Saturday, February 28, 2009

My BCSL Book Club Notes for February, 2009

Melody’s book: The Africa House by Christina Lamb. The African House was the culmination of a childhood dream for it’s creator, Stewart Gore-Browne, who was “A very human man, with deep flaws.” This biographical story of his life was aided by the thousands of letters he wrote to friends and relatives as well as the fact of his being a lifelong diarist. The most pivotal person in Stewart’s life was his free-spirited, witty, vivacious and shrewd, Aunt Ethel. He was a frequent visitor at her huge English estate. She was married to a much older man, they had no children, so they made Gore-Browne their heir. After serving in WW1, he was sent to Africa to map out the borders and terrain of Northern Rhodesia. Here he found the lush, beautiful area near a lake (with famously huge crocodiles) where he had his African House built. He hired men from the local Bemba tribe. He respected the natives and quickly learned their language. He championed the rights of the Africans but on a personal level sometimes beat his servants who displeased him or didn’t follow orders. Full of delicious images, Melody’s favorite – leopards striding past the window of the dining room on moonlit nights.

Donna’s book: The Rose Labyrinth by Titania Hardie. A first novel for this England-grown author. This is one of those loan-arounders. Carol read it after buying it for daughter Sharon who didn’t want it, then loaned it to Bonnie who also read and enjoyed it and now it’s Donna’s book to review. Intrigue and adventure surrounding the family ‘secret’ passed down from Elizabethan times has the characters racing through London, France and New York following clues (reminiscent of National Treasure and The Da Vinci Code) , intertwined with a heart transplant that addresses the issues of whether the heart has its own memories and feelings. Donna felt that some of the circumstances were a little too convenient. The story was a pleasure to read as a mystery with both romantic and spiritual overtones. Up for loan out, folks.

Bonnie’s material: Hildegard of Bingen: A Renaissance Person This is a paper of Bonnie’s that she wrote for her Corelight course. It is an ongoing interest of Bonnie’s for this, “12th century mystic whose visionary accomplishments integrate art and science with spirituality and continue to inspire us.” Hildegard was born in 1098, the tenth child of a noble family who tithed her to the church. She was frequently ill and her visions coincided with her illness and made her more suited to a religious role than marriage. She lived in a time just prior to the burning of witches for which she would most probably have been targeted.
Bonnie started her presentation by playing music written by Hildegard; ethereal female chant-like, and passed around a small copy of one of Hildegard’s mandalas. “This mandala represents balance and is considered a map of the cosmos. Movement is represented by winds blowing toward the humans and trees from the breath of heads of animals at the perimeter of the mandala. The animals (bear, lion, wolf, leopard, crab, lamb and stag) represent the four directions, astrology and biblical expressions.” Bonnie says “Hildegard is a mentor to me in my personal art.”

Mary’s book: Run by Ann Patchett. Her latest novel whose Bel Canto was so excellent. It is the story of the Doyle family. The Caucasian father, Bernard, former mayor of Boston; his beloved wife, Bernadette, now deceased but still holding her role in the family; the eldest son of Bernard and Bernadette’s, Sullivan; and the family’s adopted Black sons, Tip and Teddy. Complications with Tip and Teddy’s biological mom and younger sister bring the family to confront their past. Mary loves the way Ann writes and says that more than one reviewer mentions the prose technique as reminiscent of James Joyce’s short story The Dead.
“A brilliant novel, filled with truth and deep feeling. … You won’t forget this book.”

Carol’s book: A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. I made so many notes from this one since I read it while recovering from my knee operation. The New Earth teaches letting go of ego with nonattachment, nonjudgment and nonresistance and awakening with acceptance, enjoyment and enthusiasm. Eckhart leads you in a step by step progression. He includes illustrative stories like this one about the Zen Master whose neighbor’s teenage daughter names him as father of her child. The Zen Master merely says, “Is that so?” His reputation is ruined. When the baby is born, the angry grandparents hand the baby over to the Master and tell him to raise it himself, he does. After one year, the grandparents tell him that their daughter lied and has now revealed the real father’s name. The Master says only, “Is that so?” They apologize and take the baby back from the Master. Another story lesson was the brief telling of Krishnamurti’s ‘Secret’. He tells how Krishnamurti came on stage for his talk one night and asked the audience if they wanted to know his secret. They did. He then stated: “I don’t mind what happens,” then left the stage.

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