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.
The latest meeting of the RRR Book Club was amazing! We barely managed to all fit around our large wooden meeting table, and there was hardly a moment of silence for the entire hour and a half discussion. The consensus was mostly positive, especially regarding the quality of Plath’s writing and the skillful way she managed to express the protagonist’s mental breakdown. Those who had read the book in high school (about half of us), and had perhaps felt the character of Esther Greenwood to be a bit whiny (ala Salinger’s Holden Caulfield), discovered a lot more truth in her voice than the first time around. There is plenty of dry wit in the novel that doesn’t land if one is too young to understand the context. Many astute observations were made about the symbolism included in the novel, and there was much discussion regarding wider societal understanding and compassion towards mental illness, as well as the unique pressures experienced by women at the time of the novel’s writing. It seemed everyone in attendance could relate in some way to the story Plath was telling, indicating a certain timeless quality to the novel.
In August we’ll be discussing E.M. Forster’s posthumously published novel about a young English man and his life in a highly structured English society. He is conventional in every way, except that he is a homosexual. Forster was adamant that the novel have a happy ending, and knowing how controversial this would make the book – some would say unpublishable at the time – he never sought its publication in his lifetime. Forster wrote Maurice in 1913/14, and it was finally published in 1971, after his death and after significant change in both British law and prevailing attitudes.
Forster is most well known for his novels A Room With A View, Howards End, and A Passage To India. He was a known humanist and his humanist beliefs are at the heart of his work. He often discussed the conflict of propriety and class with human nature, and Maurice in particular explored how one could reconcile class issues through love and human connection. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature 13 different years.
The Required Reading Revisited Book Club meets on the 2nd Sunday of every month at 4pm at Book People (the next meeting is Sunday, August 14th). 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. The Bell Jar & Maurice are 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 August 14th!