, this is the last one,” he said. “Fly less.”
“Fly less,” she repeated.
The book gave us all a lot to think about and was an enjoyable read as well. We can certainly recommend it for reading in these stay-at-home-corona-times.
by Essi Koskela
27 Aug 2020. tíc book club’s summer reading Not before Sundown by Johanna Sinisalo is a reimagined story from a classic Finnish song, The Goblin and the Ray of Light.
We started our discussion session by listening to this sweet and melodic piece, before we immersed ourselves into the darker themes portrayed in the book. is a dark satire of Mikael, or Angel, a freelance photographer working in advertising, who adopts a young, abandoned troll from the streets of Tampere city. It turns out that trolls do not make good pets. Pessi, the troll, secretes intoxicating pheromones which produce an insidious effect on Mikael and everyone around him. The symbolism behind the power-battle of Pessi‘s influence and the civilized world around Mikael made an excellent discussion point, as Mikael starts to struggle with the beast within. With the words of the author herself: ‘the book deals with themes bigger than life: the relationship between man and nature; the problems of different kinds of otherness; and how our biological ancestry as hierarchical pack animals still affects us.’
Although the book is classified into science fiction or fantasy, only the existence of the endangered and rarely seen trolls separates the world in the story from reality. In fact, the writer has constructed such convincing pseudo-scientific biological origin for the troll species accompanied with numerous (real) references to Finnish literature and folklore about the trolls that it was easy to believe in the existence of trolls. Arguably trolls have been very much real in the Finnish way of life before modern civilisation finally reached all the far corners of wilderness in the country, and remnants of those beliefs are still reflected in the language and children’s imagination. One of Sinisalo’s reference books, “Memories from Lapland” by Samuli Paulaharju, from 1922, which I happened to have by chance, dedicates a whole chapter to trolls. From this book, I shared the divine origin story of trolls, fabricated in the typical half-pagan way of the Finns. As it turns out, trolls are the secret children of Adam and Eve, which God condemned to live underground after Eve wrongfully hid them.
The creation aside, religion is another prominent topic in the book, already given away by the heavenly name of Angel. I dare to say, the writer creates a juxtaposition between chaste protestant tradition and the biological beastly nature of human beings. We were not sure what to make out of this, as the story does not seem to resolve in favor of the other. Although in the case of Mikael, nature takes over.
Those of us who had completed the book agreed that it was an odd but delightful reading experience. Deceptively short with only 214 pages, Sinisalo’s story seemed to contain yet another layer in chapters unwritten. What happened to Mikael in the end? Why did the trolls take him among them? Was Palomita (the human-trafficked mail-order wife of Mikael’s neighbor) rescued? And most importantly, are trolls real and where can we find them?
Next week we will be meeting for our next book club; a gathering that sometimes has intense debates, but is always a lot of fun. For #FlashBackFriday, let’s take a look at a book club review from 2015!
by Leni Hurley
15 Mar 2020 The tíc Book Club met in Cafe Restaurant No Sikiriki, and the atmosphere was great. The book under discussion was The Last Kingdom, first volume in a series written by Bernard Cornwell. We all loved the book. This may seem odd, given that we were all women and that this historical novel describes a pretty brutal man’s world. In the book we followed a young warrior’s epic adventure of courage, devotion, treachery, duty, battle and love. The time is the middle of the ninth century AD; the place – the British Isles.
The action – the invasion of the Christian Anglo-Saxon world by Norsemen; men who came with their own, very vibrant gods. All in all, the book lent itself to a spirited discussion: how did the two religions compare; how does this epoch of violent turmoil strike you? Are there similarities in our present day world? And what about the remnants of an earlier, much more advanced civilization? When they left in about 410 AD, the Romans abandoned their amazing structures and roads and not a Briton, so it appears, cared to imitate or inhabit them. Yet many centuries later, the Anglo-Saxons made grateful use of these roads, especially in times of war. Yet they continued to use mud and straw to engineer their civic landscape. What does this say about the original Britons, the Anglo-Saxons that took over, and the Romans that came in between? And could such a thing happen again? Perhaps it did happen, many times over? All in all, it was a great night!
28.05.2020. Our second Virtual Book Club gathering had members joined in by Zoom. I found it an interesting and different read and was curious to see what others thought of it.
‘Are you happy in your life?’ Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious. Before he wakes to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.
While not everyone liked the book – it gave ample opportunity for discussion. (more…)
Date: Tuesday, 27 August 2020
Time: 19:30 (7:30 pm)
Register by: 25 August 2020 (registration form below)
Member Cost: Free!
Guests: €5,00 pp (READ about how this can be pro-rated towards your membership fee)
Location: Tilburg (to be announced)
We have selected for our next book club …
Not Before Sundown by Johanna Sinisalo
Mikael, a young gay photographer, finds in the courtyard of his apartment block a small, man-like creature. It is a young troll, known from Scandinavian mythology as a demonic wild beast, a hybrid like the werewolf.
Register now! (more…)
Next week we will be meeting for our next book club; a gathering that sometimes has intense debates, but is always a lot of fun. For #FlashBackFriday, let’s take a look at a book club review from 2016!
by Anne van Oorschot
27 Sept 2016. The first meeting of tíc readers starting with chatting about summer vacations (and the first debate of the US Presidential election!) and then we settled down to talk about The Boys in the Boat. This non-fiction book, written by Daniel James Brown (not to be confused with the Dan Brown of The Divinci Code) is about the 8 man rowing shell from University of Washington that went on to become the US’s Olympic entry in the controversial 1936 Berlin Olympics – Hitler’s Olympics!
The story is told mainly from (more…)