Monday, 5 July 2010

March, May and June 2010 meetings

Well Minervans, somehow we are not keeping this up to date, so I thought I'd try to do a quick run through from memory of the books we've not reported on - just for the record.

March : David Malouf's Ransom
All I can recollect of this one is that those present generally enjoyed it. We loved the language and we loved the more "lowly" human touches such as Priam's trip with Somax. A couple of us wondered a little what Malouf's point was in re-telling the story from this angle - was his retelling sufficiently "different" to add something to the myth? Some felt his humanising of the event - Priam's asking Achilles for the body of his son Hector - was, while others were not quite so sure. However, everyone (as I recollect) enjoyed the story and Malouf's lovely evocative writing.

May : Andrea Goldsmith's Reunion
There was perhaps a little more difference of opinion on this one, which is about the return to Melbourne some 20 years later of a group of old university friends. The novel describes the next few years of their lives - how the old friendships pan out, the various tensions and secrets that lie beneath the surface. Being friends ourselves, we discussed the drive to maintain friendships and enjoyed reading about people who were roughly our vintage! However, some thought that Goldsmith was just a little too simplistic about it all - and one member suggested  that Goldsmith did not follow as well as she might have that old dictum of "show, don't tell". Most, if not all of us, though enjoyed the read.

June : Louann Brizendine's The female brain
We were a small group for this one, with three away overseas or travelling up north and three deciding, for various reasons, they could not brave what was a pretty cold night. Our discussion consequently ended up being a little briefer and less focused than usual. We didn't really get our teeth into the book in an in-depth way but we did end up talking about some of the issues she raises for women of a certain age - not only understanding our own biology but that of our teenage girls/young adult daughters. It was an interesting discussion resulting in the sort of sharing that is an important part of reading groups.

This book was published in 2006 and describes the degree to which Brizendine believes women's brains are different to men's. In other words, she discusses the ways in which she sees gender differences as being biologically determined. We did discuss a little the fact that Brizendine's evidence for all her claims was not as clear/substantiated as we would like, that is, that hard scientific support was sometimes (often) missing. And there was some discussion about her language. Janet who phoned in her apology said she got rather tired of hearing about the brain being "marinated" (in hormones, etc). In fact the language over all tended to be a bit cutesy and sound-bitey at times. The jury, of course, is still out regarding how much we are biologically determined but - to put my own stamp on it - I am willing to believe that there could be differences in our behaviours that are biologically determined. However, I don't believe biology accounts for differences in skills and intellectual ability, and nor does it mean that women's opportunities and rights should be limited and less!

All this said, I think we all found it an interesting read and something a little different from our usual fare.

If anyone would like to comment, particularly those who didn't make the meeting(s), please go ahead!

Image: Courtesy HarperCollins Australia

1 comment:

Sue T said...

From Kate in Queensland:
Re Ransom
I think we also discussed the nature of heroism, and how we view heroism and sacrifice in an era where we don’t see the need for gods, or their intervention. Where a king becoming mortal is in fact one of the outcomes of a democratic society. Priam and Achilles are both seen as frail and flawed, but as more endearing for their weakness. I think we also liked the humour from such a warlike original story.

I agree it was readable, but felt it was repetitive, with limited engagement with the characters, and some very clich├ęd aspects. There was a lot of cynicism in the book about academia and media.
Interesting that most of the characters had no children, and how flawed the relationships were...