Discussion Reviews for 2019


Wednesday, March 13, 2019: The Order of the Day by Éric Vuillard. How does one describe evil? In this slim book, Éric Vuillard describes the greed, arrogance and megalomania that fueled the Nazi’s rise to power in the 1930s. The book focuses on a few crucial events to show how politicians and industrialists, out of fear, weakness or complicity, allowed the Nazis to systematically chip away at democratic ideals. As one member of our group said, the book is more effective at depicting the evils of Nazism than many of the gore-filled World War II novels. Our group struggled to define the genre of the book: it combines historical facts with the techniques of movie-making and poetry, and the author’s voice is constantly present, sometimes sarcastic and joking, other times moralistic and condemning. We found the book especially appropriate now, with the rise in populism and the use of the Internet to spread nationalist and racist propaganda. ML



Wednesday, February 13, 2019: Lake Success by Gary Shteyngart: Our discussion group was split into two groups: the “ayes” who thought the book was a brilliant satire, and the “nays” who thought it was boring and unrealistic. The ayes enjoyed Shteyengart’s sense of humor, his huge cast of characters and his ability to describe an entire social class in just a few words. The nays thought that most of the characters were poorly developed and that the extensive dialog was little more than a movie script.  Despite our differences of opinion, we had a lengthy discussion over the main themes of the book, including the role of greed, capitalism and consumerism in American society, the increasing divide between rich and poor, and the immigrant experience. ML


Wednesday, January 9, 2019: A Month in the Country by J. L. Carr: We met during the first snowfall of the season to discuss this short novel set during the idyllic English summer of 1920 where a damaged WWI  survivor finds healing in nature, community and art. For much of the discussion, we read out passages of masterly prose, both poignant and humorous. Most of us found this quiet novel moving and beautiful but also challenging with its many unfamiliar words and Britishisms (for the non-British among us). What luck, discovering that the film based on the novel is available on YouTube!  MH