A Light Touch for Heavy Fare

November 2018 @ China Gourmet Restaurant – missing Karen C (last-minute Mom work), Sue (Florida), & Kitty (still on leave).

We blew into the restaurant in shifts (super-blustery day), some enjoying the available hot tea & others getting icier libations. It took a moment, but the music volume was properly dropped & the glass doors to our room were closed. We simply must have the proper environs, after all. A note about the music – the very unique (read:  strange) mix that has been played in years past has been jettisoned for plain old Christmas carols. No dis to carols, but the quirky audio mix was missed by some.

Chatter:

  • Thanksgiving recaps – who fed whom
  • Thanksgiving drama – short version:  NYC rent makes people crazy; medium version:  sisters don’t always make the best roommates since the older pulls rank; moral of the story:  do not rent out an apartment from underneath your rent-paying roommate (& expect that everyone will be fine with it)
  • anyone reading good books? yes, but nobody had major recommendations
  • calm down, everyone – it’s not until the JANUARY meeting that you must bring your Pot Luck Book Pick title for the next selection
  • trip down Memory Lane for early days of Bootleg, including stories of member (or bossy guest) extreme rudeness and related invitations to leave (consider yourself warned)
  • let’s be clear:  a certain service provider on a certain lane is most certainly not doing anything other than providing top-notch service (in varying industries) and anyone thinking said service provider is providing access to anything related to recreational pharmaceuticals would be well-served to think otherwise immediately
  • our typical brag (or worry)-about-your-kids (or grandkids) segment was mostly replaced by selecting items from the menu; it took a while, but we all ate good stuff

THE BOOK:  Rose picked The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah because it was on her list. Make that… List. It was recommended, it seemed good. The Nightingale

Discussion:

  • was anyone surprised by who survived? Not really… Some read and looked for clues all along, others saw the logical conclusion well in advance of the conclusion.
  • several variations of:  “Oh, man…do I want to read another WWII book? Nope.” and then…”Oh, it’s the French story – this insight could be new/good/super-worthwhile.”
  • VERY simple (almost middle grade) structure and theme development.
    • Wild Sister: Meek Sister (both beautiful! which one is our heroine?!? :: Rebel French : Lame French
    • Clearly Good Nazi (he’s handsome! never mind the oxymoron) / Bad Nazi (he’s ugly, he’s fertile)
  • Yet, the language, word count, and esp. treatment of several topics is clearly for the adult reader.
  • So:  K Hannah did a ton of research and wrote in rather trope-heavy ways in order to launch a hefty theme at the ‘casual, chick-lit, beach-read’ audience
  • reminded us of the Jody Picoult of history (as opposed to bio-med law).
  • Some of us wanted more actual history of the French beyond these two sisters and their small networks. No arguments there (but that’s a different audience)
    • e.g. Rose’s hubby would read that version of the book after he finishes Oppenheim’s biography
  • Point:  just keep publishing highly-readable WWII based books because We Can Never Forget.
  • Distinct Contrast:  at least one of us thought the concentration camp scenes were horrible while at least one other thought the scenes were ‘mild’ (as compared to other books not as compared to normal human standards)
  • Marie shared details about the woman who was the real woman who inspired this book, a Belgian countess named Andree de Jongh. Her amazing work in WWII was only a stop-gap of sorts. After WWII she fulfilled her dream of helping lepers in Africa (as a nurse) until retiring to Brussels when older.
  • Was it ‘okay’ that Nightingale got to see her True Love one more time & just in time before expiring? Pretty much. It completed her character (from abandoned to well-met) and it served the intended reader.
  • Jumping to modern era ‘every 200 pages or so’ was a bit jarring (as opposed to written as smooth interludes)
  • Of course the son turned out to be Perfect (angels singing). We didn’t mind that too much, though.
  • How did Weak Sister become so Stone Cold Solid that she never cracked and told family/son any truth (or had destructive behavior to indicate she had issues)?
  • Some of us were impressed by the sisters’ father’s heroics while others saw it a bit more as a convenient plot-turning ploy. It was both. Related point:  his self-sacrifice put the Nightingale in the camps so he didn’t do her any ‘practical’ favors, but the effort mattered b/c it was meaningful to him, the family, and the ‘do right’ message of the story.

The Dessert Rule – a case study

  1. The previous month’s host always brings dessert to the successive meeting. Historically, the frozen turtle pie from Safeway was the default easiest no-brainer for the person who’d sweated out hosting the month before. Complicating it by creating bananas Foster or similar is the dessert-bringers prerogative.
  2. Since starting November meetings at China Gourmet, the rule has stood. Dessert has been brought in from outside b/c fortune cookies are pretty unfortunate, actually.
  3. Nobody updated newbie Rose on the Dessert Rule. Some of us intentionally (not to trip up Rose but b/c of Thanksgiving Dessert Overload Syndrome).
  4. We all survived.

Happy Outcome 1:  Fans of fortune cookies got to revel in full enjoyment of said cookies. Even though at least 6 of our 8 fortunes were 1,000% lame-o. What has happened in the fortune writing industry?

Happy Outcome 2:  There will be no Dessert Bringer Flurry for the January meeting. It’s Rose’s job. How easy is that?

Next Meeting:  Karen S’s house AND Karen S’s book (because she’s inviting the author; she’s fancy like that).

January 24th-ish (don’t quote me) @ 7-ish (ditto)

Title (probably is):  The Bowl with Gold Seams by Ellen Prentiss Campbell

 

 

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