Bailey's/Orange Women's Fiction Group discussion

Still Life with Bread Crumbs
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2014 Books > November 2014 book Still Life With Bread Crumbs

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message 1: by Penny (new)

Penny | 680 comments Mod
Here is our November read from this year's list.

JenniferD (jooniperd) | 343 comments i read this book a few months ago, so will hold off commentary until others have had a chance to do so. i am interested in hearing opinions, though. :)

Ruthie (ruthiea) | 70 comments Just grabbed it from the library!

message 4: by Val (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val I also read it quite recently.

message 5: by Penny (new)

Penny | 680 comments Mod
I have finished this one - quite a quick easy read. Will wait til later for some comments!

JenniferD (jooniperd) | 343 comments yes, it was definitely a quick read for me too, penny! :)

Jessica Haider (jessicahaider) | 155 comments Mod
I read this one in the past couple of months as well.

Jessica Haider (jessicahaider) | 155 comments Mod
I read this one in the past couple of months as well.

message 9: by Janine (new) - added it

Janine | 80 comments I'm still waiting on a copy. Hope it arrives early next week.

message 10: by Val (last edited Nov 06, 2014 12:49AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val Please hide any spoilers until the 15th.
Comments on writing style, setting, characters and any first impressions are welcome now.

Here are mine:
I am generally keener on books by women than books seen as for women. (You know the type I mean - light, fluffy novels that don't tax our poor, feeble, female brains.) This one was getting a bit close to that type, but it was well written and I did enjoy reading it (and it was a quick read, as others have said).
Women often move to a different environment in these lighter books and most often this move is from the city to the countryside. I thought the different way of life in the small country town, in contrast to the city, was described well in this one.

JenniferD (jooniperd) | 343 comments ah, interesting, val!! i understand your differentiation. speaking about genres, i have had issues with 'women's fiction', or 'chick lit' as labels. i feel like they do a disservice to writers and readers -- they seem to have a negative connotation, so that if someone is reading these types of books, they are somehow lesser. or the people creating these works are not legitimate. i don't have a solution, or even any ideas for how it could be different. now, i totally admit to not being a fan of fluffy fiction, lighter, easy stories that always seem to be neat and tidy, happily ever after. i find that many of the books i have read in the 'chick lit' or 'women's fiction' categories don't go very deep into characters or issues - they skim the surface and leave me wondering/wanting a bit more. and this is fine, of course!! it just isn't my reading preference. but i have also read a few books from these genres that i really enjoyed, but as i was reading them i knew they wouldn't be considered as 'serious' literature, even if they are popular literature. (Me Before You, for example.)

concerning Still Life with Bread Crumbs - i did find it a bit light. i was surprised at its inclusion on the list because it just didn't seem to be in keeping with the other contenders (though haven't read all of them...i have read a good number of them).

i'm not sure if i am making sense...and i think i am contradicting myself all over the place. :/

message 12: by Val (last edited Nov 06, 2014 08:40AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val Lighter books can make a pleasant change from gritty realism, troubled characters and confrontations with difficult issues and I do read them, but I regard them as light relief and do not take them seriously.
This might be a spoiler, so I will hide it:
(view spoiler)
What you said makes sense and I agree.

message 13: by Penny (new)

Penny | 680 comments Mod
Oh Val - I loved your 'poor feeble female brains' comment!!
Jennifer - I too was surprised that this was included in the prize list as whilst I enjoyed it, it definitely feels more like a light-weight book. I would have said on a par with Jojo Moyes and Maeve Binchy,(much as I have enjoyed their books) not on a level with Lionel Shriver, Zadie Smith, Andrea Levy and Helen Dunmore.

message 14: by Penny (new)

Penny | 680 comments Mod
OK here are some points to consider as we think of this book.
The defining decision that Rebecca makes in this book is clearly her choice to move out of the city to the country. How does this change of locations affect her? Have you ever made a decision that had a similar affect on you?

One of the defining aspects of Rebecca Winter’s life is her first marriage. In many ways she enters the marriage young and naïve. How does she change because of this relationship?

Rebecca’s relationship with her mother is less than ideal. How has this relationship defined her?

Much of the critical acclaim about Rebecca’s “Still Life” series of photographs places her as a feminist voice. What is her reaction to this attention? How does it compare to her values and life?

How would you characterize Rebecca’s relationship with Jim Bates? Why does this relationship "work" for her?

Based on the descriptions of her work, how do Rebecca’s two successful photography series (“Still Life With Bread Crumbs” and “The White Cross Series”) compare to each other. Does one appeal to you more? Why?

If you have read other books by Anna Quindlen, how did this novel compare? Would you recommend it for readers new to Quindlen?

I have seen several websites that list Quindlen as a feminist author - would you agree with this?

JenniferD (jooniperd) | 343 comments i haven't read it yet, but quindlen's memoir Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake apparently talks about her feminism. she did a great interview with NPR, when the book came out a couple of years ago. she briefly touches on equity for women at the new york times, and her exposure to feminism while at university:

quindlen has self-identified as a feminist, so i don't know that it's open for our questioning or debate? she also wrote an introduction to 50th anniversary edition of The Feminine Mystique. (i really need to get that edition!!) were you asking whether her books offer feminist characters and deal with feminist issues?

along with Still Life with Bread Crumbs, i have read Black and Blue, and that's about it for her fiction for me. i do own a couple more of her books, though.

message 16: by Penny (new)

Penny | 680 comments Mod
Jennifer wrote: "i haven't read it yet, but quindlen's memoir Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake apparently talks about her feminism. she did a great interview with NPR, when the book came out a couple..."

I think the question -which was off a discussion guide - was questioning whether Rebecca Winter was a strong character lead. She does at times show a vulnerability that for me works fine (I would class her as a feminist) although its a fine line between being at a low point and being pathetic. Some of the slowness of the plot in this lead me to feel that I wanted to give Rebecca a bit of a push to step back into her life instead of observing everyone else yet not living herself. Perhaps this idea was central - she was stuck in a 'still life' herself. My biggest issue wasnt so much with the plot or Rebecca but with the writing - it was a little twee, very predictable and slow.

Also, if you were writing a novel would you call your heroine Rebecca Winter? Isnt that rather like having another Jane Eyre, Tess Durbeyfield, Cathy Earnshaw? Each time I remembered she was Rebecca Winter I cringed a little - no Maxim, no Manderley and no Cornwall in sight!!! Probably just me but I would have preferred Jane Smith to a name that already has such a strong powerful character attached to it.

message 17: by JenniferD (last edited Nov 24, 2014 12:22PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

JenniferD (jooniperd) | 343 comments heh!! that's funny penny - about the character's name. i also felt it kind of silly, each time i thought of it.

concerning the character, though -- i guess my answer is i don't know. while i felt the book to be a 'nice' read overall, i didn't love it and didn't really like the character too much. i was frustrated with her, finding her too passive at times. and, as you noted, found it predictable. i read this a few months ago, and my brain is not the best, so i don't have good references at-hand. :/

message 18: by Val (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val The name jarred a bit with me too, Rebecca de Winter is not a passive character and, more importantly, she is not actually present during the narrative. Rebecca Winter is more like the (unnamed) second Mrs de Winter.
I suppose Anna Quindlen could have been thinking about the type of man the narrator of Rebecca should have married.

JenniferD (jooniperd) | 343 comments i loved 'rebecca' so much. but i don't feel this novel is in league with it. seems quite a daunting prospect, really, when you think about it. why so that? as i said, i just felt it was silly. probably not the reaction quindlen would want from readers.

JenniferD (jooniperd) | 343 comments (though i did read somewhere that quindlen also loves the novel 'rebecca', so maybe it's just as simple as her paying tribute through the name of her character, rather than trying to invoke the classic novel? they are such different stories.)

message 21: by Val (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val Daphne du Maurier writes unsettling stories, Anna Quindlen writes cosy ones (based on this book). There is no comparison, although it is perfectly possible to enjoy both (and I do), I am more likely to remember the unsettling ones and forget the cosy the moment I close the book.

Diane Penny wrote: "Oh Val - I loved your 'poor feeble female brains' comment!!"

I loved that comment also and and also thought this book lightweight and non-memorable but enjoyable. I listened to it in the car and it was perfect for that - if you get into heavy traffic and miss something, no matter. you really haven't missed anything.

message 23: by Jayme (last edited Mar 02, 2015 04:10AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jayme I am officially 4 months behind in our group reads :) I just finished this book and I really enjoyed it. I do agree that it doesn't seem to be like other Bailey's/Orange Prize selections, but is that bad? Where does it say that a prize contender has to be an uncomfortable depressing book? I needed a lighter topic after being bogged down with some torturously sad books lately and this book was perfect.

message 24: by Penny (last edited Mar 06, 2015 12:58PM) (new)

Penny | 680 comments Mod
Jayme wrote: "I am officially 4 months behind in our group reads :) I just finished this book and I really enjoyed it. I do agree that it doesn't seem to be like other Bailey's/Orange Prize selections, but is th..."

You make a good point there - does a book have to be immensely heavy, intense and filled with angst to be good?!! I think there have been some great 'light-relief' books that are actually extremely well-written and do 'what they do' remarkably well. For me this book didnt do that though - it didnt hit the mark.
I have thoroughly enjoyed some of Maeve Binchy's books which some would class as light but for me had depth and variety and I can still remember some of them years after reading them. One of her books I had dreams about the characters - how weird is that!!

JenniferD (jooniperd) | 343 comments Jayme wrote: "I am officially 4 months behind in our group reads :) I just finished this book and I really enjoyed it. I do agree that it doesn't seem to be like other Bailey's/Orange Prize selections, but is th..."

it is a good questions, jayme. i think that so long as the writing is strong, i am a happy reader. i don't need all of my reads to be dark, heavy and depressing. (though literature does seem heavily skewed this way. something about happy families and unhappy families, it think. heh!) for me, though, i was disappointed with quindlen's book - i just felt the writing to be weak. so when i complained about it, it wasn't because of the story, necessarily. it was the writing i found 'light'. certainly (for me) when held up to the other nominees, it was a surprise inclusion on the list.

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