THE JAMES MASON COMMUNITY BOOK CLUB discussion

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Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) As always, welcome and thanks for joining in on our discussion of this upcoming novel. Please note, whenever possible, the chapter you are discussing and add spoilers when necessary


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/30/boo...

This review may contain some spoilers.


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Some things to think about as we begin.

What does the opening chapter establish about the cultural and social milieu of prewar Budapest? What do Andras’s reactions to Hász household reveal about the status of Jews within the larger society? How do the differences between the Hász and Lévi families affect their assumptions and behavior during the war? Which scenes and characters most clearly demonstrate the tensions within the Jewish community?


message 4: by Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) (last edited Oct 02, 2010 05:13AM) (new)

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I have started the first few chapters and am finding the names to be bothersome. I get confused by who is who but do like the story thus far. There is that anxiousness to get out of Europe because the scent in the air was not good figuratively, I am aware of the things that were done to the Jews for hundreds of years in Europe. My family trace its routes to Hungary so the novel is touching a chord there. I have never been to Budapest, but my mother did go and said it was a beautiful city. Our family did have property there, but gave it to relatives when my great grandmother left the country.


message 5: by Cecilia (last edited Oct 02, 2010 07:26PM) (new)

Cecilia (cissygold) Marialyce,

I finished the first part this morning and I have been thinking about both of your comments... Put that together with Horace Engdahl quote from the NYT Bookreview and I have come up with this so far.

Ms. Orringer is trying very hard to let go of her American Style and imitate the style of Eruopean writes such as Ian McEwan, Kate Morton or Stieg Larsson, and build up character development rather than plot development, but she cannot completely do it.

The product is a nice mixture of the two.... we feel an underlying tension of what is going on Europe with the Jews and how the mysterious letter that will come into play (American Style), but we need to get into the psyche of all the players to really see how they are affected and affect what drama that is unfolding (European style)

That explains the slow start (along with too many names), but the plot tendrils that are definitely there pulling you along and in...

Okay... that just might be adding up 2+2 and getting 5... But that frame of mind is really helping me stay in with this story... and finding it enjoyable.


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Thanks, Cecilia. I have been a bit slow moving with this book but do intend to go with it today. I do like the character of Andras and find his relationship with the ballet teacher Klara, to be quite quiet and lovely almost like a ballet. I read that this is the author's second novel and that she put in a great amount of research into it.


message 7: by Cecilia (new)

Cecilia (cissygold) You are right! I loved how she tells him that she feels like there is nothing to look forward to, and then everything begins... It is lovely.


Rick-Founder JM CM BOOK CLUB  | 7278 comments Mod
I would love to join you girls in the Buddyread- but I am still in the midst of Pillars and two other books!
hope you enjoy the read!
Rick


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Thanks Rick! I am sure we will.


message 10: by Cecilia (last edited Oct 03, 2010 07:46AM) (new)

Cecilia (cissygold) Marialyce wrote: "Thanks, Cecilia. I have been a bit slow moving with this book but do intend to go with it today. I do like the character of Andras and find his relationship with the ballet teacher Klara, to be qui..."


Rick, I hope you will find to read this at some point. It would be nice to get your input.

Marialyce... Don't you love her use of the language.

ie "Andras sensed the return of his panic, hear its millidedal footsteps drawing closer"

As for her research... Historically she is right on the mark so far with the French Youth Leagues, it is the little things that get me...

I think if that since they are in France they "Strong coffee and tiny pink macarons. not macaroons. But then that could just be bad editing. LOL!

Starting Part Two later today. I have to get some laundry started.


message 11: by Shay (new)

Shay | 528 comments Macarons are made from almond paste, they have a ganache like smooth coating on top, and have two layers held together with ganache or fruit spread. This is the French version. The English (macaroons) is meringue based (egg whites). I think Americans associate macaroons with the coconut looking globs. Pink is a very traditional color for French (macarons) and would usually be filled with raspberry. (My house looks like a Williams Sonoma store- I even have an extra bedroom to store unused stuff like madeleine pans, popover pans, etc.)


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) So Shay, I take it that you bake as well as read and write beautifully! I can't bake to save my life.(I can even ruin packaged bake mixes.) I can cook up a storm though.

What's your thought on this book?


message 13: by Shay (new)

Shay | 528 comments Oh, still waiting for it at the library. Probably won't be able to read this book with the group. Really disappointed that my library only has 6 copies of this, but it evidently has 95 copies of the Shutter Island DVD. I live in a state of illiterates, I guess.

Yup, I'm a scratch baker. It's one of my favorite things to do, very relaxing. I made macarons once, even made the almond paste from scratch. When other kids have school parties, my kids will turn down the cake or cupcakes. My younger son once told me, the store bought ones are gross and the frosting is not buttercream.


message 14: by Cecilia (last edited Oct 03, 2010 10:34AM) (new)

Cecilia (cissygold) Shay wrote: "Macarons are made from almond paste, they have a ganache like smooth coating on top, and have two layers held together with ganache or fruit spread. This is the French version. The English (macaroo..."

Shay, we love to make Macarons... my favorite are pistachio.

One time I made them for my bookclub (raspberry, chocolate, pistachio, and lemon), my friends said they looked like Pretty Patties from Sponge Bob Square Pants. Then came to find out that SB's Pretty Patties were indeed based on French Macarons. :)

but again... just as I cringe and point out when my daughter's friends use bad grammar, I get even more upset and point out bad editing in books. American editors should know that "tiny pink macarons" is not a typo and proceed to change it to, and publish it as "tiny pink macaroons".

The worst editing error I found was when a couple was vacations on the west coast of Costa Rica and got up early to go to the beach and watch the sun rise! UGGG!


message 15: by Cecilia (new)

Cecilia (cissygold) Spoiler Alert

Just finished Chapter 13.

Polaner is still in the hospital fighting for his life, but two letters have come from Lemarque. One confessing to the beating and naming accomplices, the other professing love. Both are left for his parents before they find him dead.

My first reaction was a little hiccup of sadness... but the situation is all so awful and maddening at the same time.

Marialyce, what do you think. The 30s in Europe were a mass of hatred and looking for scapegoats. Do you think Lemarque joining the French Youth leagues were a way to distance himself from his sexuality and his feelings for Polnaner or did he really have a hatred for Jew and finding that he was attractive to one more than he could handle?


message 16: by Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) (last edited Oct 03, 2010 02:10PM) (new)

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) ***Spoilers***

I got the impression that he just could not come to terms with his homosexuality. This time, I did not think it was the Jewish piece so much. I think at that time homosexuals were just as hated as the Jews. I think I once read that Hitler went after that group as much as he did the Jews and Gypsies. I think the author mentioned that homosexuality was kind of known about and accepted in the artsie groups, certainly not out there in everyday life.

What about Klara? What is up with her and her daughter? Seems like both of them are at odds with one another and there is something about Elisabth's father that does not ring true I think. Andras has been warned by his brother about Klara, particularly the age difference, but then along comes Elisabeth with the letters and pow, that't the end for this love affair. (at least for now)

I am just about where you are, Cecilia, and plan to read more tonight. I can feel the Jewish question is heating up.


message 17: by Shay (new)

Shay | 528 comments What chapter are you on? I got a copy from the used book store. Hopefully I can catch up. Don't hold up on my account, though. So, anyone else that wants to join, you won't be the only one who's behind, so please read with us.


message 18: by Cecilia (last edited Oct 03, 2010 09:29PM) (new)

Cecilia (cissygold) Yeah!

I am just about to finish part 2. I have a busy day tomorrow, so I probably won't be able to make much more progress until Tuesday or Wednesday.


message 19: by Cecilia (new)

Cecilia (cissygold) Spoiler Alert

Marialyce wrote: "***Spoilers***

What about Klara? What is up with her and her daughter? Seems like both of them are at odds with one another and there is something about Elisabth's father that does not ring true I think. Andras has been warned by his brother about Klara, particularly the age difference, but then along comes Elisabeth with the letters and pow, that't the end for this love affair. (at least for now)..."


Just Finished Part 2

Now that I know Klara's story, it explains so much! And it is the beginning of the Jewish situation being brought to the forefront. They are about a year away from war at this point. Scary times.

As for Elisabet... She is a scary 16 year old, or I guess 17 year old at this point. Her giving Andras those letters was just awful, selfish and just plan vindictive, but Klara and Andras do survive that. It is Klara's skeletons that do them in. And then Elisbet really amazed me when she went to Andras to plead for him to reconcile with her mother, I was so impressed. Then she started in with her complaining about having to follow rules and not being able to see her boyfriend... who she is now engaged to and is planning to runaway with to New York. (well good for her, with the war coming).

Selfish teenager... That is all I can say. I have a friend who has a daughter heading down the same road. It is painful to watch, but I am so grateful that mine is pretty much a goody goody bookworm.


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Chapter 17-18

I now see what you are speaking of Cecilia. Andras and Klara's on again off again relationship is very annoying (at least to me) I am hoping things will be clarified about her soon. The boys Andras and Polaner have been to the temple for Rosh Hannah and I did expect something to happen there, but things were quiet and they were able to pray in peace. From where I am at, it seems that the relationship between Andras and Klara is over and Andras is coming to that realization as he has returned her things to her.

I can't say that right now, I am crazy about this book. It for me is dragging as I guess I am looking forward to the war's turmoil.

I am very glad your daughter is a bookworm, mine were and I found that was quite helpful in their growing up and out of the teenage years.


message 21: by Cecilia (last edited Oct 04, 2010 05:53AM) (new)

Cecilia (cissygold) Marialyce, this book is running hot and cold with me. I have a feeling that it will be the very last page that will decide how I truly feel about it and if I will recommend it.

Since I am aware of the nightmare that is about to consume Europe, I find that this silly little romance is getting in the way of the books potential. I have to keep reminding myself that they are living in the moment. It is sort of like how I always get upset with Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, for letting his eldest daughter go to Poland and not insisting that she come to NYC with him. (LOL! How is he suppose to know what will happen to his great-grandchildren)

Part Two ends with the death of Von Rath and Germany's response with Kristallnacht. Part Three should be the pivotal point for development of the book. For our sakes, I hope Ms. Orringer can pull it off.


message 22: by Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) (last edited Oct 04, 2010 05:44PM) (new)

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I have made it up to the middle of the book. I think the thing that is starting to bother me is how wooden the characters seem to be. I can't seem to get close to any of them and many parts have seemed contrived. (Tibor and Ilana), I do not really like Klara. She is just so wishy washy to me.

I love the historical pieces and can feel the tension rising as Hitler becomes more and more the dominant force in Europe. I hope there is more historical and less of these "silly" relationships and an overabundance of tears being shed.


Rick-Founder JM CM BOOK CLUB  | 7278 comments Mod
Cecilia wrote: "Marialyce wrote: "Thanks, Cecilia. I have been a bit slow moving with this book but do intend to go with it today. I do like the character of Andras and find his relationship with the ballet teache..."

I wouldlove to take partin all the buddyreads!but I am so far behind Pillars!! as well as my love of reading multiple books makes it difficult-
love Pillars BTW- though I willprobably take about another 3 months to finish it! I just really need a current thriller to turn to at times as well as a third book- so slows me down-but love the "mind-traveling"


message 24: by Cecilia (new)

Cecilia (cissygold) Rick

OMIGOD!

Yesterday when I went to pick Marisa up from school, I forgot to bring both my Kindle and my phone, so I started reading a book that was in my car that I picked up from the library over the weekend. (Skin Skin by Ted Dekker by Ted Dekker) I could not put this book down last night and had to lock it in my car today just so I could get some stuff done. LOL


Spoiler Alert

Marialyce--

I totally agree about the cardboard character! The only one I really care about is Polaner. He is on his way to a concentration camp. And what is going to happen to his parents!

And there is Kara! Living in Hungary, opening a dance studio! Ugg! She bugs me too!


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Cecilia,

I am going to put this book aside for awhile. I hope you don't mind. I am about 56% done but I really don't like it and it is becoming a chore to read it. Shay also has decided to do the same. We are going to read Lady Susan by Jane Austen and would love for you to join us. It is short and can be downloaded for free on your Kindle.

I like the novels Ted Dekker has written particularly The Bride Collector. I will have to get the one you are reading and add it to my list. Thanks!


message 26: by Cecilia (new)

Cecilia (cissygold) Marialyce, not a problem!

I have started (obviously) to lose interest too.

Thanks for the invite to join you two for the Jane Austen read. I will let you know tomorrow.

If I finish the Dekker book today, and if I have already read the book my local book club is reading (we meet tonight) I will join you guys.

I don't know how far you got, but I did read a little bit more and got a chuckle out of the "Newspaper."


message 27: by Cecilia (new)

Cecilia (cissygold) Still reading... I am just being stubborn I know, but I was just awarded! Chapter 10 Berna and the General. It was very moving and satisfying. I will let you know if if there is anything else that moves me.


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Thanks, Cecilia. I own this book so while it is put away for now, it is not forgotten.


message 29: by Shay (new)

Shay | 528 comments We'll try again, Marialyce. Thanks Cecilia, good to know that if I can make it to Chapter 10, it'll start getting better.


message 30: by Cecilia (last edited Oct 07, 2010 08:35PM) (new)

Cecilia (cissygold) oh you don't have to try again. That has been the only chapter that made me feel something, but I had to dig for it, but have not found much more since then...

She really does a great job with the secondary characters... Polaner...Mendel...even the Klein... but Andras et al. ugg!

But just so you both know that we are not all crazy since we are not loving this book, I found this review from the UK

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/...

I don't think I could have said it better Ms. Callil


message 31: by Cecilia (new)

Cecilia (cissygold) Shay wrote: "We'll try again, Marialyce. Thanks Cecilia, good to know that if I can make it to Chapter 10, it'll start getting better."

Sorry. it is not Chapter 10 it is Chapter 30. Just read that one.


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Oh I so agree with Ms. Cahill too! She totally nailed the feeling I think we have gotten in this book. I am totally surprised by the high rating here on goodreads.

I think I am spoiled too by reading Follett's new book. He interweaves characters, settings, and story so well that it makes the Orringer book look like it was written by a sixth grader.


message 33: by Cecilia (new)

Cecilia (cissygold) Honestly... I think it is getting extra stars because it is the politically correct thing to do for a book about the Jewish Plight during WWII.

That is just my opinion. What the Jews suffered was horrible, and you have to give Hungary some credit for trying to shelter their Jewish population in the Work Corps, instead of sending them to concentration camps for as long as they could. I am not saying they treated them well, but any means.

I think the author did convey that when she told about an Hungarian Field Officer who told of a mass killing his unit was forced to perform by the German Army. The Officer said, he was sick about it, he had to kill his own countrymen, so he came back to Budapest to tell the story. But the author points out, he did not feel bad enough not to pull the trigger. But theses nuggets are few and far between.

My advice to Ms. Orringer is, if you are going to tell the story... tell it well. Everyone deserves that and should demand it.


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