Ambassador of Books ~ Book Club Madam ~ Blogger Gal

Thursday, March 19, 2009

G&R Book Club: People of the Book

Last night I attended the first book club meeting held by local bookstore Greetings & Readings. The book was one I absolutely loved: People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks. You can read my review of it here.

This was the very first time the store has hosted a book club and I have to give them credit for putting on a nice event. They had about 30 people attend (mostly women with a few men sprinkled in), they served coffee and desserts, and the meeting lasted for an hour. I met a lovely woman named Kathy (hi Kathy!) while I was there. Hopefully she and I can meet for dinner before one of the next meetings ...

The woman who lead the discussion started off with a presentation. She talked about what a Haggadah is, what the Jewish Seder is, and also gave some background info on the real Sarajevo Haggadah and author Geraldine Brooks.

The presentation was both good and bad. For people who were unfamiliar with Jewish traditions, this was very enlightening (but I already knew most of what she talked about). Also, because I was so interested in the book, I had done a bit of research on the Sarajevo Haggadah ... so I already knew all the facts she shared about it. The same goes for the author; there was no new info for me.

I do realize that I was probably more prepared than most people at the meeting so I can't fault her presentation for it's content. However, it took 30 minutes - half of the entire meeting time. That's a bit long in my opinion.

On the good side, she did present some info that I did NOT know ...

I'm sure we're all familiar with the standard structure of a novel that we learned in school.

As the diagram shows, the plot builds up to a climax then descends to the denouement or resolution.

However, postmodern novels generally fit a different format. She called it an "amoeba plot".

That point on the left is the start of the story. It focuses on one character. Each "bubble" in the storyline is a subplot, almost a separate story within the story. The straight line connecting to the bottom of the point on the left is the original plot revisited. The original story is picked up almost where it left off, with little or no change in the original character.

That structure fits this novel perfectly, and I loved learning something new!

When we finally got to the actual discussion, I was quite happy. Luckily not all of the 30 people present felt the need to speak, otherwise we'd have been there all night. But several people did share their thoughts. Here's a list of some of the sometimes contradictory points raised:
  • Hanna's character was not as fully developed as the characters in the other stories
  • Hanna's mother was not a believable character
  • Hanna's mother was very realistic - she reminded one member of her own mother
  • the Haggadah itself is the main character of the story, everything else is merely background
  • the central theme of the book is the creation of non-traditional families (I heartily agreed with this, once I understood what this woman was getting at)
  • the plot structure is very much like The Da Vinci Code (oh how I hated that book!)
I think the discussion could have gone on much longer but by then our hour was up.

The group will meet again next month to discuss The Camel Bookmobile. I won't be attending, because the store is about an hour from my office (I had to go directly from work to make it on time). However, I will consider attending again if they are discussing a book I particularly want to read.

Oh, and they asked me to consider leading one of upcoming club events ... I'll have to think about that one.


bermudaonion said...

I'd never heard of an amoeba plot but have certainly read quite a few books that fit that format. Interesting. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Heather, quite a turnout. Greetings and Readings is a nice independent store, pretty close to my house, so I'm happy it went well. I'm sure it's tough to compete with a Borders and a Barnes & Noble just a few miles away. Also glad you liked the book; you'll have some good stories to tell to your son when he asks about Passover.

Anonymous said...

My thoughts were exactly what Kathy said, I've never heard the term "amoeba plot," but I've read several books that fit this structure (and I like it!)

An hour's drive to a book discussion -- I'm impressed that you did that!

GinaB said...

I went to Greetings & Readings on my way back from a conference in Washington, DC. We were only stopping for coffee until I saw a bookstore in the same shopping center as Caribou Coffee then I HAD TO go in. I was very impressed with the store--great selection of titles and great customer service. I loved the gift selection as well. I only wish I lived closer...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the insight Heather, we were definitely excited with the turnout. Our next book is The Camel Bookmobile and we'll be talking about that one on April 23 at 7:30 p.m. You're all welcome to drop by and help us realize the full potential of these events.

And we appreciate everyone's nice comments - it can be tough to survive and we're hoping our variety and customer service continues to make the difference. (As does our proximity to Caribou Coffee, apparently!)

Nit said...

Thanks for the reviews...especially for the kids books, helps me pick out books for my class.

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