Reading along with the #BiggerBookClub? Keep these questions in mind as you read along. For more in-depth discussion questions visit http://community.compuserve.com/n/docs/docDownload.aspx?webtag=ws-books&guid=827a1c73-d18a-4222-8309-7b073aa2a9a0.
1. Many readers are drawn to the Outlander novels because of the powerfully appealing character of Jamie. What is it about a character with an eighteenth-century sensibility that is so attractive to twenty-first century readers? Scholar Jessica Matthews suggests that “part of its popularity stems from Diana Gabaldon’s rehabilitation of masculinity after feminism tried its best to declaw it for a generation.” What aspects of masculinity have been “rehabilitated” for us in Jamie?
2. The title of this first novel seems prescient, as so many characters in the subsequent volumes are, in so many ways, outsiders too. In what ways is Clair an “outlander”?
3. What, in your opinion, was the most moving moment? The most frightening one? The most surprising one? The funniest one? The most erotic one? The most beautifully descriptive passage? The most interesting detail(s) in terms of the novel’s depiction of a different historical era?
4. Who was (or were) your favorite secondary character(s): Frank? Murtagh? Dougal? Colum? Rupert? Alec McMahon? Mrs. Fitz? Laoghaire? Geillis? Someone else?
5. Diana Gabaldon’s own description of Outlander’s contents is as follows: “history, warfare, medicine, sex, violence, spirituality, honor, betrayal, vengeance, hope and despair, relationships, the building and destruction of families and societies, time travel, moral ambiguity, swords, horses, herbs, gambling (with cards, dice, and lives), voyages of daring, journeys of both body and soul… you know, the usual stuff of literature…” True, but rarely found within the same covers. Are some of these more important to you than others? Which ones? Why? Can you and your group come to a consensus on three that stand out?
It is that time again! Vote on which book the #BiggerBookClub should read in October! To vote you can respond to this post or tweet @BiggerBooks using hashtag #BiggerBookClub.
When Barry Fairweather dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems. And the empty seat left by Barry on the town’s council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations? Blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising, The Casual Vacancyis J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults.
The exemplary novel of the Jazz Age, F. Scott Fitzgeralds’ third book, The Great Gatsby (1925), stands as the supreme achievement of his career. T. S. Eliot read it three times and saw it as the “first step” American fiction had taken since Henry James; H. L. Mencken praised “the charm and beauty of the writing,” as well as Fitzgerald’s sharp social sense; and Thomas Wolfe hailed it as Fitzgerald’s “best work” thus far. The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when, The New York Times remarked, “gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession,” it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s that resonates with the power of myth. A novel of lyrical beauty yet brutal realism, of magic, romance, and mysticism, The Great Gatsby is one of the great classics of twentieth-century literature.
Junot Díaz burst into the literary world with Drown, a collection of indelible stories that revealed a major new writer with the “eye of a journalist and the tongue of a poet” ( Newsweek). His eagerly awaited first novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, arrived like a thunderclap, topping best-of-the-year lists and winning a host of major awards, including the Pulitzer Prize. Now Díaz turns his prodigious talent to the haunting, impossible power of love. The stories in This Is How You Lose Her, by turns hilarious and devastating, raucous and tender, lay bare the infinite longing and inevitable weaknesses of our all-too-human hearts. They capture the heat of new passion, the recklessness with which we betray what we most treasure, and the torture we go through - “the begging, the crawling over glass, the crying” - to try to mend what we’ve broken beyond repair. They recall the echoes that intimacy leaves behind, even where we thought we did not care. They teach us the catechism of affections: that the faithlessness of the fathers is visited upon the children; that what we do unto our exes is inevitably done in turn unto us; and that loving thy neighbor as thyself is a commandment more safely honored on platonic than erotic terms. Most of all, these stories remind us that the habit of passion always triumphs over experience, and that “love, when it hits us for real, has a half-life of forever.”
When published in 1857, “Madame Bovary” was embraced by bourgeois women who claimed it spoke to the frustrations of their lives. Davis’s landmark translation gives new life in English to Flaubert’s masterwork.