Brooklyn–the Book now Brooklyn–the Movie!

This is exciting news!  I’ve often thought that it would be fun to devote an entire season of Literary Masters to reading books that have been made into movies.  That way, we could all enjoy a multimedia experience of each story.

And how FUN to come up with the list!  One outstanding book that has recently been turned into a film is Brooklyn, which was written in 2009 by Irish author Colm Toibin.  I read it and loved it; I even blogged about it.  Click here for my original post.

The book won many fans and much critical acclaim.  It won the 2009 Costa Novel Award, was shortlisted for the 2011 IMPAC Dublin Award, and made it onto the longlist for the 2009 Man Booker Prize.  And now, in 2015, it has been made into a film by Fox Searchlight Pictures.  It stars Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson, Jim Broadbent, and Julie Walters, among others.

The film is already garnering great reviews.  Here’s one from Flavorwire:

And another one from the New York Times:

And according to the Washington Post, even Colm Toibin loves the film:

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see it!  Watch this trailer and I bet you’ll feel the same!

Let me know if you go, and tell me what you think

Should Your Book Club Read The Glass Room by Simon Mawer?

This is an easy one.  The answer is absolutely yes.  Not only did everyone love this book, it made for a lively discussion in all my Literary Masters book groups.

The Glass Room was short-listed for the Man Booker last year, but defeated by The Finkler Question.  Go figure.  I had never read anything by Simon Mawer, but now I’m looking forward to picking up The Fall, recommended by one of my Literary Masters members.

Quick plot summary:  It’s the late 1920’s in Czechoslovakia.  Victor and Leisl Landauer want to build a house that embodies the future and that has nothing to do with the past.  They hire an architect who doesn’t build walls and ceilings–instead he captures space and light.  Blazing the trail of what will come to be known as the modernist movement in architecture, he builds the Landauer couple a glass house, the main feature of which is the glass room, a sanctuary of calm, reason, and scientific rationality.

The thing is, a lot goes on inside this sanctuary, not all of it calm, reasonable or rational at all.

The book takes us through about 7 decades, and during that time we watch as various characters–with various agendas–enter and leave the glass room.  Do they transform it?  Does it transform them?  That was something we discussed at length in our meetings.

Simon Mawer is a wonderful writer, so it’s easy to speed through this book; I found it to be a compelling page-turner.  But there’s a lot there to think about and reflect upon, so it’s worth slowing down and savoring this novel.  The characters are intriguing, to say the least, and we talked about them in depth–their motivations, their desires, their self-delusions.  How they tried to escape their histories–as well as their present places in time–but to no avail.  And we talked about them as metaphors for what was going on at that time in the world.

Besides the characters, some of the things your book club may want to discuss:  What the glass room represents.  We started off each meeting with this question, and you’d be amazed at the various answers!  I always find it fascinating that we can read the same words and interpret them differently.  Don’t forget to discuss the onyx wall!

You can all think about what this book is saying about history.  The structure of the book, with its many parallels and echoes, adds much to this conversation.

This novel explores big ideas, and your book club may want to do the same.  Science versus God, Nature versus Nurture, Science versus Art, Fate/destiny versus Randomness/chaos, Darwinism, Existentialism–they are all in there in some way, and you can have fun ‘digging deep’ into this literary treasure.  (I am only touching on some of the themes in the book here–I’m telling you, it is chock full!)

The Glass Room is not a perfect book, but it has so many wonderful qualities, a reader can easily put up with the two annoying aspects of it (as mentioned by reader after reader)–the ending, and the continual coincidences that pepper the story and strain credibility.  I happened to find neither annoying, and I think the coincidences underscore one of the main themes of the book, that is fate/destiny versus randomness/chaos.

I feel very comfortable highly recommending this book for an individual reader as well as for book groups.  I cannot believe that The Finkler Question won the Man Booker over The Glass Room, but that’s a discussion and a blog post for another day!  Please let me know if your book club reads The Glass Room–and what you all think of it.

Man Booker Short List Announced

Six novels have made the short list cut for the prestigious Man Booker Award. Here’s the link if you would like to know more:

I am bummed that The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, our :Literary Masters book groups choice for May, didn’t make the list. I do have one of the short listed books sitting on my ‘To Be Read’ shelf: Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey. He’s already won the prize twice, so there’s a lot of hoopla about whether he can pull a hat trick. I’m not a big fan of his, which is one of the reasons I haven’t yet read this latest one. Perhaps I’ll give it a go soon.

Room, which I blogged about a couple of posts below (but you knew that, right?) made the cut and is apparently one of the favorites. I still don’t want to read it.

The Long Song by Andrea Levy made the list. Now I read this book recently and really enjoyed it. It’s a story told by a Jamaican slave and her voice is humorous, touching, and incredibly unique. I’ve been thinking about using this book for the month of February’s Literary Masters book groups. Hmmm…

The winner of the prize will be announced October 12th. Until then, we can all hold our breath. How about you? Have you read any of the books on the short list?

The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas

The Slap won the Australian Literary Society Gold Medal. Really?

The Slap was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award and the Colin Roderick Award. Really??

The Slap is currently on the long list for the Man Booker Prize. Really???

I’m sorry, but I just don’t get it. I found myself speed-reading this book to get it over with, and I cannot recommend it at all. Not at all.

Quick plot summary: Somewhere in the suburbs of Australia, a little boy is slapped at a BBQ by a man who is not his father. This event is used by the author as a device to delve into the lives of the novel’s characters, eight of whom become the individual, central focus of a chapter of the book. The slap itself becomes a sort of signifier as each character places his or her meaning upon it and simultaneously takes from it what he or she wants.

Forget the seediness of the characters. Forget the ubiquitous and uninteresting sex scenes. Forget all the drug use. Forget the self-destruction running rampant through the novel. I wouldn’t have a problem with any of this–not if the book were well written. But it’s not. At times I thought Tsiolkas was trying to write a short story in each chapter, threading the slap through them all–to bind them together. But the chapters weren’t interesting enough on their own to survive such a structure.

Instead of using the entire novel to build and develop the life of an individual character, he tried to cram it all into the one chapter devoted to that character’s point of view. The result was tedious and boring. I didn’t care about the characters, and consequently, I didn’t care about the novel.

And I couldn’t help thinking, even as I read the female voices of the novel, that this book just screams out that it was written by a man. When I’m hearing the author’s voice overriding the narrators’ voices, that’s a problem, isn’t it?

Perhaps this novel is meant to be some sort of mosaic or kaleidoscopic look at modern Australian society. Maybe. Again, I find I really don’t care.

This was my “beach read” this summer. Hmm…I need another vacation. How about you? What was your “beach read”?