Dianne's Reviews > And Ladies of the Club

And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer
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Aug 10, 10

bookshelves: 2010
Read in January, 2010

I finished reading the book this afternoon. What a totally satisfying read, both for the story and for the writing. I love English well spoken and these characters are set in a time when it was. By the time I got to page 1000 I was beginning to wish I wasn't so close to the end. Ironic when you think there were over 400 pages left and lots of the books I read don't have that many to begin with. But by then I was deeply involved in the story and cared about the main character, Anne.

The story covers 1868 to1932 and manages the time span quite well. There was only one jump of two years that threw me off a little. I had to go back and re-read it to see what exactly had happened, but that's more a fault of my wandering mind than the story.

There are many families in the story and toward the end I wasn't able to keep up with who married who and all their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. I see that as a positive in this story. Anne's life was the core of the book and as she aged her world became more and more narrow while all that living went on around her. I think the author was ingenious in allowing the reader to share some of the isolation and confusion the main character was experiencing as her own life wound down.

Throughout the book there is seamless transitioning from one character, household and workplace to another. With so many characters it can't be easy to develop each one in a way that you feel you know enough about them. Santmyer has the enviable skill of leading you through their lives without even realizing you've moved on from one to another. By the time you wonder what's happening with someone, you're back into their lives and catching up.

American politics was a continuing background story in the book. I confess there were times when I skipped through a paragraph or two simply because I'm not an American and have no great interest in their political history. Having said that though, I have to say also that the political story is at times an integral part of the bigger story and in no way interfered with my enjoyment of it.

As I said in an earlier post, the Ladies Club is a literary club. I found their meetings fascinating just because they are so totally different than the meetings of the Book Club I belong to. Their club demanded far more from their members than mine does. To be assigned a topic and required to stand up and present an essay on it would send most of us running. We choose books and though one person is assigned to lead the discussion, it is usually just a matter of telling a bit about the author and preparing questions to get the others talking. With over 60 years "in" the Ladies' Club however, I'm now intrigued with the idea of doing more. Maybe we should stretch ourselves a little and try something new.

I acquired a little knowledge about the Temperance Crusade from this book. I wasn't very familiar with how it affected ordinary people or how churches were involved. It was interesting to see how it fit into the lives of the characters and how important it was to some and how trivial to others.

Religion was at least a part of most people's lives in the time period the book covers, but as always, there was a wide variety of beliefs. Some characters were Christians, others called themselves Christians because they believed in God, and others wanted nothing to do with any of it. Many characters prayed and attended church, and yet were class conscious, with firm ideas about who was acceptable and who wasn't. Parents were appalled when their children chose spouses considered below them. Social occasions were for the acceptable classes only. As in many stories, Christianity is treated lightly and inaccurately. There would be no room for class consciousness or judgementalism in true Christianity, for Christians are instructed to consider others better than themselves, and invite to their dinners those who can't repay. I hear much about the decline of the church in this 21st century, but I see more acceptance of all people in today's believers than I read about in history.

When I came to the end of the book, I was satisfied. I had expected to feel badly about leaving all those people behind, but the story ended perfectly, not in the middle of a life, but at the close of it, leaving no wondering how things would work out if the story continued.

I will recommend this book to all the avid readers I know. I have one request to borrow it already. For anyone who's looking for a great read, absorbing and entertaining, this is it. I'm looking forward to reading the author's other novels.
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