Enjoying the Classics (10/21/2020): Martin Chuzzlewit

Martin Chuzzlewit (cover)

Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens

Wealthy and old, Martin Chuzzlewit, Sr., is surrounded by greedy relatives hoping to obtain a portion of his estate upon his death. His two descendants, Martin, Jr., and Jonas, have been born and bred in the same heritage of selfishness, the Chuzzlewit tradition.

Set partly in America, of which Dickens offers a searing satire, this novel follows and contrasts the opposing fates of Martin and Jonas. While one achieves worldly success and, eventually, moral redemption, the other sinks deeper into the darkness—and pays the ultimate price.

This powerful black comedy is a tale of hypocrisy, greed, and blackmail, and it introduces the most famous of Dickens’ grotesques: Mrs. Gamp.


Next Meeting:
October 21st @ 7:00 PM at Virtual Library

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Enjoying the Classics (09/16/2020): The Shadow of the Wind

The Shadow of the Wind (cover)

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Barcelona, 1945—just after the war, a great world city lies in shadow, nursing its wounds, and a boy named Daniel awakes on his eleventh birthday to find that he can no longer remember his mother’s face. To console his only child, Daniel’s widowed father, an antiquarian book dealer, initiates him into the secret of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a library tended by Barcelona’s guild of rare-book dealers as a repository for books forgotten by the world, waiting for someone who will care about them again. Daniel’s father coaxes him to choose a volume from the spiraling labyrinth of shelves, one that, it is said, will have a special meaning for him. And Daniel so loves the novel he selects, The Shadow of the Wind by one Julian Carax, that he sets out to find the rest of Carax’s work. To his shock, he discovers that someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book this author has written. In fact, he may have the last one in existence. Before Daniel knows it his seemingly innocent quest has opened a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets, an epic story of murder, magic, madness and doomed love. And before long he realizes that if he doesn’t find out the truth about Julian Carax, he and those closest to him will suffer horribly.
As with all astounding novels, The Shadow of the Wind sends the mind groping for comparisons—The Crimson Petal and the White? The novels of Arturo Pérez-Reverte? Of Victor Hugo? Love in the Time of Cholera?—but in the end, as with all astounding novels, no comparison can suffice. As one leading Spanish reviewer wrote, “The originality of Ruiz Zafón’s voice is bombproof and displays a diabolical talent. The Shadow of the Wind announces a phenomenon in Spanish literature.” An uncannily absorbing historical mystery, a heart-piercing romance, and a moving homage to the mystical power of books, The Shadow of the Wind is a triumph of the storyteller’s art.


Next Meeting:
September 16th @ 7:00 PM at Virtual Library

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Enjoying the Classics (07/15/2020): Under the Volcano

Under the Volcano (cover)

Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry

“Lowry’s masterpiece” about a fateful Day of the Dead in a small Mexican town and one man’s struggle against the forces threatening to destroy him ( Los Angeles Times). In what the New York Times calls “one of the towering novels of [the twentieth] century,” former British consul Geoffrey Firmin lives alone with his demons in the shadow of two active volcanoes in South Central Mexico. Gripped by alcoholism, Geoffrey makes one last effort to salvage his crumbling life on the day that his ex-wife, Yvonne, arrives in town. It’s the Day of the Dead, 1938. The couple wants to revive their marriage and undo the wrongs of their past, but they soon realize that they’ve stumbled into the wrong place and time, where not only Geoffrey and Yvonne, but the world itself is on the edge of Armageddon. Hailed by the Modern Library as one of the one hundred best English novels of the twentieth century, Under the Volcano stands as an iconic and richly drawn example of the modern novel at its most lyrical.


Next Meeting:
July 15th @ 7:00 PM at Virtual Library

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Enjoying the Classics (06/17/2020): A House for Mr. Biswas

A House for Mr. Biswas (cover)

A House for Mr. Biswas by V.S. Naipaul

The early masterpiece of V. S. Naipaul’s brilliant career, A House for Mr. Biswas is an unforgettable story inspired by Naipaul’s father that has been hailed as one of the twentieth century’s finest novels. In his forty-six short years, Mr. Mohun Biswas has been fighting against destiny to achieve some semblance of independence, only to face a lifetime of calamity. Shuttled from one residence to another after the drowning death of his father, for which he is inadvertently responsible, Mr. Biswas yearns for a place he can call home. But when he marries into the domineering Tulsi family on whom he indignantly becomes dependent, Mr. Biswas embarks on an arduous–and endless–struggle to weaken their hold over him and purchase a house of his own. A heartrending, dark comedy of manners, A House for Mr. Biswas masterfully evokes a man’s quest for autonomy against an emblematic post-colonial canvas.


Next Meeting:
June 17th @ 7:00 PM at Virtual Library

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Enjoying the Classics (05/20/2020): The Age of Innocence

The Age of Innocence (cover)

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

Winner of the first Pulitzer Prize for literature ever awarded to a woman, The Age of Innocence is Edith Wharton’s elegant portrait of desire and betrayal in old New York. In the highest circle of New York social life during the 1870s, Newland Archer, a young lawyer, prepares to marry the docile May Welland. But before their engagement is announced, he meets the mysterious, nonconformist Countess Ellen Olenska, May’s cousin, who has returned to New York after a long absence. Ellen mirrors his own sense of disillusionment with society and the “good marriage” he is about to embark upon and provokes a moral struggle within him as he continues to go through the motions. A social commentary of surprising compassion and insight, The Age of Innocence toes the line between the comedy of manners and the tragedy of thwarted love.


Next Meeting:
May 20th @ 7:00 PM at Virtual Library

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Great Books (08/21/2019): A Canticle for Leibowitz

A Canticle for Leibowitz (cover)

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Mill

In the depths of the Utah desert, long after the Flame Deluge has scoured the earth clean, a monk of the Order of Saint Leibowitz has made a miraculous discovery: holy relics from the life of the great saint himself, including the blessed blueprint, the sacred shopping list, and the hallowed shrine of the Fallout Shelter.

In a terrifying age of darkness and decay, these artifacts could be the keys to mankind’s salvation. But as the mystery at the core of this groundbreaking novel unfolds, it is the search itself—for meaning, for truth, for love—that offers hope for humanity’s rebirth from the ashes.


Next Meeting:
August 21st @ 7:00 PM at Harnish Library

Great Books (07/17/2019): Go Tell it to the Mountain

Go Tell it to the Mountain (cover)

Go Tell it to the Mountain by James Baldwin

Go Tell It On The Mountain, first published in 1953, is Baldwin’s first major work, a semi-autobiographical novel that has established itself as an American classic. With lyrical precision, psychological directness, resonating symbolic power, and a rage that is at once unrelenting and compassionate, Baldwin chronicles a fourteen-year-old boy’s discovery of the terms of his identity as the stepson of the minister of a storefront Pentecostal church in Harlem one Saturday in March of 1935. Baldwin’s rendering of his protagonist’s spiritual, sexual, and moral struggle of self-invention opened new possibilities in the American language and in the way Americans understand themselves.


Next Meeting:
July 17th @ 7:00 PM at Harnish Library

Nite Readers: King Zeno

King Zeno (cover)

King Zeno

By: Nathaniel Rich

Date: Thursday, June 20th, 2019 @Harnish

Time: 7:00pm

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New Orleans, a century ago: a city determined to reshape its destiny and, with it, the nation’s. Downtown, a new American music is born. In Storyville, prostitution is outlawed and the police retake the streets with maximum violence. In the Ninth Ward, laborers break ground on a gigantic canal that will split the city, a work of staggering human ingenuity intended to restore New Orleans’s faded mercantile glory. The war is ending and a prosperous new age dawns. But everything is thrown into chaos by a series of murders committed by an ax-wielding maniac with a peculiar taste in music.

The ax murders scramble the fates of three people from different corners of town. Detective William Bastrop is an army veteran haunted by an act of wartime cowardice, recklessly bent on redemption. Isadore Zeno is a jazz cornetist with a dangerous side hustle. Beatrice Vizzini is the widow of a crime boss who yearns to take the family business straight. Each nurtures private dreams of worldly glory and eternal life, their ambitions carrying them into dark territories of obsession, paranoia, and madness.

In New Orleans, a city built on swamp, nothing stays buried long.

Great Books: A Town Like Alice

A Town Like Alice (cover)A Town Like Alice

By: Nevil Shute

Date: Wednesday, June 19th, 2019 @Harnish

Time: 7:00pm

Jean Paget, a young Englishwoman living in Malaya, is captured by the invading Japanese and forced on a brutal seven-month death march with dozens of other women and children. A few years after the war, Jean is back in England, the nightmare behind her. However, an unexpected inheritance inspires her to return to Malaya to give something back to the villagers who saved her life. But it turns out that they have a gift for her as well: the news that the young Australian soldier, Joe Harmon, who had risked his life to help the women, had miraculously survived. Jean’s search for Joe leads her to a desolate Australian outpost called Willstown, where she finds a challenge that will draw on all the resourcefulness and spirit that carried her through her war-time ordeals

Nite Readers: Rebecca

Rebecca (cover)Rebecca

By: Daphne Du Maurier

Date: Thursday, May 16th, 2019 @Harnish

Time: 7:00pm

The novel begins in Monte Carlo, where our heroine is swept off her feet by the dashing widower Maxim de Winter and his sudden proposal of marriage. Orphaned and working as a lady's maid, she can barely believe her luck. It is only when they arrive at his massive country estate that she realizes how large a shadow his late wife will cast over their lives--presenting her with a lingering evil that threatens to destroy their marriage from beyond the grave.