Book of the Month: Doctor Zhivago

February’s Book of the Month is Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

Part history, part philosophy, part love story, this epic novel will transport you to a different place, a different time, a different life. Rich with characters, each reacting uniquely to the historically cataclysmic situation in which they find themselves, Doctor Zhivago is sure to resonate on some, if not many, levels with you. Unlike Anna Karenina, which dazzles from the start, Doctor Zhivago will slowly grow on you and before long you will be caught in its grip, unable to put down this poetic and profound masterpiece. Enjoy!

Book of the Month: Heart of Darkness

October’s book of the month is Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. In this transfixing novel we hear of Marlowe’s dreamlike (or should I say “nightmare”?) journey down the Congo River from the anonymous narrator to whom he has related his tale. Marlowe’s quest? To retrieve ivory trader extraordinaire Kurtz, whose recent behavior has had tongues wagging–all the way back to the White Sepulchre (aka Brussels?). Kurtz–is he a hero? Or a madman? Or is he Everyman?

I’ve sent my “Points to Ponder” to all my book groups and I know we’ll be having some riveting discussions coming up. (When you join one of my groups, I’ll send you my “Points.”) However, I am wondering what you think of this fascinating novel:

  • Has Heart of Darkness stood the test of time? Is it important that we read this book today?
  • Can you relate to Marlowe? Can you relate to Kurtz?
  • Remember, this book was published in 1899. Do you see it as an indictment of European imperialism or is it a eurocentric racist portrayal of Africans as an inferior people?
  • Is there any uplifting message we can take away from this book, or it it a complete downer?
  • Does it remind you of Lord of the Flies?
  • What is the heart of darkness, do you think?

Book of the Month: A Mercy

Toni Morrison considers her writing in this beautiful book to be at its height, and I couldn’t agree with her more. Whether you are new to Morrison or a devotee, or somewhere in between, you are in for a treat when you read this captivating and poetic story about the early days of America- before ‘slavery’ and ‘black’ became inextricably entwined, when there were slaves of varying colors and names, and when the Europeans and Africans colluded in bringing about what Margaret Atwood has described as “one of the most viciously anti-family institutions human beings have ever devised.”

Told from different perspectives, the story asks universal questions, requiring reader participation in answering them. Some of the themes running through this novel are: community versus individuality, the responsibility of each of us for our fellow human beings, and the fictive nature of religion and history. A Mercy offers the reader much to ponder and it will offer any book group much to discuss.