Save the Dates
Friday, Jan 31, 2014: The Bookworms and the BennettsJoin the McClellan Bookworms to read and discuss Longbourn by Jo Baker.
Friday, Feb 28, 2014: Bookworms and Black History MonthSlave doctors, art, and law combine in this month's selection.
Friday, Mar 21, 2014: Bookworms Weaing O the GreenJoin us as we read and discuss Alice McDermott's Someone.
Friday, Apr 25, 2014: Bookworms Are Interesting!This month's title is The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. Be Here; Be Interesting.
Friday, May 30, 2014: Bookworms are the BestLooking back at The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe.
Publication Date: 2013-10-08
Daring to reconfigure what many would regard as literary perfection, Baker (The Undertow, 2012, etc.) comes at Jane Austen’s most celebrated novel from below stairs, offering a working-class view of the Bennet family of Longbourn House. While the familiar drama of Lizzie and Jane, Bingley and Darcy goes on in other, finer rooms, Baker’s focus is the kitchen and the stable and the harsh cycle of labor that keeps the household functioning. Cook Mrs. Hill rules the roost, and maids Sarah and Polly do much of the hard work, their interminable roster of chores diminished a little by the hiring of a manservant, James Smith. Sarah is attracted to James, but he is mysterious and withdrawn, and soon, her eye is caught by another—Bingley’s black footman, Ptolemy. James, though trapped in his secrets, has noticed Sarah too and steps in when she is on the verge of making an impulsive mistake (Kirkus Reveiws).
The House Girl
Publication Date: 2013-11-05
In 1852, on a failing Virginia farm, 17-year-old Josephine cares for her dying mistress, Lu Anne Bell, while plotting her escape. Childless Lu Anne has always had a complicated relationship with the bright, naturally gifted Josephine; Lu Anne taught the girl to read and to paint but failed to protect Josephine from husband Robert Bell’s rape when Josephine was barely 14. Now, Lu Anne tells Josephine a terrible secret before she dies. Cut to 2004. Lu Anne’s art is highly prized as the work of a protofeminist artist sensitive to the plight of slaves. But while researching a case concerning reparations to slave descendants, Lina Sparrow, a white first-year lawyer in a cutthroat Manhattan firm, discovers that a controversy is brewing in the art world: Some art critics wonder if paintings attributed to Lu Anne were really completed by Josephine. At a gallery showing of Lu Anne/Josephine’s work, Lina meets a young musician who claims to own several of the paintings. Hoping to prove he is Josephine’s descendant, although he appears to be Caucasian, Lina sets out to uncover Josephine’s history. Art and identity matter to Lina. Raised by her artist father, Oscar, she longs to know more about her long-dead mother, Grace, especially now that Oscar has painted a provocative series of portraits of Grace. As the focus shifts back and forth between the centuries, Josephine evolves into a wonderfully fresh character whose survival instinct competes with her capacity for love as she tries to reach freedom. (From Kirkus Reviews)
Publication Date: 2013-09-10
Sitting on the stoop of her apartment building, 7-year-old Marie watches her 1920s Brooklyn neighborhood through the thick glasses she already wears—her ability to see or missee those around her is one of the novel’s overriding metaphors. She revels in the stories of her neighbors, from the tragedy of Billy Corrigan, blinded in the war, to the great romance of the Chebabs’ Syrian-Irish marriage. Affectionately nicknamed the “little pagan” in contrast to her studious, spiritual older brother Gabe, Marie feels secure and loved within her own family despite her occasional battles of will against her mother. Cozy in their narrow apartment, her parents are proud that Marie’s father has a white-collar job as a clerk, and they have great hopes for Gabe, who is soon off to seminary to study for the priesthood. Marie’s Edenic childhood shatters when her adored father dies. In fact, death is never far from the surface of these lives, particularly since Maries works as a young woman with the local undertaker, a job that affords many more glimpses into her neighbors and more storytelling. By then, Gabe has left the priesthood, claiming it didn’t suit him and that his widowed mother needs him at home. Is he a failure or a quiet saint? After her heart is broken by a local boy who dumps her for a richer girl, Marie marries one of Gabe’s former parishioners, has children and eventually moves away from the neighborhood. Gabe remains. Marie’s straightforward narration is interrupted with occasional jumps back and forward in time that create both a sense of foreboding and continuity as well as a meditation on the nature of sorrow. (Kirkus Reviews)
Publication Date: 2013-04-09
Middle-class suburban Julie becomes Jules when a group of more sophisticated kids from Manhattan include her in their clique at Camp Spirit-in-the-Woods in upstate New York. Her lifelong best friend becomes beautiful Ash, an aspiring actress. Ash’s older brother is sexy bad-boy Goodman. Cathy, who wants to dance, becomes Goodman’s girlfriend. Jonah, the ethereally handsome, slightly withdrawn son of a famous folksinger, is musically gifted. And then there is Ethan: homely, funny and a brilliant cartoonist. Although he and Jules are immediately soul mates, she rejects his physical advances, unable to work up any sexual attraction. After this first idyllic summer, the novel cuts to 2009 when Jules, now living a modest middle-class life as a therapist married to a medical technician, receives her annual Christmas letter from Ethan and Ash, who are married and wildly successful. As she looks back, the reader follows the evolution of the group. While still in high school, Cathy and Goodman break up in disastrous fashion; they both disappear from the group but not without causing permanent repercussions. For one thing, to Jules’ surprise, Goodman’s grieving sister Ash and Ethan become an unlikely but devoted couple. Jonah, who evolves as the inevitable sympathetic gay character in a novel tracing social mores through the last decades of the 20th century, gives up music for engineering. Ash becomes a feminist director and marries Ethan, the true genius of the group, who experiences major creative and financial success with his long-running animated series. Jules, who has given up acting to become a therapist and has married sweet but unambitious Dennis, tries not to envy her friend’s success. Secrets are kept for decades among the six “Interestings”; resentments are nursed; loyalties are tested with mixed results.(Kirkus Reviews)
The Best of Everything
Publication Date: 2005-05-31
Caroline Bender, just graduated from Radcliffe and still suffering from being jilted by her fiance, takes a job as a typist at a publishing company in New York. Two other girls start there the same week--Gregg a young out-of-work actress and April, fresh from Colorado--naive and beautiful. This is the story of three years in their lives with side excursions into the careers of other and more typical working girls. Caroline by talent and shrewdness rises to an editorial position, has a brief office romance with a married man, dates a worthy young lawyer who wishes to marry her and then throws everything aside when her first love returns. Gregg, her roommate, also falls in love with an older man, but her affair leads to a nervous breakdown and death. April becomes a sophisticate in appearance but remains an innocent at heart who is naive enough to believe her socialite beau will marry her. The shock of his cynical refusal leads to a fling of promiscuity until she is rescued by a nice young man from her home town. But things aren't that simple for Caroline--her returned love doesn't have marriage in mind and she runs off to Las Vegas with a business acquaintance, a Hollywood star with an international reputation as a rake. (Kirkus Reviews)
Who are the McClellan Bookworms?
- Well, way back in the year 2010 a group of intrepid folks decided that we were tired of competing to tell about our latest book find. We gathered together and drew book titles out of a pot in order to determine what to read. Since that time we have joyously read the same book each month. We meet, eat, laugh, and discuss our book choices.
Did it stop the problem of pushy book readers sharing their books?
- No, but it did add to the fun.
Who can be a bookworm?
- Anybody can be a McClellan Bookworm. Each month we share the web information about the book and discussion questions. We even have dedicated bookworms who fax in their responses! Yes, they are read to the group.
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