All The Books I Can Read

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The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D, by Nichole Bernier Read-a-long Discussion Part 3

Hello everyone and welcome to our final discussion! Over the last week we all read the final one third of the book and had everything revealed! But before we talk about that, I’d just like to recap a few of the things that happened. As always, this post will contain ***SPOILERS*** so please make sure you’ve completed the book before reading ahead!

Dave Martin and his kids came to visit Kate and her children on the island whilst Chris was in Asia. Kate is quite surprised when she sees Dave but also recognises the easy way in which he seems to be dealing with his three children. They talk and Dave seems relieved when Kate mentions that Chris is in Jakarta. Anyone who has been following the timeline of the book could probably figure out why Dave is relieved as we all have the benefit of hindsight. Kate it seems, for someone that always watched the news and panicked about things, is basically totally unaware that not only is her husband now in Bali but that the Bali bombings occurred where he was. To be honest I was surprised Kate didn’t panic more about this when she gets Chris’s voicemail message! Dave asks to have a shower before he leaves and insists on using the one inside…. after he’s gone, Kate discovers a journal is missing, the next one she should be starting, the one that should contain any truth about Michael. Did you think at this point in the story that Dave had stolen the journal?

Kate once again faces the challenge of whether or not she wants to take a job at a new restaurant opening up. There’s a part of her that really does, but she knows that she could easily be consumed by it and it would probably lead to her children, or her relationship with them, suffering because of it. I found the section where she questions Anthony, the friend that has put her name forward, about whether or not it could be a shared or part time position quite interesting. His response is condescending and sarcastic, seemingly derogatory about the fact that she might “get all mommy track” on him. I found that the conversation infuriated me, perhaps because I  have children and I feel for Kate’s need to consider her options. She doesn’t want full-time carers for her children and neither does her husband, especially given as he travels widely. But there’s also that need to satisfy an urge within herself!

Did anyone have any thoughts on who the mysterious Nadia was, before her identity was revealed?

Kate’s obsession (I’m not sure what other term to use here, it does seem to be an obsession) leads her to ring Dave and accuse him of stealing the missing diary – do you feel that as Elizabeth’s husband, Dave would’ve had a right to take the diary if he had so wanted? Do you understand Kate’s annoyance/fury at it or do you think she overreacted? It began to cause problems with her own husband as well as Chris fought irritation over her constant talk of the diaries, her agonising over the diaries, the to-and-fro of the diaries and what she should do with them? Do you feel that even though Elizabeth left them to her and the choice of what to do with them, that Kate was a bit…militant about it? It was almost like she banned Dave from them.

Kate then takes it upon herself to attempt to track down the mysterious Michael, given one of the diaries is missing, one that she believes is key. Do you feel you would’ve done the same thing in her position? Or would you have let it go, laid her to rest? To be honest, I’m not sure I’d have gone to the lengths that Kate did, even though in the end it got her the answers she so desired. She finds a brochure for the Joshua Tree in the trunk, almost hidden. Given the fact that Elizabeth took with her the diary that seems to contain secret information is the fact that she left a business card of where she was going (when she’d in fact told people that she was going to something else entirely) a little too…careless?

Now Kate knows who Michael is and he also inadvertently lets her know that Elizabeth had received a terminal diagnosis, probably in the very dark days after Emily’s birth where the relevant diary has gone missing. Kate realises now that Dave most likely didn’t steal the book and that Elizabeth probably did have it with her on the plane, taking it with her to the healing place. Did anyone pick this? Was it foreshadowed for you?

After they leave the island, Kate makes the decision to return the journals to Dave and also tell him of what she has discovered only to find out that Dave has actually figured it out, finding some bills in amongst the OB ones (I’m assuming that Elizabeth had ovarian cancer or something similar?) Kate realises that Elizabeth’s unkempt appearance was not just to do with Anna’s birth, but also her illness and that no one seemed to have picked up on it. Dave was surprised that Kate didn’t know and that helped me understand some of his anger towards her earlier on in the book – he obviously assumed that Elizabeth had told Kate and even after her death, Kate had been keeping something like that from him. It also seems that Dave knows why Elizabeth didn’t tell him, alluding to the time he ran from her, years before. He seems sad that after all their years together, she didn’t know better but I have to admit, I would’ve found it hard to tell him too, had I been Elizabeth. The chance of running would’ve been too great a risk to take with so little time left. However Dave didn’t know that Michael was to do with her illness so that knowledge is a gift Kate could give him. They then part on relatively good terms – do you think they ever see each other again?

How did you feel about the book overall? Was the ending satisfying to you? Or were there things you wanted to know that you didn’t get told?

Thanks to everyone who took part in this round, I’ve enjoyed both the book and constructing these posts and reading everyone’s thoughts immensely! I’d also like to thank Kelly and everyone at A&U for giving us all the opportunity to read and discuss some of their fabulous books!

 

39 Comments »

The Unfinished Journals Of Elizabeth D by Nichole Bernier Read-A-Long – Discussion Part 2

Hello everyone and welcome to Week 2 of our discussion! Thank you to everyone who took part in the discussion last week, we had such a large number of comments and people shared really involved thoughts about how they were feeling about the book, which is always awesome. You guys make my job so fun and easy!

As always…. ***SPOILERS*** ahead!

Okay our second section of the book – we’re in to the 3rd week of Kate and Chris’s holiday and Chris is working and the kids are at camp which gives Kate quite a bit of free time to devote to reading the journals. She reads through a rather large part of Elizabeth’s life, her years living in New York, her love for her job, her romantic relationships that come and go. We also find out how Elizabeth met Dave in this section and are privy to their relationship and eventual marriage. Did the way in which they came to be married surprise anyone? I know that I was certainly quite surprised when I read it – I was struggling with liking Dave in the first section we read and I have to admit that section 2 didn’t really have me warming up to him at all. The way in which Dave bolted at the vets when his dog needed to be put to sleep and then his abandonment of Elizabeth when she received some possibly bad test results at the doctors didn’t sit well with me. As Elizabeth voices in her diary, no one likes doing these things, but they do it anyway. Elizabeth only contacted Dave in the future because she discovered that she was pregnant – it’s likely that had she not done that, she’d never have heard from him again after he ran upon her telling him of the test results. In her position, would you have made that call?

That leads to them marrying and then the pregnancy results in a miscarriage for Elizabeth, yet another loss for Dave. This time however, he doesn’t run permanently and they agree to try again some months later, perhaps beginning the marriage that Kate comes to see later on when she moves to the area. Kate moving in is detailed in that section of the book too as well as Elizabeth’s first perceptions of her and some moments of Kate interacting with the mother’s group.

I actually found it easy to relate to a large portion of this part of the book – like Kate, I’m a stay at home mother to 2 children. Unlike her I didn’t have that passionate career but I do feel like whichever choice you make, there will always be people who will tell you that it is the wrong one. Likewise I felt for Elizabeth when she first joined the mothers’ group and was judged for drinking caffeinated coffee, having a mercury thermometre in the house, etc. Parenting is such a difficult thing to navigate for first time mothers (and often it’s just as hard with subsequent babies, when you’re supposed to be an ‘expert’) and it seems that at times, you cannot admit that you’re tired, that you’re frustrated, that you’d like to just scream. Or run away!

This section also saw more of Kate’s paranoia surface – she is frightened by a low flying plane over the island and she also freaks out when her children find some rabbits in their neighbours yard. What I found interesting is that although she’s also bothered by Chris being in Indonesia and areas close to it for work, it’s kind of like she’s less bothered by that than she was about the rabbits, even though she’s just read about new terrorist cells in the area. She’s distracted by her children and she forgets about it almost immediately, whereas it seemed that the episode with the rabbits lingered, although perhaps that was because Chris made fun of her.

After the birth of her oldest child Jonah, it is discovered that Elizabeth tore out pages in the diary. Kate assumes that these were possibly dark days that detailed post-natal depression. Why do you think Elizabeth chose to tear them out when she had left many other difficult things in, and also expressed anger at her mother destroying her diaries when she was young?

This is one of my favourite quotes from this section:

Maybe loyalty is for swans and bird-minded people too afraid or too unimaginative to see the alternatives.”

I’m finding Elizabeth quite the enigma!

How did everyone else go with this section?

 

48 Comments »

The Unfinished Journals Of Elizabeth D by Nichole Bernier Read-a-long – Discussion Week 1

Hello everyone and welcome to the first part of the discussion of The Unfinished Novels of Elizabeth D, by Nichole Bernier.  Just a quick warning once again that this post (and the comments) will contain **SPOILERS** for the first 136p of the novel so it’s definitely best that you not read ahead here until you’ve completed that section of the book. That out of the way, let’s go!

To recap briefly, this section of the book introduces us to Kate, her husband Chris and their children James and Piper. When Chris and Kate moved to Connecticut some years ago, Kate joined a mothers’ group and found a friend in Elizabeth. The two socialised regularly, both within the mothers’ group and separate from it until Kate and Chris moved away to Washington D.C. some 2 years before the book begins. Elizabeth is killed in a plane crash on her way to an artist’s retreat and Kate discovers that Elizabeth has left her something in her will – a trunk full of journals that Elizabeth has been keeping since she was very young. The note from Elizabeth left with her solicitor says that Elizabeth chose to leave them to Kate because Kate would know ‘the right thing to do’.

Kate and her family are on their way to a seven week break at a house they rent on Great Rock Island every summer – usually for two weeks but after the tumultuous experience of losing Elizabeth, they are taking a much longer break. Elizabeth’s husband Dave has requested that Kate pick up the journals on her way through to the island and he confesses to Kate that he read the most recent one and it seems that Elizabeth was meeting another man, not participating in an artist’s retreat like everyone thought. Kate isn’t sure what to make of this, but as they settle in to the island house and she begins to read the journals, it seems that she is experiencing an Elizabeth that’s entirely different from the one she knew.

I am loving this book – I have kept journals on and off since I was 12 or 13, although not with the dedication of Elizabeth. Some start off well and taper out by mid-January never to be written in again, some are sporadically kept up throughout the whole year and a few are faithfully written in every day! They’re in a plastic snap-lock tub in our garage and I have to admit, this book really made me think about what I’d want done with them in the event of something happening to me. A lot of the time I use them to vent my frustration, to say the things that I cannot say out loud, be it about my husband in moments of anger, or my family when they annoy me, or even my husband’s family. There are definitely things there that I wouldn’t want people to see – that’s why I write it in a diary. It’s supposed to be for my eyes only, they’re private. So, I’m a little curious – do any of our read-a-long participants keep diaries or journals, no matter how frequently? If so, have you ever thought about what might become of them after you are gone? If you had a choice, what would you want done with them?

Then we have the other side of the coin – Kate is the recipient of her friend’s journals, detailing her life for roughly 26 years. Elizabeth has no real wish for what she wants done with them, other than she thinks that Kate will do what is right and fair. If you were the recipient of someone’s journals, would you read them? Or would you destroy them unread, so that their thoughts would rest with them? Or maybe you’d keep them until their children were old enough to decide what to do with them? I have to admit, I’m not really sure what I’d do but I think that ultimately, curiosity would get the better of me – I’d have to read them! Depending on what I found would probably decide what I chose to do with them after that, which seems to be the way Kate is feeling. Obviously she doesn’t want to taint the children’s memory of their mother, if she finds things that are perhaps better off left to lie… but the children are also barely going to know their mother – two of them will probably remember nothing about her once they reach adulthood so the journals could be a valuable way for them to connect to Elizabeth.

I am torn between feeling sorry for Dave, Elizabeth’s husband and not really liking him. I understand his resentment about not being left the journals but I find him a bit abrasive. I’m trying to cut him some slack because he’s quite obviously grieving and also dealing with feelings of betrayal and anger, as he believes that Elizabeth was cheating on him towards the end of her life and was actually going to see a lover, rather than the painting retreat she told him about.

As Kate gets further into the diaries and realises that this is a totally different Elizabeth from the one she remembered as her friend, she starts to question other areas of her life, including her relationship with her husband Chris. She believes that he is hiding smoking from her. I really admired the way in which this novel portrayed marriage, both Kate and Chris’s marriage and also Elizabeth and Dave’s. I have all these theories on who Elizabeth might be seeing and why, what might be happening between Kate and Chris – anyone else been speculating? I’d love for some people to lay their thoughts out so we can compare back later when we’ve completed the book!

I could go on forever about this book because I think there’s so much to talk about but I’m turning it over the comments now, so come and share your thoughts!

 

67 Comments »

The Unfinished Journals Of Elizabeth D Read-A-Long: Official Schedule

Hello participants! I apologise for being a bit slow getting the schedule for the read-a-long posted but Australia Post decided to send my copy on a vacation before finally depositing it on my doorstep. I’ve had a bit of a look and it seems relatively easy to break down into 3 parts, just like we did for My Hundred Lovers, for those of you who participated along with that one.

Week 1: pages 1-136 Discussion post 1 will go up on Wednesday 15th August

Week 2: pages 137-272. Discussion post 2 will go up on Wednesday 22nd August

Week 3: pages 273-405. Discussion post 3 will go up on Wednesday 29th August.

Although it’s encouraged to keep pace and come and comment on the discussion posts the week they go up, I know that life gets in the way for people and therefore if you find yourself falling behind, don’t worry! The posts aren’t going anywhere and when you’re caught up feel free to drop by and add in your thoughts. Just be aware that each discussion post and the comments will contain ***SPOILERS*** for the relevant section so don’t visit until you’re all caught up!

Hopefully everyone has their books now and I was lucky lucky last and you’re all ready to begin reading section 1. Looking forward to getting stuck into the book and hopefully having some amazing discussions!

Happy reading everyone, see you back here next week!

 

23 Comments »

Read-A-Long Call Out – The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D, by Nichole Bernier

After hosting a read-a-long of My Hundred Lovers, by Susan Johnson in June, the people at Allen & Unwin have kindly asked me to host another during the month of August. We’ll be beginning around the 15th and our chosen book is The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D, by Nichole Bernier. Here’s the summary (from the Allen & Unwin website):

Summer vacation with her family was supposed to be a restorative time for Kate, who’d lost her close friend Elizabeth in a plane crash. But when she inherits a trunk of Elizabeth’s journals, they reveal a woman far different than the cheerful wife and mother Kate thought she knew.
The complicated portrait of Elizabeth – her upbringing, her marriage, and journey to motherhood – makes Kate question not just their friendship, but her own deepest beliefs about loyalty and honesty at a moment of uncertainty in her own marriage. When an unfamiliar man’s name appears in Elizabeth’s pages, Kate realises the extent of what she didn’t know about her best friend, including where she was really going when she died.
Written with grace, depth, and honesty, this is a story of two women – their friendship, their marriages, private ambitions and fears. And what they chose to keep hidden.

As someone who admits to being a little bit of a voyeur, I think the idea of being able to take a peek at someone’s private diaries and thoughts is fascinating – and sure to provide plenty of great fodder for discussion in a read-a-long style format.

If you think this is something you’d like to be a part of, then please leave a comment or email me at 1girl2manybooks {@} gmail {.} com – because of the tight timing and publisher sponsor, this is open to Australian residents only. You don’t have to have participated in the previous read-a-long but you do have to be keen to read the book to the schedule (which I will post as soon as I have received my copy of the book) and also to pop by and share your thoughts! After all a read-a-long is more fun the more people that are involved and want to speak up.

I’m looking forward to doing this again so if you’re interested – get in contact!

 

18 Comments »

June Reading Wrap Up & July Happenings

Total Books Read: 26
Fiction: 26
Non-Fiction: None this month
Library Books: 3
Books On My TBR List: 4
Books in a Series: 8
Authors I’d Never Read Before: 16
Male/Female Authors: 6/20
Kindle Books: 5
Books I Owned or Bought: 9
Favourite Book(s): Canada by Richard Ford, Storm by Brigid Kemmerer, Burning Lies by Helene Young and I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella.
Least Favourite Book(s): Dead Time, by Anne Cassidy
Books That Qualify For Challenges: 11

Can you tell June was cold and rainy? Windy and miserable? I read 26 books for the month. Winter has well and truly arrived here with days barely cracking double digits temperature wise, plenty of chilly wind and days of rain. Good for the reading, not really all that great for opportunities to get out of the house with two little ones. June also saw me give away another 10/10 rating, this time Canada by Richard Ford and there were plenty of books that I rated 9 or 8 so all round a pretty good reading month. I notice that the amount of library books I’m reading is dwindling as the amount of review copies I’m receiving is increasing and I’m reading quite a few of my own books so that’s something…although I’m not making even the smallest dent in the TBR pile. I read 6 books by men in the month of June which for me, is huge! I also read a few on my Kindle – getting into practice for next month for reasons I will talk about a little bit below.

As we’re now halfway through the year, I thought I’d give an overall tally count and also a progess report on how I’m doing in all my challenges so far!

Total Books Read For 2012 So Far: 125
What’s In A Name?5 Challenge Progress: 3/6 complete
Australian Women Writers Challenge Progress: 45 complete. My original sign up was more than 10 from as many genres as possible as this was the highest option to choose but I wanted to try and read as many as possible. So far I’ve covered contemporary women’s fiction, young adult, rural lit, crime/mystery, short stories, speculative fiction, historical fiction, fairy-tale retelling, literary fiction, psychological thriller, paranormal, romance and a literary adaptation.
Around The World In 12 Books Challenge: 6/12 complete so far taking in books set in South Africa, Bangladesh, Guatemala, Tanzania, Cuba and Germany.
Graham Greene Challenge: 2/3 complete
50 Classics in 5 Years Challenge: 2/50 complete
Obernewtyn Read-A-Long Challenge: 1/6 complete

Now there’s a couple of things I will be taking part in during the month of July!

Firstly after a handful of us quite enjoyed the read-a-long I hosted for June of My Hundred Lovers, by Susan Johnson for the publisher Allen & Unwin, we decided that we would like to do another, organised by ourselves. The read-a-long this time will be hosted by Stephen and the book we have chosen to read is All That I Am by Anna Funder which was recently announced as the winner of the Miles Franklin award, one of Australia’s most prestigious literary awards. The sign up post can be found here and also the read-a-long schedule can be found here.

I’m also taking part in the NetGalley Knockdown throughout the month of July hosted over at Pretty Deadly Reviews. I’ve definitely cut down in the amount that I request on NetGalley but I still have a lot of books on my Kindle from there (because they don’t expire on Kindle which is helpful, but also not, as they pile up) so for the month of July I’m aiming to try and read quite a few of them! It’s going to help that I’m going away for 2wks in the latter part of the month to visit my family in another state so I’m only taking my Kindle with me (and one book, the Anna Funder one so I can keep pace with the read-a-long). Sign ups are open until the 14th July here. There are no real benchmarks for the challenge, just an aim to try and read and review as many galleys as you like! As good as being away and only having my Kindle is going to be, I am also on holiday so I’m hoping that I’ll be able to be out and doing things most days with my kids if it’s nice weather (my family live considerably north of where I do and their winters are much warmer, but often wetter so I’m praying for no rain). Hopefully I’ll get about 8 or so read throughout the month, that’s my aim.

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My Hundred Lovers – Discussion Part 3 and Wrap-Up

Hello everyone and welcome to the third and final part of the discussion on My Hundred Lovers, by Susan Johnson. How is everyone? It’s a terrible day here where I am, perfect for reading and hopefully for some dissecting of this book!

So in the third part of the book we learn a few little things that some of us had been wondering throughout. I’ll talk a little bit about this section and then at the end I’ll have a little bit about the book overall. As always, feel free to bring up your own points of discussion or issues that have resonated with you in any way.

  • What do you think of Deborah’s unusual friendship with the eccentric Horatia? Do you like Horatia?
  • Do you think Deborah was drawn to ‘the beautiful lover’ because of his “full sensuous mouth that bore a curious resemblance to my fathers”? (p177). Or did she just want to sleep with a very beautiful man, so she could say/know that she had!
  • The chapter entitled ‘Breasts’ was for me, both beautiful and sad, one part devoted to her new son and the joy she feels at him and also the wonder at her new ‘page 3 breasts’ and the other part devoted to her husband’s belligerent attitude towards the new baby. Satisfied vs unsatisfied. It seems like the sort of chapter that deliberately raises sympathy towards Deborah and directs animosity towards her husband.
  • The Suspicious Wanderer’s past catches up with her in the chapter ‘The worried lover’ (p191) where she undergoes a test for HIV, which is becoming more commonly known. Do you think that the rise of AIDS and the fact that she knew someone that contracted it had any repercussions on Deborah’s behaviour?
  • In this section, Deborah has a liason with a woman. Do you feel that she is genuinely bisexual, merely curious or in love with the idea of love, no matter where it may come from?
  • Her husband is named David, the same name as her father. Do you feel this is significant? (p219). Do you think that she just keeps finding men who remind her of her father in some way, in any way?
  • Her father buys for her and her alone, a beautiful black pearl (p226) – not one for her mother or her sister. It seems that this sort of event happened all too infrequently in her life, someone singling her out and giving her something beautiful.
  • David an Deborah marry in haste, despite numerous warnings from various people. Did it seem their union was destined to be doomed from the start? (p227)
  • In this section, we finally find out what became of their marriage (p243). Did you see this coming or did it surprise you? Why do you think Deborah still refers to him as her husband, even though he is not?
  • Just after that chapter, is a beautiful moment shared between her and her sister Jane (p246). I know that I for one, would’ve liked to have seen a little more of their turbulent relationship. Do you think that enough insight into the two sisters was given?
  • When Deborah finds that there were people who knew of the affair, she never speaks to any of them ever again (256). Does this seem fair/reasonable to you? Especially after she tolerated the shadow lover’s years of infidelity? Did you feel sympathy for her?
  • Deborah grieves more for  the loss of the houseboat and the local houseboat community than she does her husband (p257). Is she right to feel such anger, hurt and betrayal even though she doesn’t love him anymore? Or should she have just let go?

Now that the whole book is complete, how do you feel about it now, versus in the beginning? Did you enjoy it more or less as the book went on? Do you feel you were given a whole picture of Deborah, her life and her lovers? Or do you feel there were things missing, things you would’ve liked elaborated? Did you enjoy the read-a-long experience, if it was a new one for you? Would you do it again? For what it’s worth, I think this book was absolutely perfect for a read-a-long! There are few books I’ve read that I think could’ve generated such discussion on so many topics!

I’d just like to say thanks to everyone that participated and joined in the discussion, I certainly had a lot of fun hosting! Thanks also to Allen & Unwin for organising this and setting us all up with copies of the book.

34 Comments »

My Hundred Lovers Read-a-long Discussion Part 2

Hello everyone and welcome to the second week of discussion for My Hundred Lovers. Before we start I’d just like to thank everyone for the discussion last week! Everyone was so forthcoming with comments and opinions and that is what makes a read-a-long so thank you all for your high level of participation.

Now we’ve read 2/3’s of the book roughly and have learned a lot more about Deborah. Has anyone’s feelings on her changed at all? Do you feel any more or less understanding of her as a character and a woman? Do you judge her, for her actions? As we found out there are probably a few sections in this part that would raise eyebrows these days!

  • We’ve learned that Deborah was married but so far her husband has not been a large part of the book, only mentioned here and there. On p172, when talking about her love for the beach she says “The glorious summer I lived with my son across the road from Rainbow Beach after I lost my husband.” For those who have NOT read on past p173, do you want to take a guess of what she means by ‘lost’?
  • On p91, Deborah states that “In France, she was someone else. She was a girl whose limbs were free, with carte blanche to fill herself in.” She distances herself from this by referring to herself in the third person again, as though she’s talking about someone else, but she talks of herself. Why do you feel she felt things were different in France, that she could ‘fill herself in’?
  • Was anyone disturbed by the chapter ‘Three Men In One Day’ (p103)? This chapter gives more insight into her family and how they have fared while Deborah was in Paris: “…the sister had grown even more beautiful, the mother more drunk, the father on his magic carpet even further away with his endless maps and horizons. The poor brother had long since stepped onto that drinking path which would lead him to an early death.” She has also lost her beloved dog, put down due to old age and and family cat has disappeared. Do you think anything in that above quote impacted on her decision to sleep with the three men in one day? Is it more simple than that? Can Deborah just not say no?
  • Did you find it hard reading this chapter knowing that things today are quite different and that sort of behavior is is considered to be far more dangerous? Then, “Every girl was on the pill and no one used condoms.” Today there is an attempt at a far more different message concerning sexual safety. Do you think Deborah would’ve been as promiscuous if her time was now? Is it something that you don’t feel worries her at all?
  • The shadow lover, whom she is sleeping with upon her return from Paris (as well as the above 3 men) taunts her with remarks that she is not clever, nor is she as beautiful as her sister. She retaliates by “…sleeping with as many lovers as possible”. Why do you feel she stays with the shadow lover, who treats her this way? Whom she found sleeping with someone else at a party, the reason she slept with one of the 3 men in one day. Do you believe that she loves him? Is it habit?
  • The Blind Lover (p123) chapter interested me greatly. He seemed a good, caring, loving man, at ease with his disability and determined to live a full and happy life. Deborah tried and failed to fall in love with him – if she cannot love such a man, can she love any man who is good for her? Does she have a predisposition to drama that dates back to her childhood? Is she always destined to make bad decisions involving men?
  • In this section, Deborah has an abortion. The father of the child is unknown, due to all the men she has been sleeping with. Why do you think Deborah cries when the procedure is performed on her? Is it regret that she isn’t keeping the baby? Or something deeper, such as the reasons behind why she is in this situation? I found the quote “The kindly Chinese doctor has let Ro stand in for all the absent fathers” disturbing and sad. She then ignores a directive not to have penetrative sex for two weeks after the procedure and sleeps with someone she has zero interest in. Does this tie back in with the above question about Deborah not being able to say no? Equating sex with love, or with worth, or with something that she desperately seeks and will take from anywhere to fill a void?
  • When she finally leaves the shadow lover, she goes to the dissolute lover, which she describes as “out of the frying pan and into the fire!” Is this more indication of her incapability to make wise choices with men?
  • “By then the Suspicious Wanderer knew her romantic streak was fatal.” (p138). Do you agree that she has a romantic streak? Does her idea of romantic and yours match up? And how could it be fatal?
  • I felt a bright spot in this section, a beautiful chapter was the one concerning her love for Nana Elsie and vice versa (p147). Nana Elsie is proud of her in a way that her parents aren’t but this quote “There’s nothing like family Debbie. Friends are all very well but it’s family who stand by you when the chips are down” by Nana Elsie seems very idealised. Surely she recognises that it wasn’t particularly like that for Deborah?
  • We also see the return of ‘the deflowerer’, Jonathan Jamieson (p157). How did you feel about Deborah’s involvement with him?

I knew when I was preparing this post making my notes that I’d found lots I thought would be good for discussion but I didn’t realise it was quite so much! If I’ve left anything out that you feel is important, please don’t hesitate to bring it up. I’m looking forward to hearing how you all felt about this section.

29 Comments »

My Hundred Lovers Read-a-long – Discussion Post #1

Hello everyone and welcome to the first discussion on the read-a-long of My Hundred Lovers! Hopefully you all have read pages 1-88 but don’t worry if you haven’t, there’s no pressure! Read at your own pace and come and join us whenever you are up to speed. Just be aware that if you have not completed the first part of the read-a-long that this post and the comments will contain

***SPOILERS***. 

Right, now that we’ve got that out of the way….

Firstly how is everyone enjoying the book? I know that when I put my hand up to host this, I was told that it was “brutally honest” and I have to say, they weren’t kidding! It’s probably one of the frankest stories I’ve ever read, the blunt but still sensuous style painting a meandering picture of our protagonist’s life from 0-50 years. Are you enjoying all of the “hundred lovers?” Is there anything in there that has made you uncomfortable? Don’t be afraid to ‘fess up, that’s what we’re all here for.

Our narrator, Deborah, is a woman who seems to have spent her life in pursuit of pleasure and happiness. We learn about her childhood through her short memories – a distant mother, disappointed in Deborah’s looks, jealous and angry at her husband, often resentful of her children, not wanting them. Good in theory, but not necessarily in practice, is how Deborah’s mother seems to find her experience with motherhood. She retreats with alcohol and at one stage in the book, holds a knife to Deborah’s throat. On the other hand, we have her father, painted as someone who shouldn’t have been good looking, but was. A womaniser, he was apparently with another woman while Deborah’s mother June was giving birth to her and Deborah bears witness to his infidelities when she is around 12 years old, also helping him hide them.

  • How do you feel about Deborah? Do you like her? Can you relate to her? Did you feel sympathy for her? If so, why and if not, why?
  • Do you think that her upbringing and her parents’ fractured relationship sent Deborah on a path of looking for acceptance and love, often in the most unlikely and unfortunate places?
  • Does she use sex as a way to find or feel love?

Of course this book isn’t just about sex… Deborah chronicles animals that have been special to her, people in her life such as her Nana Elsie, her car Claudette and also food. The chapter entitled Cheese-Chocolate-Croissants is one of my favourites in the whole novel – rich with description, ripe with imagery. I wanted to eat everything that was mentioned, so vivid and real was the writing. Did any of the chapters stand out like that for you?

I’ve lifted a couple of quotes that resonated with me that I think might also be good in terms of a discussion:

Romance between the average couple dies two year, six months and twenty-five days into marriage (p1)

This is the opening line of the novel. I found this interesting because it’s such a short amount of time! I’ve only been married about 17 months, so it would sort of depress me if my marriage was to die in another 12 months! Do you think this opening quote is significant in how Deborah feels about marriage, from her experiences with it?

 

When the knife was at my throat I left my body. That is to day, some part of me detached itself from my own skin. You mightsuppose that at the moment I left my body, I began my long quest to reunite myself with it (p12)

The first boys fingers to touch that secret pulse are her brother’s (p19).

Her father never tries to seduce the girl in a literal sense but he seduces her into a world of sexually incontinent, feckless men, so that for many years the only men she finds attractive will betray her (p44).

In the months leading up to my fiftieth birthday I observed the first tentative signs of life’s waning. The blood which had flowed from me month after month for almost forty years began to flow fitfully. At the same time the face I had worn all my adult life began to change into the face of someone else. I was forced to understand that there was a direct link between the body’s hormonal succulence and the succulence of youth (p5).

Okay now I’d like to turn it over to you guys to come and voice your opinions! Please feel free to bring up any topic, issue, etc from the novels, whether I’ve mentioned it or not. There’s nothing that is taboo (as you’ve probably guessed from the novel itself!). I hope everyone is enjoying taking part and that the discussion only enhances your reading experience of this book.

-Bree 🙂

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June Read-a-long – My Hundred Lovers, by Susan Johnson Schedule

Hi everyone! Hopefully now you have all received your copies of My Hundred Lovers but if you haven’t there’s still time! I thought I’d just post the schedule, which looks like this:

Week 1: Pages 1-88

Week 2: Pages 89-173

Week 3: Pages 174-End.

I will be putting up discussion posts on the 8th, 15th and 22nd of June. I picked those dates as they’re Fridays and I thought it would be good to give people the weekend to come and read the posts and comment as I know everyone is busy and has plenty of other commitments.

Hope you all enjoy the book and see you back here on the 8th of June for our first part discussion.

-Bree 🙂

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