Book Club tackles Where the Crawdads Sing

The Toronto book club I’ve been attending for roughly twenty years discussed Delia Owens’s Where the Crawdads Sing recently. In advance, our moderator circulated a New Yorker magazine article about the wildlife efforts of Delia Owens and her husband Mark Owens in Africa and the huge controversy that arose when one of the major news organizations was filming a documentary about them and a poacher was killed. There was some suggestion (unproven) that Mark Owens’s son might have killed the poacher.

This article offers an intriguing view of Delia’s unusual life in the wild and her relationship with her then husband and there was much speculation at book club on how her work in Africa affected Where the Crawdads Sing.

We usually begin by asking each person whether they liked the book – and in the case, everyone said they enjoyed it, although most offered a caveat or two.

What is it about the story that so many readers have found compelling? Goodreads has over 440K ratings of the novel averaging 4.5 out of 5. Our group felt that the sections of the novel dealing with Kya’s marsh world were the most compelling and that this portion of Owens’s writing is superb. Perhaps that’s because she’s written three earlier non-fiction works about natural settings.

Do the two timelines work? Here we had reservations. Most said they found the murder investigation and trial bland and not written nearly as well as early timeline chronicling Kya’s growing up. The group expressed admiration for the deep understanding of Kya’s inner life as portrayed in the earlier timeline and disappointment that the story lost Kya’s voice/inner monologue and the richer understanding of her motivations that would have come from that in the other timeline.

Why are readers drawn to Kya as a character? Because she’s alone and vulnerable, because she demonstrates strength and determination, because she cares deeply for the natural world.

Will there be a movie version? A resounding yes. Apparently Reese Witherspoon has already bought the film rights. Some felt that Delia Owens crafted the story deliberately with a movie in mind.

Was the story plausible? Could a little girl of seven really look after herself the way Kya did? Could Kya learn to read and educate herself so completely? Was the ending plausible? We debated each of these.

If you’re interested in an interview with Delia Owen, you can check this article from BookPage.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens ~~ For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

Book Club reads In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje

intheskinofalionMichael Ondaatje is probably best known for The English Patient which became a movie starring Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche and Kristin Scott Thomas. Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion predates The English Patient by five years and indeed, two characters from the novel reappear in the later novel.

What did book club members think?

Two of our members endorsed the novel wholeheartedly speaking highly of Ondaatje’s prose, characters and the ‘magical realism’ of the storyline. As for the majority, reactions were mixed. Many, myself included, agreed that the author’s prose is superb and the setting – post WWI Toronto – particularly intriguing as this is our city. However, this second group found the story itself both confusing and disjoint. Interestingly, Goodreads members echo this division of opinion with many five star and two star reviews.

We spent a while discussing the novel’s focus on immigrants – how they fit into a new culture, who accepts them, who looks down on them, the challenges they face and so on. A particularly relevant theme for today.

So, if you’re a story-driven reader, probably not the best choice. If you love reading beautiful sentences or you are looking for inspiration for your own writing, you might want to indulge in one or more of Ondaatje’s novels. And by the way, The English Patient scores praise for both its prose and its story.

In the Skin of a Lion: Bristling with intelligence and shimmering with romance, this novel tests the boundary between history and myth. Patrick Lewis arrives in Toronto in the 1920s and earns his living searching for a vanished millionaire and tunneling beneath Lake Ontario. In the course of his adventures, Patrick’s life intersects with those of characters who reappear in Ondaatje’s Booker Prize-winning The English Patient.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union on August 16, 2016. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

Bookclub selections for next season

Red-wineMonday night was planning night at the Toronto book club where I’ve been a member for at least fifteen years. We have a tried and true process of nominating books, then gathering with suitable refreshments to discuss, debate and then vote for our preferences. The list included 18 possibilities and with only 9 meetings we had to trim it in half.

After a little more than hour, we came up with the following list and treated ourselves to another glass of wine.

  • Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill by Sonia Purnell – a biography of Clementine Churchill
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – a story of love and race centred around a young man and woman from Nigeria
  • Submission by Amy Waldman – an anonymous architect creates a winning design for the 9/11 memorial and the discovery that he is Muslim has all sorts of consequences
  • In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje – a love story set in 1920s Toronto by the acclaimed author of The English Patient
  • The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin – a book store owner finds renewed meaning in his life
  • Outline by Rachel Cusk – a woman writer goes to Athens in the height of summer to teach a writing course
  • Paris Reborn by Stephane Kirkland – the rebuilding of Paris during the time of Napoleon III and Baron Haussmann (my recommendation :-))
  • Stalin’s Daughter by Rosemary Sullivan – a biography of Svetlana Stalin’s tragic life
  • Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder and One Man’s Fight for Justice by Bill Browder – a gripping story of life and corruption at the highest levels of Russian government

It promises to be an eclectic and intriguing season of reading with several of historical interest!

What’s your book club reading?

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET will be published by Lake Union on August 16, 2016.

Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.