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...And Ladies of the Club
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Archived 2016 Group Reads > Week 1 - And Ladies of the Club

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jb Byrkit (jbbyrkit) Week 1 - July 10 1868 parts 1,2,3 (66)


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Everyman | 885 comments Discussion on this section starts on Sunday, July 10


message 3: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 885 comments So we're off.

It's June (or approximately so) 1868, three years after the end of the Civil War (which ended in May, 1865), in the fictional town of Waynesboro, which is, I understand, based on Santmyer's home town of Xenia, Ohio.

Although the Civil War is over, its aftermath is clearly in the forefront of the citizens of Zenia.

What do readers think about the way Santmyer opens her book by introducing her characters through the graduation of two main characters from the town's private high school?


message 4: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 885 comments I am working to sort out all the characters and relationships which are put forward in these first three sections. I think I've got them mostly sorted, though time will tell.

One thing that I'm not positive about: apparently Captain Ludwig Rausch is the brother of Minna. But if I'm right about that, there must be quite an age gap there, since Minna is described as still a younger student, and Captain Rausch is old enough apparently to have fought in the war, and now to think about starting a factory in Waynesboro. Is this the way others see them? Or am I missing something?


message 5: by jb (new) - added it

jb Byrkit (jbbyrkit) I will be ordering this book as soon as I move. I must say I am looking forward to it.


message 6: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 885 comments jennbunny wrote: "I will be ordering this book as soon as I move. I must say I am looking forward to it."

It's a slow read so you'll have plenty of time to catch up.


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jb Byrkit (jbbyrkit) Good to know.


message 8: by Dianne (new) - added it

Dianne | 1263 comments I'm starting this today, a bit behind with my demanding kiddos. The writing style is immersive and clever, with a dry wit.


message 9: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 885 comments Dianne wrote: "...with a dry wit."

Yes, I've been enjoying that, too. It gentler than Austen's wit, which can be very pointed, but has the same subtle sense where you have to pay attention to realize how witty it is.


message 10: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 885 comments I like the way we've been set gently down in a living town where lives are going on all around us and clearly have been for a long time. In many novels, it seems as though previous events or relationships are pushed at us only as they seem necessary to the author to give us this little bit of background. But here, I get the sense that we've stepped into the river of the lives of these people, who have been and are and will continue to be just going about their lives as they have for so many years, and we just get to settle down in their midst and watch as their lives unfold.


message 11: by Dianne (new) - added it

Dianne | 1263 comments I just finished this week's read. I love being immersed in the time period, and the peculiarly shocked views of women want to dress normally and have short hair. Oh, the horror! Oh, so much of this novel makes me glad I live in this day and age but being greeted with cakes and blackberry cordial when visiting someone wouldn't be so bad.

I have to admit that I cheated by peeking at the last chapters to the club list to see how the club changed over time and was shocked by how many died ! (Is that a spoiler? Whoops!, I'm hoping no since I don't say who. You can cheat or not cheat yourself to find out) and who got married and who remained the dreaded spinster.

What on earth is the reason for the club's 'non-controversial topics only' mandate?? I suspect I don't want to know.

I thought the line that "it's fun to dislike people," was amusing. (I disagree btw)

Also noteworthy was the description of war, that "everything that had happened since, everything that would ever happen, however long they lived, would be nothing but make-believe, in comparison." So true from everything I have ever heard about war. Also true the comment that people expect those returning from war to "put it all behind" them.

Everyman, I didn't follow the minna /rausch relationship either on first read but I'll look back at that. Maybe the blanks are filled in later.


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Laurel Bradshaw (llawryf) | 39 comments I have notes on that from when I started reading it before. This'll be the third time I've tried to read this book. But I kept notes on all the characters. Probably won't get to it until the weekend. I've got a house guest at the moment...


message 13: by Dianne (new) - added it

Dianne | 1263 comments Very cool, thanks Laurel!


message 14: by Mary M. (new)

Mary M. Hello, Everybody.
I just joined this group because someone in a group of mine told me that you were starting "Ladies of the Club". I've been wanting to read this for some time so I hope I can finally get it done.
I've spent some time looking at this site so I hope I am posting correctly. Please, if there is something I have missed, let me know. I'm not use to GoodReads so I apologize if I've missed anything.
It's going to be about a week before I can start as I have to finish another book first.
Merrie


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SusanK Hello! I wasn't able to read the last couple books, but I will have more reading time this summer. I tried to start this 30 years ago, but I was obviously too young. Some things improve with age.
If you haven't already, bring up the songs they sing in the 1st section on YouTube. They range from barbershop to classic German lieder to Civil War tunes you would have heard on the Ken Burns' series. No wonder Minna was dismissive of the popular music, if she was brought up on Schubert. Reminds me a bit of Willa Cather and her German pioneers.

Quote: "As if strong-minded women can ever be anything but monstrosities" Some folks may still think this way.

Fifty pages in, and the author has brought up the Johnson impeachment, U. S. Grant election, the gold standard, abolition, and universal suffrage. I don't know if she will explore these as political concerns of the time, or if it just sets the period.

Took me a while to realize that the Woman's college really is high school, like Anne of Green Gables, while Agatha Reid went to Oberlin for 4 years of college. Ages range from 18 to mid 40's for the ladies.


message 16: by Laurel (new) - added it

Laurel Bradshaw (llawryf) | 39 comments I'm looking at my notes, now that I'm home and thinking about it. Captain Ludwig Rausch is Minna's brother. He fought in the 6th Iowa under General Sherman's command. Their father is a meat packer in Burlington. I don't have anything on ages, but I don't think it is that great. I would guess he is 22-25 maybe, and Minna is 15-18?


message 17: by Dianne (new) - added it

Dianne | 1263 comments Thanks Laurel and Susan! I never would have picked that stuff up if you hadn't shared.


message 18: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 885 comments Mary wrote: "I've spent some time looking at this site so I hope I am posting correctly. Please, if there is something I have missed, let me know. I'm not use to GoodReads so I apologize if I've missed anything.."

You did just fine. Welcome to the discussion!


message 19: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 885 comments SusanK wrote: "Quote: "As if strong-minded women can ever be anything but monstrosities" Some folks may still think this way.."

Yes, I noticed that too. And, though I'm not going back to look for it, wasn't there a reference to a college degree being a man's degree?

Santmyer attended Oxford University from 1924-1927. She was one of the earliest women allowed to matriculate at Oxford; according to the Oxford University Archives website, " Before October 1920, women were not allowed to matriculate (ie to be become members of the University) or to graduate. From the late 1870s, women had attended lectures, taken examinations, and had gained honours in those examinations. They were, however, unable to receive the degree to which, had they been men, their examinations would have entitled them."

So she was very conscious of the challenge of women who chose to become college educated.


message 20: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 885 comments Dianne wrote: "I have to admit that I cheated by peeking at the last chapters to the club list to see how the club changed over time and was shocked by how many died"

Hardly surprising. The club is formed in 1868. The final chapter is dated 1932, 64 years later. Given that the youngest members of the club were 18 at the time it was formed, they would, if they had lived, be 82 by the end of the book, and many of the founding members (and presumably others who joined along the way) were much older than that. So hardly surprising that there would have been a number of deaths.


message 21: by SusanK (new) - added it

SusanK And before that, she was a B. A. A Wellesley grad, 1918.


message 22: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 885 comments Laurel wrote: "This'll be the third time I've tried to read this book. But I kept notes on all the characters.."

Third time's a charm!

Because there are obviously going to be quite a few characters, I'm going to open another topic just for discussion of characters generally, rather than trying to do it all in a disjointed fashion in the weekly discussion threads. Your notes will come in handy as things progress!


message 23: by Dianne (new) - added it

Dianne | 1263 comments Everyman wrote: "Dianne wrote: "I have to admit that I cheated by peeking at the last chapters to the club list to see how the club changed over time and was shocked by how many died"

Hardly surprising. The club i..."


The roster change was interesting in general, as to the ages I guess it is more surprising in that time period that there were any members still alive!


message 24: by Laurel (last edited Jul 14, 2016 04:57PM) (new) - added it

Laurel Bradshaw (llawryf) | 39 comments I've been doing some online research today about girls' education in the 1860s. My impression is that the students were generally younger than high school students today. Ages ranged from 13-20 at private girls' academies or boarding schools. It was a four-year curriculum so girls could have "graduated" as young as 16. I also looked up Oberlin College, and it said in the 19th century many students were younger than 17.

So I'm going to guess that Anne and Sally are 16 or 17. And Minna is 13 or 14.

Also, as many as 20% of Civil War soldiers were younger than 18, so I doubt that Ludwig and John are much older than about 22 in 1868.


message 25: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 885 comments While proposing the idea of the club to Anne and Sally, Mrs. Lowrey mentions that Waynesboro is "too small to allow us the pleasure of the Lyceum lectures." I wasn't sure what those were, so looked them up. The Lyceum concept, I read, was an idea for traveling lecturers to go around the country giving lectures to various communities. It was started apparently in 1826 by Josiah Holbrook, and was still strong after the war. Lincoln as young man gave a Lyceum lecture, and Emerson, Thoreau, and Mark Twain were among those active in giving Lyceum lectures. Before the era of radio or TV, these were the only way to experience speakers other than on the printed page.


message 26: by Hilary (new) - added it

Hilary (agapoyesoun) Well, I got this book with some difficulty. At last I got it second-hand. About three pages in. Do I keep going? Such small print, so many pages! I know that really this is an impossible question ...


message 27: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 885 comments Hilary wrote: "Well, I got this book with some difficulty. At last I got it second-hand. About three pages in. Do I keep going? Such small print, so many pages! I know that really this is an impossible question ..."

Yes, it's long. But we've got plenty of time. And I'm finding it much more enjoyable than I had expected. It has some of the flavor of Middlemarch, examining the people and social interactions of a small town, but (much as I love Middlemarch) it's more enjoyable to read.


message 28: by SusanK (new) - added it

SusanK It moves along pretty quickly. Music and relationships in wk1. Art tableaux in Wk2 (Wk2 anyone?)
The Lyceum comment put me in mind of Henry James' The Bostonians, with the women speakers filling the salons and halls advocating women's suffrage. James was much closer to his time period. Santmyer is writing of a time, what, 30-40 years before she was born and maybe actually writing her manuscript in the 70's? She did a lot of research somewhere along the line.


message 29: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 885 comments SusanK wrote: " Santmyer is writing of a time, what, 30-40 years before she was born and maybe actually writing her manuscript in the 70's? She did a lot of research somewhere along the line. ."

I did read that both her grandfathers had fought in the Civil War, and she knew them both, so she would have had some direct information from those who lived though the years she's writing about.


message 30: by Hilary (new) - added it

Hilary (agapoyesoun) Thank you so much, Everyman and SusanK, for your insights. I must give it another bash.

Your mention of 'Middlemarch', Everyman, helped to shine a light on the problem. I slogged, struggled, stumbled and even shimmied my way to the invisible line that falls on the just over half way point in 'Middlemarch' (it is true that the just-over-half-way-line haunts the pages of every book that was ever written!). I abandoned it. But it did not go away.

At last, one day, after some intense eye-balling with said book, I caved and read to the end. I am so glad that I did. So perhaps there is hope for 'And ladies ...' and me, after all!


message 31: by Hilary (new) - added it

Hilary (agapoyesoun) And, Everyman, I really appreciate your information about the Civil War. A lady who is part of my extended family, sadly no longer with us, was still fighting the Civil War, it was said.

In my eyes she was quite an enigma. She was an adorable old lady who baked banana cream and chocolate cream pies in her down time and fought the Yankees as her day job. She was a Confederate, you see.;-)

Maymaw's way of life had been turned upside down with the loss of her family 'helps'. They were left with a quandary: who would tend their plantations, sweep their floors and feed their babies?!

It sounds as though Ms Santmyer had an intimate connection to the Civil War too. The direct live relationship with her grandfathers really does melt away the years. One hundred years is like a flash! It reminds me of the scriptural New Testament idea of an apostle. The apostolic link was established through a direct encounter with the subject. It would appear that our author's Civil War credentials are well and truly established.


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Tanya Booklovinghippo (booklovinghippo) | 33 comments Laurel wrote: "I've been doing some online research today about girls' education in the 1860s. My impression is that the students were generally younger than high school students today. Ages ranged from 13-20 at ..."

I think youre right about the ages. I think the age gap between Minna and Ludwig, although large probably isnt too big... there might be other siblings between the two (dead or alive).

Im really enjoying this book so far. I love that there are so many different characters. Anne and Sallys humor is great, and i love that there is such an age range and personality range with the members of the club. It will definitely be interesting to read about the different perspectives of the authors and also the different adventures the women of the club go on. I have a feeling there will be some interesting adventures to come.


message 33: by Ami (last edited Aug 01, 2016 05:52PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ami SusanK wrote: "Hello! I wasn't able to read the last couple books, but I will have more reading time this summer. I tried to start this 30 years ago, but I was obviously too young. Some things improve with age.
I..."


Dianne wrote: "Everyman wrote: "Dianne wrote: "I have to admit that I cheated by peeking at the last chapters to the club list to see how the club changed over time and was shocked by how many died"

Hardly surpr..."


Everyman wrote: "So we're off.

It's June (or approximately so) 1868, three years after the end of the Civil War (which ended in May, 1865), in the fictional town of Waynesboro, which is, I understand, based on Sa..."


What do readers think about the way Santmyer opens her book by introducing her characters through the graduation of two main characters from the town's private high school?
I especially enjoyed reading the first section because of the great care and attention for details and descriptions. Also, the addition of third person omniscient narrator is perfect because it allows the the richness of novel to stand on its own; although, there are moments where the point of view switches from Sally and Anne, but it doesn't hurt the delivery at all. I find I do not have to work as hard and can learn more about the characters, surroundings, etc. when there is an omniscient narrator...It definitely creates a seamlessly integrated overall intrigue.

Took me a while to realize that the Woman's college really is high school, like Anne of Green Gables, while Agatha Reid went to Oberlin for 4 years of college. Ages range from 18 to mid 40's for the ladies.
Oh, this makes so much sense now. I thought something was off as to my understanding when Mr. Cochran, at his dinner, says, It won't last long enough to make a 'blue stocking' out of Sally when Sally mentioned joining the club. I had to look up what the meaning of "blue stocking" (academic female) was. It always helps to put things in perspective! Thank you.

The roster change was interesting in general, as to the ages I guess it is more surprising in that time period that there were any members still alive!
I noticed this as well, and for some reason, I was tickled by it. I guess because I was excited to see that the club was slowly growing in spite of how it is viewed by society.

The dinner at the Cochran house was rather telling of the time as far as how women were viewed in society, most of it humiliating (for me), especially some of the words spoken by the older males... It's not me, I know, but if an older male was making it easier for me to accept a glass of sherry because we gathered together to celebrate my entrance into womanhood, I would have found it a little embarrassing; especially, when Cochran asks the Doctor for confirmation that I was becoming a woman (30). There was no malice intended, I understand, but the delivery seemed a little insensitive. Mr. Cochran was full of lines that evening as was the Mrs. with their views on the girls being a part of this club.


message 34: by Laurel (new) - added it

Laurel Bradshaw (llawryf) | 39 comments Tanya wrote: "I think youre right about the ages. I think the age gap between Minna and Ludwig, although large probably isnt too big... there might be other siblings between the two (dead or alive). "

When John and Anne get engaged, he says he is 28 and Anne is 18. If Ludwig is the same age as John, 28, and Minna is around 13, that is a 15-year gap which I don't think is unusual.


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jb Byrkit (jbbyrkit) I started this section two days ago. I am glad for the clarification on the school grade range.


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jb Byrkit (jbbyrkit) I've finished this section, or I think I did. My book sections are not sectioned the same. So far I am enjoying it.


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Dianne | 1263 comments jennbunny wrote: "I've finished this section, or I think I did. My book sections are not sectioned the same. So far I am enjoying it."

Good! It is such an interesting book, so different from anything else I can think of. Are you going to keep up with it through the next month or two?


message 38: by jb (new) - added it

jb Byrkit (jbbyrkit) Definitely I'm continuing on with the book!


message 39: by Dianne (new) - added it

Dianne | 1263 comments Yay! :)


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