Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The February Book is The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

In this tightly wound, enthralling story reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s works, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. The sky is clear, the waters calm, and the veneered, select guests jovial as the exclusive cruise ship, the Aurora, begins her voyage in the picturesque North Sea. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a dark and terrifying nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…




Reviews:




Here's a great discussion of the book that is already started:




Friday, January 13, 2017

Discussion Questions

Reading Guide Questions:
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers! 


Margaret Powell was thirteen when she entered service. How old were you when you had your first job? What was your first employee/employer relationship like?

Are thirteen-year-old girls today much different than those of Margaret's era? If so, how? If you had a daughter, would you let her go off and live in the house of an employer at that age? Why? Why not?

What would your life be like if you were a servant in a grand house? How would your privacy be affected?

What would your life be like if you had to live it under the gaze of servants who lived in the same house with you? Would it affect your privacy? Would you trust them?

Would you rather be a servant or a master? Why? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each position?

How is housework different now from how it was done when Margaret first entered service?

There were not many kitchen conveniences when Margaret was feeding the upper classes. Much had to be done by hand and with simple kitchen tools. What kitchen appliances available today would Margaret have loved most?

Do we have a class system in the United States? If so, how does it compare to the class system Margaret confronts throughout the book?

What would it be like to work for people who expect you to erase yourself from their existence when they are in the room?

Sexual harassment of the maids by the men of the house seems to have been a regular feature of master/servant relations during the era of the great English houses. Has that aspect of employer/employee vanished today or is it with us still?

Monday, January 2, 2017

Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir That Inspired "Upstairs, Downstairs" and "Downton Abbey"

Brilliantly evoking the long-vanished world of masters and servants portrayed in Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs, Margaret Powell's classic memoir of her time in service, Below Stairs, is the remarkable true story of an indomitable woman who, though she served in the great houses of England, never stopped aiming high.

Powell first arrived at the servants' entrance of one of those great houses in the 1920s. As a kitchen maid – the lowest of the low – she entered an entirely new world; one of stoves to be blacked, vegetables to be scrubbed, mistresses to be appeased, and bootlaces to be ironed. Work started at 5.30am and went on until after dark. It was a far cry from her childhood on the beaches of Hove, where money and food were scarce, but warmth and laughter never were. Yet from the gentleman with a penchant for stroking the housemaids' curlers, to raucous tea-dances with errand boys, to the heartbreaking story of Agnes the pregnant under-parlormaid, fired for being seduced by her mistress's nephew, Margaret's tales of her time in service are told with wit, warmth, and a sharp eye for the prejudices of her situation. 

Margaret Powell's true story of a life spent in service is a fascinating "downstairs" portrait of the glittering, long-gone worlds behind the closed doors of Downton Abbey and 165 Eaton Place.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

December's Book is Blood of Victory by Alan Furst

In the autumn of 1940, Russian √©migr√© journalist I. A. Serebin is recruited in Istanbul by an agent of the British secret services for a clandestine operation to stop German importation of Romanian oil—a last desperate attempt to block Hitler’s conquest of Europe. Serebin’s race against time begins in Bucharest and leads him to Paris, the Black Sea, Beirut, and, finally, Belgrade; his task is to attack the oil barges that fuel German tanks and airplanes. Blood of Victory is a novel with the heart-pounding suspense, extraordinary historical accuracy, and narrative immediacy we have come to expect from Alan Furst.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Last Discussion Questions

Our facilitator for the month of November is Ed Block. He will be posting discussion questions to get you thinking about the book of the month, Zero K by Don DeLillo. 


Discussion Questions:

What did you find most difficult about reading Zero K?

Can you speculate about why DeLillo would write the way he did?

Does the conclusion cause confusion?  Or is it satisfactory?

Can you point to a particular passage that you found stunning, profound, frightening?