Saturday, September 25, 2010

Buzz off Little Bee

The Alexandria Campus Book Club met on Sept 24th to discuss Chris Cleave's novel Little Bee.

The book received rapturous reviews in the American Press -- the Washington Post said it will "blow you away", Library Journal called it "astonishing and flawless", The Boston Globe said it was "vividly memorable and provocative...heartwarming and heartbreaking."

Book club members were not quite as impressed, finding the novel "mannered", "improbable," "unbelievable," and "melodramatic."

Published under the title The Other Hand in Great Britain, the novel received more mixed reviews. The Independent thought it was "shocking, exciting and deeply affecting," The Guardian called it "an ambitious and fearless gallop." However, the Daily Telegraph found it "faultlessly relevant, but ultimately cloying," and the Times said it was a "clotted and hysterical tale... implausible... and absurdly over-written," calling one of the main characters "batty, bizarre and inconsistent and unsympathetic."
This reader thought the luckiest character in the book was Andrew who, by committing suicide in an early chapter saved himself from having to endure the narrative to the end.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Never Let Me Go -- now in cinemas

The 2006 Book Club selection, Kauzo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go has been made into a film that will be released today, Sep 15th. says the film "captures the slightly seedy and rundown reality of '70s and '80s British life in astonishing and even tragic detail; this is more like a period piece than a science-fiction movie. In fact, it resembles a Merchant-Ivory tragedy about doomed love in a war zone, except that the doomed love involves human guinea pigs and the war zone is not some tropic zone but the alleged good intentions of medical science."

NPR says of Ishiguro: "Born in Japan and raised in Britain, Ishiguro is fascinated by how people adapt to life in repressive societies. (It's no coincidence that three of his six novels turn on World War II.) Whether home is Never Let Me Go's ominous boarding school or the country estate of a British fascist (as in The Remains of the Day), the novelist's characters do what is expected of them. In the novel, Kathy's final statement is that she drove off "to wherever it was I was supposed to be.""

The film version of Never Let Me Go stars Keira Knightley, who must have an affinity for the Book Club selections. She also starred in the film adaptation of Atonement.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Summer Reading

The Alexandria Campus Book Club will discuss Chris Cleave's Little Bee for its first selection in Fall 2010.

*Starred Review* Little Bee, smart and stoic, knows two people in England, Andrew and Sarah, journalists she chanced upon on a Nigerian beach after fleeing a massacre in her village, one grisly outbreak in an off-the-radar oil war. After sneaking into England and escaping a rural “immigration removal” center, she arrives at Andrew and Sarah’s London suburb home only to find that the violence that haunts her has also poisoned them. In an unnerving blend of dread, wit, and beauty, Cleave slowly and arrestingly excavates the full extent of the horror that binds Little Bee and Sarah together. A columnist for the Guardian, Cleave earned fame and notoriety when his first book, Incendiary, a tale about a terrorist attack on London, was published on the very day London was bombed in July 2005. His second ensnaring, eviscerating novel charms the reader with ravishing descriptions, sly humor, and the poignant improvisations of Sarah’s Batman-costumed young son, then launches devastating attacks in the form of Little Bee’s elegantly phrased insights into the massive failure of compassion in the world of refugees. Cleave is a nerves-of-steel storyteller of stealthy power, and this is a novel as resplendent and menacing as life itself. --Booklist

The Book Club will meet off-campus in September to discuss Little Bee.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Stealing Horses

The Alexandria Campus Book club met on Friday 26 Feb to discuss Per Petersen's novel Out Stealing Horses.

Is the narrator a sympathetic character or someone hard to connect with? Does the novel have an inconclusive ending or is its ending, like life, simply an end and not a conclusion? Was the attention to detail tedious and repetitive or an engrossing slice of life? Has anyone ever read a Scandinavian novel that wasn't bleak?
These and other questions exercised 8 Alexandria faculty members who engaged with Sullivan's story of isolation, alientation and loss.

The next book club selection will be John Patrick Shanley's play Doubt. Copies available in the Library.