Thursday, October 4, 2012


Tonight we are discussing Pollyanna, by Eleanor H Porter.

Our discussion is ranging between comparisons with Anne of Green Gables... There are quite a few similarities, and perhaps Pollyanna is winning? (not with me though. I think I'm an Anne fan.) ok I just took a poll, and it's pretty equal!

We are also reminiscing about what we read as kids (trixie Belden, Enid blyton stories, charlottes web...)
As well as current middle grade and YA fiction such as Percy Jackson and of course Harry Potter.

Emma has just made the point that 11 is a key age... Both Pollyanna and Anne, Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, maybe Lyra from northern lights too?

On eternal optimism... The 'glad game' ceased being a game...? She taught others to reframe, but didn't realise how it was for others sometimes. Nonetheless the novel does show the power of positive thinking.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Currently Reading: The Hunger Games

It's a 'YA' kind of year, as Page Turners this month is currently reading the Young Adult hit, The Hunger Games. Meeting is on Thursday 2 August.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Currently reading: War by Sebastian Junger

They were collectively known as “The Rock.” For one year, in 2007–2008, Sebastian Junger accompanied 30 men—a single platoon—from the storied 2nd battalion of the U.S. Army as they fought their way through a remote valley in eastern Afghanistan.Over the course of five trips, Junger was in more firefights than he could count, as men he knew were killed or wounded and he himself was almost killed. His relationship with these soldiers grew so close that they considered him part of the platoon, and he enjoyed an access and a candidness that few, if any, journalists ever attain.
      War is a narrative about combat: the fear of dying, the trauma of killing and the love between platoon-mates who would rather perish than let each other down. Gripping, honest and intense, War explores the neurological, psychological and social elements of combat, as well as the incredible bonds that form between these small groups of men. This is not a book about Afghanistan or the “War on Terror”; it is a book about all men, in all wars. Junger set out to answer what he thought of as the “hand-grenade question”: why would a man throw himself on a hand grenade to save other men he has known for probably only a few months? The answer is elusive but profound, going to the heart of what it means not just to be a soldier, but to be human.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Sunday, March 18, 2012

April: The Disappeared

This is what we're currently reading...

From the Amazon review:
After more than 30 years Anne Greves feels compelled to break her silence about her first lover, and a treacherous pursuit across Cambodia's killing fields... There are wounds that love cannot heal, and some mysteries too dangerous to know. Haunting, vivid, elegiac, The Disappeared is a tour de force; at once a battle cry and a piercing lamentation, for truth, for love.

Meeting and discussion will be on Thursday 5 April .

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


The story of the Atlantic Ocean ... to be discussed at Emma's place on Thursday 1 March from 7.45pm ... hope to see you there, email Emma or call her on 0411 708 073 if you need the address.

From Wikipedia

Pollyanna is a best-selling 1913 novel by Eleanor H. Porter that is now considered a classic of children's literature, with the title character's name becoming a popular term for someone with the same optimistic outlook.

The title character is named Pollyanna Whittier, a young orphan who goes to live in Beldingsville, Vermont, with her wealthy but stern Aunt Polly. Pollyanna's philosophy of life centers on what she calls "The Glad Game", an optimistic attitude she learned from her father. The game consists of finding something to be glad about in every situation. It originated in an incident one Christmas when Pollyanna, who was hoping for a doll in the missionary barrel, found only a pair of crutches inside. Making the game up on the spot, Pollyanna's father taught her to look at the good side of things—in this case, to be glad about the crutches because "we didn't need to use them!"

The book was such a success, that Porter soon produced a sequel, Pollyanna Grows Up (1915). Eleven more Pollyanna sequels, known as "Glad Books", were later published, most of them written by Elizabeth Borton or Harriet Lummis Smith. Further sequels followed, including Pollyanna Plays the Game by Colleen L. Reece, published in 1997.

Pollyanna has been adapted for film several times. Some of the best-known include Disney's 1960 version starring child actress Hayley Mills, who won a special Oscar for the role, and the 1920 version starring Mary Pickford.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Welcome to 2012

The blog is back!
UPDATED: 26 January.
Here are the first few books we're reading this year.

From the Amazon review

Atlantic is a biography of a tremendous space that has been central to the ambitions of explorers, scientists, and warriors, and continues profoundly to affect our character, attitudes, and dreams. Simon Winchester makes the Atlantic come vividly alive. Spanning the ocean’s story from its geological origins to the age of exploration—covering the Vikings, the Irish, the Basques, John Cabot, and Christopher Columbus in the north, and the Portuguese and the Spanish in the south—and from World War II battles to today’s struggles with pollution and overfishing, his narrative is epic, intimate, and awe inspiring. More than a mere history, this is an unforgettable journey of unprecedented scope by one of the most gifted writers in the English language.

From the Amazon review
After more than 30 years Anne Greves feels compelled to break her silence about her first lover, and a treacherous pursuit across Cambodia's killing fields... There are wounds that love cannot heal, and some mysteries too dangerous to know. Haunting, vivid, elegiac, The Disappeared is a tour de force; at once a battle cry and a piercing lamentation, for truth, for love.

From the Amazon review
In 1937 Ernest Hemingway traveled to Spain to cover the civil war there for the North American Newspaper Alliance. Three years later he completed the greatest novel to emerge from "the good fight," For Whom the Bell Tolls. The story of Robert Jordan, a young American in the International Brigades attached to an antifascist guerilla unit in the mountains of Spain, it tells of loyalty and courage, love and defeat, and the tragic death of an ideal.

June --> War, by Sebastian Junger


From the Amazon review
When Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert of Green Gables, Prince Edward Island, send for a boy orphan to help them out at the farm, they are in no way prepared for the error that will change their lives. The mistake takes the shape of Anne Shirley, a redheaded 11-year-old girl who can talk anyone under the table. Fortunately, her sunny nature and quirky imagination quickly win over her reluctant foster parents. Lucy Maud Montgomery's series of books about Anne have remained classics since the early 20th century. Her portrayal of this feminine yet independent spirit has given generations of girls a strong female role model, while offering a taste of another, milder time in history.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Chrysalids - Hayley's review

After having put a hold on 'The Chrysalids" at the library, I only was able to get my hands on the book after the meeting had already been and gone. However, since it was a relatively short book, I thought I would give it a go.

From the start, the book certainly piqued my interest. I am a sucker for books that have a sociological element to them, and so I wanted to know more about life after the 'tribulation' and how this would affect David.

While reading, I found myself thinking about how people tend to focus on the differences seen in one another rather than looking at the similarities, but also how these differences seem to engender such uneasiness in people. I think this was well reflected in David, who on the one hand appeared to be accepting, or at least understanding, of people's differences, but then could not bear to think about one of his fellow telepaths marrying someone who couldn't 'shape think'. He may have been the hero of the story, but he was essentially no different to the villains.

For me, this book felt like a response to communism. It was published during the time when McCarthyism was rife, and the Cold War was escalating, when people's fears were heightened. Although I had the feeling that Wyndham was trying to suggest that we should be accepting of others, the monologue from the woman from Sealand at the end of the book seemed to imply that some people/races are superior to others, and that is just a fact of life. Even now, this is giving me food for thought.

All in all, I found the book to be a bit too contrived. It was by no means subtle, lacked depth and felt rather laboured in places. This is not to say it wasn't a good read, but of all the books I have read that explore similar themes (which really numbers quite a lot), I would only rank this somewhere in the middle.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Chrysalids - Ellen's review

As stated below, The Chrysalids is a post-nuclear apocalypse story of genetic mutation in a devastated world and explores the lengths the intolerant will go to keep themselves pure.That sums the plot up rather well, actually. David is a telepath in a world (believed to be Labrador in Canada) where any deviation from normal is cast out. As a child, he witnesses this time and again (usually as the result of babies having extra marks, limbs, digits etc), and has the good sense to keep his talents -- and those of his fellow "thought-shapers" -- secret. Ultimately they are of course discovered, and in the course of being hunted down are rescued by a group of evolved humans for whom telepathy is normal . . .

I hadn't read The Chrysalids before, and found it an easily digestible and straightforward story that examines themes of belonging, power, fear, and evolution. There are even some parallels with Life of Pi -- here, the power of "story" in the form of the bible and other warped religious doctrine dictates all too literally who is considered "human" and who is not. Yet even in this environment, some characters, such as David's Uncle Axel, have the insight to question the idea of "normal" and acknowledge that elsewhere the idea of normal might actually be something rather different.

It seems to be accepted that the title, The Chrysalids, refers to the idea of metamorphosis -- I can only suppose from what we know as human into a telepathic race that can share thoughts almost to the point of becoming a hive mind. It seemes as though this evolution is not due to the radiation effects that cause the other mutations, but is rather the path humanity is destined to take. I base this assumption on the fact that most of the telepaths come from "Sealand" (New Zealand) where there doesn't appear to be too much radiation. Clearly, this new race considers themselves superior to the so-called savages of David's people.

While I enjoyed The Chrysalids enough to keep reading, I didn't love it. It certainly engaged me on an intellectual level, but I found it to be generally lacking in complexity, emotion and character depth. David narrates the story in a remarkably calm voice, even when bad things are happening, and always tells you something bad is going to happen before it does. As a result, I rarely felt "in the moment" and didn't really care much about any of the characters. Perhaps this is a characteristic of 1950s Science Fiction.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Currently reading . . .

May's book is The Chrysalids by John Wyndham, Simone's choice.

The Chrysalids is a post-nuclear apocalypse story of genetic mutation in a devastated world and explores the lengths the intolerant will go to keep themselves pure.

My version is the orange penguin (187p). I selected the cover above out of many for the blog, because I think it's really pretty!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Thoughts on 'Pi' (part 1)

In my mind, Life of Pi generated one of the better Page Turners discussions of late, despite there being only four of us present. As I am yet to finish the novel, I will hold my comments until I complete the experience (nearly there!), but I am very keen to record the thoughts of those who couldn't make the meeting, yet felt compelled to write their thoughts down. If anyone else has thoughts, please either post or send to me for posting!

What did I think? I think I got some of the point of the book. To start with I should mark the spot at which I stopped believing the "story" which was when he got off the lifeboat onto the floating island of seaweed and it was so big that it had palm trees growing on it. At that point I thought to myself...well now he is clearly hallucinating/dreaming. Which brings me to what I think is the point of the book at the end - how we all have different belief systems based on our experience/information/knowledge collected over a lifetime. I'm sure other readers will have stopped believing at a different point from me.

That's all well and good - and I did already know this (anyone who has done the Forum will know about filters) but I don't think I got much more out of it than that.

The other idea, that a story is more or less believable if it is more or less pallatable seems obvious - but I found the less nice story he told more believeable, is that the way everyone else felt?

With all the religion at the start, I'm guessing there is supposed to be some revelation about this at the end and I got nothing?!!Was it just trying to say that all religions have stories that are just metaphors and should not be interpreted as fact..or that the reason we have different religions is that people develop with different filters and need to find "their" explanation?

Really disappointed to miss this discussion as I was hoping this would reveal something for me.

I really enjoyed reading 'Life of Pi'. This was an interesting and well written book with quite a twist at the end.

I found the beginning of the book a bit drawn out and spent about the beginning quarter wondering when the story was going to start. I also found that the religious discussion over done and generally difficult to relate to. I found the interludes with the author injecting himself into the story confusing and detracting, particularly in the beginning.

The survival part of the story was riveting and, although I was under no illusions that it was true, was very well told. The imagery in the story was particularly well done. Some of my favourites:

Chapter 3: "deep pleasure of doing a stroke with increasing ease and speed, over and over, till hypnosis practically, the water turning from molten lead to liquid light" (I like this one because I'm a swimmer...)

Chapter 4: "it was a huge zoo... Now it's so small it fits in my head"

Chapter 25: "For evil in the open is but evil from within that has been let out. The main battlefield for good is not the open ground of the public arena but the small clearing of each heart."

Chapter 61: "I was sixteen years old, a harmless boy, bookish and religious" Actually, on reflection, I think this quote wins the irony award.

Chapter 82: "I ate like an animal, that this noisy, frantic, unchewing wolfing-down of mine was exactly the way Richard Parker ate."

Chapter 92: "... strength and comfort seemed to be physically pouring into my system through my eyes."

Chapter 92: "I felt even my soul had been corroded by salt"

In the face of such beautiful phrasing, the whole overt religious mentions are coarse, unnecessary and I felt detracted from the story. I even thought in the early part of the book that he was kind of cynical about organised religion, viewing it as a competition between who had the better story. But maybe that was the point? That organised religion gets in the way of communing with G-d?

The humour was pretty good too and I guess important in such a sad story:

Chapter 3: "The porters... were... friendly in an ill-tempered way"

Chapter 34: "the paperwork involved in trading a shrew weighs more than an elephant, that the paperwork involved in trading an elephant weighs more than a whale, and that you must never try to trade a whale, never."

Chapter ??: "The only reason I didn't stand up and beat it [the hyena] off the lifeboat with a stick was lack of strength and a stick..."

Chapter 77: "I was at the mercy of turtle meat for smiles"

The part where he is waiting at the zoo for Mr Kumar and meets the other Mr Kumar is really very funny and extremely cleverly written, so you don't know throughout the entire exchange which one is speaking.

This is the sort of story that once you reach the end makes you want to go back to the beginning and read it again with different eyes. Magnificent choice.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Currently Reading . . .

We are now reading Life of Pi, by Yann Martel, selected by Erin.

Wikipedia describes it as 'a factual adventure novel'.
Fantastic Fiction says: Life of Pi is a tale of disaster at sea. Both a boys' own adventure (for grown-ups) and a meditation on faith and the value of religious metaphor, it was one of the most extraordinary and original novels of 2002.

Hmmm. Get reading folks, because this one looks to be interesting!!

NOTE: Meeting is Wednesday 31 March, owing to Easter.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


I imagine that for most people reading this book, they already have a stance on home births. From my perspective, I don't like the thought of having a child at home. I think this is mostly due to the fact that for an event as huge as giving birth, I personally would like to know that I have all bases covered for whatever might happen, and having a child at home just wouldn't provide me with that reassurance. So with this in mind, you would think that I read the book with a certain bias that would influence my feelings towards the main character, the midwife Sibyl. However, I am also one for weighing up the evidence before making decisions, and so I can imagine that if I was a member of the jury during the trial, I would also have ruled in her favour.

This book is a well written account of what happens in what is in effect a no-win situation. You have the scenario that if you don't do something two people may die, but make a choice to save one, and you potentially pay the consequences for losing the life of the other. Ask anyone to make a decision under the same circumstances, and I would expect that most people would opt for the choice Sibyl made, which I think was reflected in her trial. However, I can also see that on a different day, in a different courtroom, the verdict could also have gone against her.

With respect to the writing of this novel, Chris Bohjalian has done extremely well to relate the story from many perspectives - not only from that of Sibyl, but also her daughter as well as how one might feel to be a juror in her trial. I certainly could imagine how each party would have felt during the course of the events that took place. However, I found that the back story took up too much space, and that only the last third of the book (along with the home birth scene, of course) contained the crux of the story. But having said that, I greatly appreciate a story that makes me think, and this book certainly did that.

As for whether home births are as safe as those performed in a hospital, I think the jury is still out on that one. A recent documentary on Dutch TV blamed home births and late intervention practices for the high infant fatalities in the Netherlands compared to other Western countries. Since the Dutch healthcare system on the whole leaves a lot to be desired, I am not sure that the correlation is that simple. However, such a discussion may be best left for another time.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Currently Reading . . .

A talented midwife is arrested for murder when she saves a baby by performing a Caesarean section once she believes the mother has died--only to have her assistant insist later that the woman was still very much alive. Told in the mesmerizing voice of the midwife's daughter, Midwives depicts the aftermath of the tragedy. (1997, 312 pages)

First book for the year is Emma's choice - MIDWIVES by Chris Bohjalian - although how she's going to find time to read with all this Trailwalking going on . . .

For those who are interested, there's a new blogger function that allows pages to be added to the blog, so I've added a more detailed reading list, which you can access via the link on the RHS side bar. I will update this as books are decided.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Currently reading . . .

Last book for this year is a classic -- Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck. It's very very short, and widely available. Meeting will be on Thursday 3 December.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Currently Reading . . .

This book is bound to split us right down the middle, between those who can't bear to see a classic tampered with, and those who appreciate the genius/humour/effort(?). . . . Or maybe some will just not like it?

Whichever camp you think you'll be in, don't forget to read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies this month!


The October Page Turners book for discussion was Necropolis (Book four of The Power of Five), by Anthony Horowitz. It's unashamedly YA (or younger) and targeted at boys. This is a relief, because if it were an adult novel with women as an intended audience, it failed dismally! (Most of us present were women, although I believe our male representative was of a similar overall opinion.)

For my part, I found the book a trifle dull. The characters were not that engaging, and the action not that exciting. Moreover, the YA writing style, which over-explained everything, as well as the omniscient point of view irritated me excessively.

I don't believe anyone in the group was particularly enthralled by it, and about the most interesting discussion topic was the difference between this, which clearly doesn't translate well for the adult reader, and other YA novels (such as Harry Potter, for example -- but there are many others), which do.

In addition, the morals of some of the lead characters were questioned (and the negative message this could leave with young, impressionable readers). Others also found the characters either dull, stupid or unlikeable. Hmmm, not too many positive vibes!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Currently reading . . .

Currently we're reading Necropolis, by Anthony Horowitz, book four of the series, The Power of Five. Meeting this Thursday. See you then!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Possession: A Romance

We discussed Possession: A Romance by A.S.Byatt last week. Of the six of us present, three had finished the book (including me!), one had nearly finished, one had read a small amount and seen the movie, and our host had seen the movie. (I too had seen the movie.)

It was a very weighty book to try to discuss in our usual time period of around an hour and a half, and as a result we jumped from topic to topic quite erratically as ideas formed and people bubbled over trying to express their opinions. I'm not sure how we would have coped with a larger group!

Somewhat inevitably, we discussed the poetry -- both in terms of how it was used to add atmosphere, texture and information, and whether it was necessary to read it all from end-to-end. I believe we were divided on that point. I personally found that experiencing the poems via the audio presentation was vastly easier and thus more enjoyable than reading them in the conventional manner, and I think the other audio listeners found this as well. And while it was certainly possible to enjoy the novel without reading them, I think they are an integral part of the whole and therefore enhanced the novel considerably. The bitterness of Mummy Possest gives great insight into Ash's feelings, for example. And those short, sad poems by Christabel left with Sabine's journal are also very revealing. (It was pointed out that most of the novel's complexity is derived from the poems, journals and letters. Without them you're left with little more than a slightly predictable plot hinged on coincidence!)

We also talked over several of the relationships -- Roland and Maud's is perhaps the central one for which the entire novel was declared an 'enormous foreplay' by one of our group. Certainly they spend an awfully long time getting to the point! In a podcast interview with Byatt she said that the novel had to end with Roland 'possessing' Maud to give the whole thing symmetry. She added that one of the sub-themes of the novel was exploring the effect overt 1980s feminism might have on a woman -- does it inhibit or enable? In Maud's case it was the former. Hence the waiting.

On the subject of the portrayal of academia, we discussed whether Roland's initial act of stealing the draft letters was reprehensible or not. I confess I lean a little to the side of not -- to my mind it's a bit like the proverbial tree in the forest. (i.e. if no-one knows they're there, does it actually matter?) Others thought the opposite! The discovery of the letters and the quest they engendered are for me at the heart of the story, and are what made me love the movie when I first saw it, which led me to select this book to read. Like Roland, like Maud, I wanted to know! I can clearly imagine the excitement they must have felt at such a momentous discovery!

Obviously we talked about all sorts of other things as well. I could go on about this novel for hours . . . about how I shared Roland's bereftness when all the others got in on the act and took the secret away from him and Maud . . . about how the plot relied a little too heavily on coincidence . . . about the fascinating characters of Leonora Stern and Beatrice Nest . . . about the various meanings of 'possession' and how they are explored . . . about the difference between feeling connected through words, as opposed to through artifacts . . .

As usual, my take on the novel is fairly analytical in terms of craft. I stand in awe of Byatt and her ability to create such a complex and convincing world -- she wrote all the Victorian poetry in two distinct voices, plus fairy tales, journal entries, letters etc in more voices again. Moreover, she says she wrote them in-situ, not after the fact, so they are integral building blocks of the story. But it's not just the poems. In fact, they might almost have been easy in comparison with all the other sources she created -- such as excerpts from Cropper's The great ventriloquist. This is replete with academic theory and analysis that sounds convincing enough to an ignoramus like me.

The novel is also rich with subtext and symbolism, and I'm sure I missed most of it. But for instance most of the characters are defined by colour -- Christabel (and Maud) is green because that's evidently the colour of fairies; Ellen Ash is white. I confess the colours were revealed to me in the podcast, so now I'll have to read it again to take more notice! (A very interesting thing Byatt said was that she sees novels in colours -- like an abstract painting -- and she can't write without knowing what colour it is . . .)

The final thing I am going to share is Byatt's inspiration for the novel. She was sitting in the British Museum library watching a Coleridge scholar pacing around the catalogues, and started wondering whether the woman had an original thought, or whether it was all the poet. Does he possess her, or does she possess him?

For those that are interested, here's the link to the podcast.

Here's a link to my (very different) post on Possession on Forge and Brew.