Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Nevermore: Enchantments, Bring Up the Bodies, Assassination Vacation, and Home

Reported by Kristin

Jud kicked off the book club discussion with Enchantments, novel of Rasputin’s daughter and the Romanovs by Kathryn Harrison.  This fictionalized version of events begins after the killing of Rasputin,when his daughter Masha is taken in by the Romanovs as the czarina hopes that Masha will have the same healing effects on the czarevitch Alexei.  This particular work of fiction portrays Rasputin in a positive manner alongside the royal family.  Jud said that it was interesting to see the use of modern technology so soon after the beginning of the 20th century—the wealthy Romanov family had a telephone, electric lights and an electrical generator.  This book was declared a quick read, especially for a novel based on Russian history.

Next up was Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel.  Thomas Cromwell, chief minister to Henry VIII, is again the main character in this second part of the Wolf Hall trilogy.  Set at the beginning of Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne Boleyn, this installment continues to show the royals as all powerful and amoral, not particularly caring how their actions affect others.  The vicious political maneuvering of the era is plainly described in this trilogy.  The time period covered here is short, only nine months, as opposed to the several years covered in Wolf Hall.

Talk of historical violence brought the group back to a book discussed previously: Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell.  While the author wrote of trips to visit historically significant sites related to the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley, the book club discussion quickly turned to questioning why individuals wanted to see places and things bordering on the macabre.  In addition, the discussion included the role of gallows humor as a coping mechanism in difficult situations.  The author describes her family interactions alongside the trip in a very dynamic and compelling manner.  A humorous ten year old nephew breaks up the serious and tragic bits.

Home by Marilynne Robinson rounded out the week’s selections.  The author visited King College a couple of years ago and was remembered by some of the readers.  In this book, Jack is the son who never quite fit in with the family, although his family loves him very much.  His sister Glory has come home to care for their dying father, and Jack ends up back at home as well.  Jack has always been manipulative, and the plot is based around the family interactions during the difficult time of the father’s decline.  Our reader said that it was a bit heavy, but worth reading.

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