Saturday, January 25, 2014

Burning Marguerite

Thanks to Ms. K for ringing in 2014 with a lovely BC at her home.  We started off the evening with delicious spinach and pine nut spanakopita from Thyme Café, followed by an outstanding and seasonally-appropriate corn and chicken chili, and double desserts in honor of the Maharani’s birthday:  homemade cupcakes and chocolate peanut butter bars.  Lish!

Burning Marguerite, by Elizabeth Ennis-Brown, scored a 7.6.  

This was a languid, poignant and delicate jewel of a story about Tante, a spinster living in a remote area somewhere very, very cold, and Jack John, the orphan who grew up in her care. The book was largely a character piece, and more than one of us commented on how well we felt we came to know the characters. Both Tante and Jack John were lovingly revealed as the story looked back in time to the formative events of their childhood and young adult years. Indeed, it took a while to get one's bearings in this book: the story's geographic setting is not immediately evident (is it ever evident?), and it also migrates back and forth over a fifty-plus year span. Nonetheless, these conventions were clearly effective. Across the board we praised the author for her beautiful writing. The Maharani said she had the impression of reading a poem, while the Foxx remarked how the descriptions were so vivid that she felt a sensory connection to the events in the story. Despite the craftmanship that went into this novel, it got dinged for being a bit too soap opera-y. After all... turns out Tante was a lesbian, forced to have an abortion by her parents, resulting in her sterilization, after which her father killed her boyfriend with a dagger through the heart, etc. Nonetheless, the unfolding of these tragedies ultimately led the reader to understand the ties between Tante and Jack John, and the final catharsis in sending Tante's body up in flames on the frozen lake, setting her spirit free.

Our next book is Jumpa Lahiri's The Lowland. Until next time, read early and often! xoej

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