July’s book: Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

For this month’s summer read, we’re reading Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld.

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The Bennet sisters have been summoned from New York City.

Liz and Jane are good daughters. They’ve come home to suburban Cincinnati to get their mother to stop feeding their father steak as he recovers from heart surgery, to tidy up the crumbling Tudor-style family home, and to wrench their three sisters from their various states of arrested development.

Once they are under the same roof, old patterns return fast. Soon enough they are being berated for their single status, their only respite the early morning runs they escape on together. For two successful women in their late thirties, it really is too much to bear. That is, until the Lucas family’s BBQ throws them in the way of some eligible single men . . .

Chip Bingley is not only a charming doctor, he’s a reality TV star too. But Chip’s friend, haughty neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy, can barely stomach Cincinnati or its inhabitants. Jane is entranced by Chip; Liz, sceptical of Darcy. As Liz is consumed by her father’s mounting medical bills, her wayward sisters and Cousin Willie trying to stick his tongue down her throat, it isn’t only the local chilli that will leave a bad aftertaste.

But where there are hearts that beat and mothers that push, the mysterious course of love will resolve itself in the most entertaining and unlikely of ways. And from the hand of Curtis Sittenfeld, Pride & Prejudice is catapulted into our modern world singing out with hilarity and truth.

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June’s meeting

It seemed only fitting that, for Bad Kelly’s last book club, we were blessed with stinking hot sunshine and a table outside on the beautiful balcony at Lacustre.

Our book choice seemed a little out of place, given the meteorological situation, however, there we were, talking about Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow by Peter Høeg.

Much like Marmite, this book divided people which was reflected in its average score of 6. There were a couple of 9s counterbalanced by some 3s and 4s. Not all our members finished the book – “I loved the one line that I read” but for those who did, some felt “it was like a glacier, snow and without direction” and “like the Inuit words for snow – there are lots of words and I don’t understand any of them”. On the plus side, others felt the book was “fascinating” with “a likeable main character” and a plot you could get “entangled” in.

The first issue some had with this book was it didn’t neatly fit into the scandi noir genre. There was no detective with alcohol problems. There was no gruesome murders. When asked whether the group would want to read more of the genre the answer was yes but with the caveat “now I know that this isn’t typical”.

Peter Høeg is quite open in interviews about how difficult he found it to write as a woman. When the team were asked whether he managed it successfully, they thought, for the most part, the characterisation was ok. There were a number of questions raised about the sex scenes in particular. Was this just an example of the male gaze/male fantasy projected onto a female protagonist?

The conversation for this book was meandering. Partly because it wasn’t the easiest book to analyse, and partly, possibly, because some rose may have been consumed. However, we discussed Smilla’s affection for the young boy and why she particularly connected to him. We also looked at Smilla’s daddy issues. Our “May moment” came courtesy of Sally when she pointed out that the father represented Denmark and its relationship with Greenland (collective “ooooohhhhs” rang around the table at this point)

We looked at some of the supporting characters but sadly, my note taker (Bad Kelly) seems to have lost the thread here.

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And so, with that, I’m also going to give up (on this write up).

All that remains is for me to say thank you to a stalwart of the Lausanne Book Club – Bad Kelly. We will all miss your humour, kindness, and the joy you bring each meeting. We wish you the best of luck in your new home (and why not start an Ohio chapter of the Lausanne Book Club? I’ll even lend you the logo!)

 

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