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Mildred Walker
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Group Reads > November 2019: Mildred Walker

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message 1: by Kirsty (new)

Kirsty (kirstyonbooks) | 427 comments Mod
Please use this thread to discuss anything you are choosing to read by our monthly author for November, Mildred Walker. You can post reviews, or just snippets of thoughts, whenever suits you.

What will everyone be reading?

message 2: by Kirsty (new)

Kirsty (kirstyonbooks) | 427 comments Mod
I can't find any of Walker's books, unfortunately, so I'm going to have to give this a miss.

message 3: by Terry (new)

Terry | 50 comments I cannot find any physical copies either. There are a few on Open Library.

message 4: by Terry (new)

Terry | 50 comments The book blurb states:
"The novel centers on two families living in Boston in the 1970's: an older couple, Tiresa and Paulo Romano, and the newlyweds Olive and Ron Fifer. The fragile state of the older woman's health and the younger woman's marriage brings these two couples together in their separate and quietly desperate isolation, producing a combination of insight and compassion that only the finest story can evoke. In The Orange Tree, Walker explores the relationships between men and women and offers an absorbing commentary on literature, writing, education, middle-class life, and the nature of friendship and death."

The Chekov play "Three Sisters" is important thematically to this novel, the two couples even attend the play. But it is a mistake to see this book as somehow updating the play. The two share themes, but the novel is a different thing.

The third female character of any thematic relavance is the oddly named Gumshoe. But she rarely appears or is mentioned, and functions as Olive's symbol of her own unrealized dreams and potential.

The main characters are the two couples: Tiresa and Paulo, and Olive and Ron. The viewpoint characters are Tiresa and Olive. We see the unfolding events in third-person filtered through their eyes and thoughts. The book is very much their story.

Tiresa is a professor of literature, and much of her thought is formed and expressed through the literature she has read. She and Paulo are both very cultured and become the friends and mentors to their young neighbors, the Fifers. Tiresa though, has a lingering illness which slowly becomes worse.

Olive cares about her husband but is quietly resentful of his rushing her into marriage at a young age, and the sublimation of her dreams for his. Both her observation of her the marriage of Tiresa and Paulo, and letters from her friend Gumshoe, make her question her life choices.

Ron cares about her, but is controlling and neglectful in a passive aggressive manner. For example, he decides what she will have to drink and orders for her, and after a mild argument, he casually tells her to make him a coffee and bring it to him.

Paulo is likewise educated, and a writer. He reads his work to Tiresa who helps him edit. They are completely compatible as a couple, and their scenes together likely reflect something of the relationship between Walker and her husband. Also, their impressions and observations of their young friends as filtered through their own experience and education are one of the novel's highlights.

The novels themes are explored and discussed but, fittingly, we are not given absolute answers. As with much if not most literary writing, this is what used to be referred to as a 'slice of life story'. We drop into the lives of the characters at some point in their lives, live with them for a period of time, observe their thoughts and actions, then at some point we simply leave them, and their lives, the implication is, would go on, as do ours.

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