In The Required Reading Revisited Book Club 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.
In November we discussed Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway
Published in 1925, Mrs. Dalloway chronicles a day in the life of one Clarissa Dalloway, as she prepares her home for a party she is to give that evening (although after reading the book, this common description hardly seems sufficient). The setting is post-WWI London and covers many themes – mental illness, feminism, homosexuality, and other existential issues. The narrative doesn’t just follow Clarissa alone, however. The point of view changes from character to character as they experience events around the city, moving almost seamlessly from one to another and giving the reader insight into what each of them is thinking and witnessing. It’s a dreamlike narrative, very stream-of-consciousness.
It was the novel’s particular style that seemed to divide the group of us during our discussion most. Or rather, more specifically, divide me from everyone else. I was very clearly in the minority as the one person in the discussion who just could not get into this book. While I found many passages beautifully written, and was well on board with many of the themes Woolf was addressing, I just didn’t really enjoy it all that much. But I was only 1 out of 7. Everyone else either very much liked, or in some cases, loved it. The style notwithstanding, however, our discussion tended to center around our individual perceptions of each character, and what Woolf was trying to say about them. I found I enjoyed the discussion more than the book itself!
In December we will discuss Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Written in 1958, Things Fall Apart is one of the first African novels written in English to receive global critical acclaim. It tackles the heavy topics of identity, nationalism, ethnocentrism, and colonialism, and does so from the African perspective (one of the first novels ever to do so), in this case from the perspective of a member of the Igbo tribe in Nigeria in the 1890s.
“The popularity of Things Fall Apart in my own society can be explained simply… this was the first time we were seeing ourselves, as autonomous individuals, rather than half-people, or as Conrad would say, ‘rudimentary souls’.” – Chinua Achebe
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 (the next meeting is Sunday, December 12th). We typically meet on the 3rd floor. Just stop by the 1st floor information desk when you arrive if you are unsure where to go. Mrs. Dalloway and Things Fall Apart are both available online at Bookpeople.com. Use the code BOOK CLUB when purchasing online, or if you come in to the store, mention it’s for Book Club at the registers and you’ll receive 10% off! Join our Facebook page to get all the latest information on what we’re reading! We look forward to talking with you on Sunday, December 12th!