The Well-Read Woman Book Club discussion

In Cold Blood
This topic is about In Cold Blood
Book Discussion > In Cold Blood

Comments Showing 1-7 of 7 (7 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Caroline (last edited Mar 02, 2020 07:50AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Caroline (carolinerudolph) | 138 comments Our Classic Pick for February 2020 is In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.

What has motivated you to read this book? Have you ever read this before? Do you have any expectations or assumptions? Have you heard anyone else talking about it?

Eleni Philippopoulos | 9 comments Hello! I was really excited when I saw this was the pick for February. If you've listened to the podcast, you know that my co-host and I are big fans of The View (we love the cattiness!). Joy Behar always mentions that when she was a new mother she was living out in the woods by herself and her daughter and was terrified because she was reading this book. I've wanted to read it ever since!

Elba (elbamaria) | 51 comments I am so excited to read In Cold Blood with all of you. I have heard it is a must read and a very horrific book. I look forward to the discussion. My expectations are that it will be disturbing so I am glad to co read it with a bookclub. Cheers!

Caroline (carolinerudolph) | 138 comments I would never have the guts to pick up a book like this without a little push from a book club, so I'm really interested to see how this book and discussion turns out. I have my copy from the library, and just knowing that this book is non-fiction is already chilling to me!

I love hearing a little background that Joy Behar herself was terrified. I'm the biggest chicken, I'll be reading this with the lights on I'm sure.

message 5: by Caroline (last edited Feb 24, 2020 07:45AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Caroline (carolinerudolph) | 138 comments I know that we're coming close to the end of the month, but in case anyone is still reading, I want to mark some things as spoilers being that this is our first reading together. Moving forward, I think the last 10 days of the month should be considered spoiler-ridden, enter at your own risk!

Historically, Truman Capote's take and writing style of this book was really the first of its kind in that time period. It opened the door for many fictionalized true-crime styled books which became widely popular after it was published. I found this to be interesting in an era where most of our Netflix documentaries explore real-life crimes and insight into a perpetrator's mind. As a public, we have an obsession with understanding the "why" behind common circumstances and closed doors.

I do find it supremely interesting that one a whole, we tend to categorize groups of people or sub-groups, etc. with a certain bias or shading to make sense of our own worlds. For example, when you're unaccustomed to certain concepts of human suffering or are ignorant of other people's problems, it is easy to assign people with cold labels. That is until you gain insight into someone who is very real to you, and whom you show certain compassions to beyond the biases we may have presented to other people previously. These titles we lend out change meaning relative to our own experiences with it. Does a perspective shift have a direct correlation relative to one's presentation of humanity?

That being said...spoiler alert!

Here are some other points I'd like to hit, for anyone who has thoughts, please pick a few and share what you have an opinion on! If you do not have any particular ideas, that's ok too, tell us what you thought!

What effect did it have on the story that Capote lets you get to know Dick and Perry before you find out that they are the murderers?

Do you think true crime stories have a responsibility to do a service to the victims and their families? Is it a valid criticism to say that the murderers were depicted in too sympathetic a light?

There are rumors that Capote and Perry were lovers. Does that surprise you, given the way Perry was presented in the book? He's arguably depicted in a more sympathetic light than Dick. What do you think the reasons were for the two murders to be depicted so differently?

What are your thoughts on Perry Smith?

Does Dick Hickock inspire any feelings of empathy in you?

Do you feel sorry for the Clutter family? Did Capote spend enough time on the Clutters? Did he spend too much time focusing on the killers in the story?

What do you think about the court proceedings? What did the court do wrong? Do you think it was illegal?

Think about Perry and Dick's speeches at the end before they are hanged. What are your thoughts? Do you think Perry was actually apologetic?

What is your overall feeling about this book, did you like it? Do you consider this a non-fiction when Capote took certain personal liberties in the writing?

message 6: by Rachel (new)

Rachel (pawswithprose) I'm very excited to read this. Going to start it tonight.

Eleni Philippopoulos | 9 comments I rated this 3 stars, but I would be willing to bump it up to 3.5. I definitely enjoyed it, but there was also a real struggle to finish it towards the end. I think it's because once the punch is revealed, meaning, once we know who did it and why there isn't much left to keep me in it. I think the reason I didn't enjoy it as much has to do with the fact that there was really no motive. There was no "why." Instead, Capote chose to focus on the humanity of the characters, both the living and dead. While this is a compelling choice, it's not the reason I usually pick up these kinds of books. I love reading about the process and steps that go into finding the culprits. I think it would have been more engaging had Capote chosen to reveal clues along the way, instead of explaining them all at once in chunks. I didn't like the fact that he gave us so much information about the killers before revealing the murder.

I'll try to answer some of the questions that Carol suggested in her above comment, mainly the one about feeling sympathy towards Dick and Perry. This is something that I struggled with while reading and listening to the audiobook.

Overall, I don't mind the fact that the writing evokes some sympathy/empathy in us. I think we're all human, and it's hard not to feel things for them, especially when you read about their backgrounds and the complicated lives they lead. I think Capote did an excellent job of balancing facts and emotions, and it's one of the things I really appreciate about the book.

I have to admit, Perry came off way more sensitive than Dick. Maybe it was because Perry showed more remorse in many more instances than Dick did. Perhaps it was because at least Perry showed more remorse in many more situations. I'm thinking of the way he tucked Nancy into bed, put the pillow behind Kenyon's head, tried to comfort Mrs. Clutter and had Mr. Clutter lie down on the mattress. Although, Perry does confess that Dick couldn't go through with the killings, and that had me doubting my feelings for him as well.

The feelings of empathy also had me feeling the trial, or at least the preliminary steps leading up to it were unfair. The unwillingness of the judge to let both defendants be interviewed by a psychiatrist was appalling. Because clearly, two people who were willing to slaughter a family for absolutely no reason are, in fact, mentally ill. A man who admits to wanting to kill his sister is mentally ill. A man who is sexually attracted to pre-pubescent girls is clearly mentally ill.

The jury selection was also problematic. Having jurors openly admit that they would make an exception to the death penalty because of these murders who never fly in today's climate. The beauty of Capote's writing is that he had me feeling outraged on behalf of the murderers. Yikes.

Overall, I was expecting something more amazing than what I read. The relatively low rating is because I'm comparing the book to other true crime books that I've read. From everything I head about this book before picking it up, I thought it was going to be groundbreaking. And I'm sure it was in its time. But in 2020, with all the murder documentaries and the horrible images we have access to, it wasn't as riveting as I was expecting it to be. I'm glad I read it, though!

back to top

unread topics | mark unread

Books mentioned in this topic

In Cold Blood (other topics)

Authors mentioned in this topic

Truman Capote (other topics)