The Required Reading Revisited Book Club is just one of the many great book clubs here at Book People. We focus on books considered “Required Reading” by most educational institutions, i.e. books you read (or were supposed to read) in school – either high school or university. Last month we discussed Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: Or, The Modern Prometheus, a novel with true staying power. Published at first anonymously in 1818, and then with Shelley’s name in 1823, this book has inspired 100+ plays, television shows and films (indeed, yet another is in the works with James McAvoy as Dr. Frankenstein and Daniel Radcliffe as his assistant Igor – who, I might add, did not exist in the novel).
Something about Shelley’s Frankenstein strikes a chord in people. Is it our obsession with the question of what life is? The question of, what is consciousness and where does it come from? Is it our fascination with the perversion, or madness, that can come with unchecked obsessions? These were a few of the many things discussed at our book club meeting. It’s worth noting that while not everyone loved the book (though some did), everyone agreed that the characters and themes were fascinating. And one can keep digging and finding interesting things to talk about. We discussed the narrative style, which seemed as if it could be described as 3rd 3rd person, as it was, at one point, Captain Walton relating a story related to him by Victor Frankenstein that was related by the monster himself. We discussed how the themes of isolation and oppression, which were most likely felt keenly by any intellectual woman in the early 19th century, and which came through so clearly in the monster’s tale, can still find all too many parallels today. And we discussed the many retellings, mostly in film form, that shaped our expectations about what we would find in the actual novel. Needless to say, many embellishments exist in the film versions that were simply not present in the written work.
It was a riveting discussion to say the least! And we look forward to it again next month when we discuss Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, which is considered Hurston’s seminal work. Written in 1937, TIME magazine included it in their 2005 list of 100 Best English-language Novels Published After 1923. I am particularly looking forward to reading this as it is so outside the genres I generally read. At the time of it’s publication, Their Eyes Were Watching God was not particularly well received, due in part to various political, literary and racial movements taking place at the time. This novel was written in the southern African-American vernacular of the era, and did not conform to the cultural narrative that many of Hurston’s contemporaries were trying to convey.
I haven’t even started reading this book yet and I find it utterly fascinating. I look forward to the discussions we’ll be having about it!
The Required Reading Revisited Book Club, hosted by Consuelo Hacker and Sarah Holdgrafer, meets on the 2nd Sunday of every month at 4pm at Book People (this coming meeting is Sunday March 8th). Last week we enjoyed the spring-in-winter weather outside, but typically we meet on the 3rd floor. Just stop by the 1st floor information desk when you arrive if you are unsure where to go. Their Eyes Were Watching God is available in its 75th anniversary edition for $16.99 at Book People (click HERE! to purchase online). Or if you come in to the store, don’t forget to mention it’s for Book Club when you purchase and you’ll receive 10% off at the register! And join our Facebook page to get all the latest information! We look forward to talking with you on Sunday, March 8th!