August 5, 2015 – Notes

 In attendance: Liz Clarke, Vivian Krone, Janice Loschiavo, Meta Pitrelli, Sharon Rome, Barbara Santillo, Tina Segali, Joan Swensen.

Absent: Lois Pagnozzi, Cathy Quinn, Marilyn Sinisi

Emeritus: Donna Sabetta, Jeri Stangl.

Book & Author: Sons and Lovers, by D. H. Lawrence.

The group acknowledged those “missing” from the meeting. Though Cathy had been expected, she was experiencing a negative effect from a treatment she had. We trust that by now she is feeling up to par. Marilyn and Lois were vacationing. Donna and Jeri will remain members emeritus of the book club. All were missed!

Questions and Comments regarding Sons and Lovers:

  • Several members had a negative opinion of the book and felt: the book was too long; there was too much description, especially of nature; they just couldn’t get into it.
  • Other members loved the book: for the beauty of the language, for the glorious evocation of nature, for its frank depiction of an Oedipal situation.
  • The relationship between Paul and his mother was discussed in depth. No woman would ever be enough for Paul; Mrs. Morel didn’t like any of the women Paul chose; he could never love any woman as much as he loved his mother; she would withhold her love from him as a punishment.
  • What about his mother appealed to Paul? (She was the primal love.) He was always saying that he didn’t want his mother to be old.
  • Was Mrs. Morel aware of the damage she was doing to Paul with her behavior? (She didn’t care — she needed Paul’s love.)
  • Is Paul “over” his mother at the end of the novel?
  • Much of the description of nature, especially of flowers, was evocative of the sensual/sexual in life.
  • The relationship between Mrs. Morel with her husband was examined and discussed. She was sexually attracted to him at first, and occasionally shadows of that desire were still present. But his treatment of her, his drinking, his squandering of wages, drained her of the love she initially felt. She may never have gotten over the time he locked her out of the house, or threw the drawer at her.
  • Morel was a complex character. The children were afraid of him; they would stop talking when he entered the home; he wasn’t able to deal with his wife’s illness; yet he shows moments of tenderness and compassion.
  • Morel stayed with her husband largely because she had few choices. The novel is another cutting depiction of women as second-class citizens, who don’t have the same opportunities as men, and are treated unequally.
  • The novel often presents Mrs. Morel as reading. What might she have been reading?
  • If you were a friend of Mrs. Morel, how would you have counseled her?
  • The character of Miriam was discussed. Was she too patient with Paul? Was she too saint-like?
  • Paul’s relationship with Mrs. Dawes, as well as with her husband, was reviewed. Was Paul so friendly to Mr. Dawes out of guilt?
  • Was it surprising that Paul and his sister plot to end their mother’s life, and actually do it?
  • Why is Sons and Lovers one of the 100 best novels of all time? The group mentioned:
    • Timely evocation of the Oedipus complex.
    • People who one can identify with.
    • Beautiful prose – rich, textured language.

The book earned a 4.0 rating, based on a few immediate 4 votes, and a bit of lobbying of the others. Vivian confirmed that no coercion was applied. The rating was decided over dessert of prune tart and chocolate pistachio cake. Barbara passed out lottery tickets to all present and, alas, only Joan was a winner – $2. The response to Barbara’s generosity was so positive that the ladies decided we should have lottery tickets at every meeting. Liz will bring for all to the next meeting.

Next Meeting: Wednesday, September 2, 5:00 p.m., at Joan’s house. The book chosen by Lois is The Dream Lover, by Elizabeth Berg. If you finish it early, you may want to start the October book, selected by Meta: Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Food assignments for the September meeting: Sharon, dessert; Meta, green salad; Janice, appetizer (cheese/crackers). It was agreed that one dessert should be sufficient! (As an aside, Sharon distributed the bounty of her garden: red and yellow cherry tomatoes. I can attest to her prowess, having made a delicious dinner the next night of the tomatoes, roasted, tossed with thin spaghetti, basil and pecorino.)

Submitted by Tina Segali

August 9, 2015

Below is a brief review of our September selection, from The New York Times.


By Elizabeth Berg

356 pp. Random House, $28.

Berg’s novel about the life of the French novelist George Sand tells

the story of how Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin, the daughter of

an aristocratic military officer and a courtesan, left her dull,

respectable husband in order to become a writer in Paris and

practice principled romantic acrobatics. Berg is too in love with

her heroine’s iconoclasm and passion, and so the novel, which is

narrated by Sand, tends toward the claustrophobically earnest,

and a reader’s enjoyment of it depends on an ability to tolerate

more than a few expository declarations like this: “I was the first

woman to become a best seller in France and had achieved

worldwide fame. My work had been praised to the skies by critics

who found fault with Victor Hugo. Almost every day’s post

brought letters of praise. But my own daughter despised me. What

had I done, I wondered. What had I done?”

That said, there is authority and confidence in the storytelling that makes the pages fly. Berg’s prose, when it is not cranking out the arias Sand sings of herself, does exhibit an exuberant, often cutting force that seems informed by a deep affection for — or at least a keen ear for — the work of Sand’s literary compatriots. And the character of Marie Dorval, the cheerfully capricious but maternally wise actress with whom Sand shared friendship and an affair, provides a much needed counterpoint to Sand’s ceaselessly pounding heart — as well as some memorable pronouncements on the treachery of men. “He will tell you anything,” Marie tells George after yet another affair implodes. “And when he has spilled himself inside you, you will swear it was his brains that were left there, for he will have little or no memory of the amorous words that sprang forth from him.” Such unsentimental wit makes one wish Dorval, not Sand, had been the voice of the novel.