Classics Club: First Check-In for the Women’s Classic Literature Event 2016

First Check-In: Women’s Classic Literature Event 2016.

Our first group question: Without revealing spoilers (obviously), describe how the opening of your current read for this event draws you in. Is it the language? the suspense? the voice? Why are you compelled to keep reading?

Elizabeth Gaskell, Jane Austen, Zora Neale Hurson, George Eliot, Rose Wilder Lane, Louisa May Alcott, & Virginia Woolf.

I know,  I am really behind schedule for this event, but I’m finally ready to participate and excited about the books I will be reading and writing about this year.

Without revealing spoilers (obviously), describe how the opening of your current read for this event draws you in.

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck opens with a “Marriage Day” so it should be a time of rejoicing and celebration, right? But as I continue reading, I see that although Wang Lung is excited about this day, it’s not the joyous kind of celebration that I associate with a ‘wedding day’, which puzzles me, so I keep reading in order to understand why. Then I read something that really grabs my attention (and not in a good way): once there is a woman in the house again Wang Lung won’t be required to perform certain duties anymore because ‘the woman’ will assume those responsibilities. What? Is he serious?  What kind of a marriage is this? And what kind of a woman is he marrying?

I now want to know more about this woman and to find out as much as I can about her. I initially questioned why marriage was portrayed as a man getting a wife and a servant? Did he have any love for her? What was their ‘story’? The answers to these questions were truly eye opening and offered a glimpse into the history and culture of that time.

Have you read this book? What do you think about the opening scene? Was there a certain character you wanted to learn more about? Tell me in the comments below.

 

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Classics Question: What defines a classic?

Calling All Classics Lovers and Readers Everywhere:

I have a very important question to ask you and I would love all the feedback I can get. My question: What qualities define a classic?

I am getting ready to start reading The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck for The Womens Classic Literature Event and my husband asked me why it was a classic. He is a big fan of James Clavell and loves the Shogun series and he wanted to know why The Good Earth is considered to be a classic, but Shogun isn’t. I have never read Shogun so I can’t answer that question fully, but I have a few thoughts on what qualities I think define a classic:

  • It has stood the test of time
  • It has characters who broke with convention
  • It provides a realistic look at the social mores and customs of the time
  • It deals with issues still relevant today
  • It offers a look back in time and still has us talking today

There is something about a classic that has an enduring quality to it, but what defines that quality is hard to narrow down. I think that could be because it may vary from person to person.  I may consider The Good Earth to be a classic, but someone else may not. One person may think that Jane Austen is not worth reading because she is not relevant to us today, but another person may say she is definitely worth reading because of what we can learn about that time period from her novels. Maybe this is the mark of a classic, a work that still has us talking about it and saying ‘you need to read this and here’s why.’

I guess if a work is still in print after a certain period of time, I would say 50 or 60 years, and there is still something I can learn  from it, e.g. history, culture, or social structure, then maybe these are the initial marks of something that has ‘classic’ potential.

What are your thoughts on what defines a classic? I’d love to hear from you. Tell me in the comments below.

Secret Life of Bees Book vs. Movie Comparison

I have read some really good posts from various bloggers recently comparing a book to the screen adaptation. Now,  I typically don’t like the movie version after I have read the book because I dislike the way the movie usually departs from the novel, but I enjoyed reading these different posts comparing the two forms.  After a nice chat with Eboni about this very topic, I have decided to step out and give the “book to movie comparison post” a whirl!

There were quite a few changes made as this novel was adapted for the screen. The most glaring was that the the black Mary Madonna’s role was not as central as it was in the book.  The sisters still kept her statue in the living room and prayed to her, but they removed  “Mary Day” and everything associated with it, like making the honey cakes and all the festivities surrounding that day. They even removed the most noteworthy event of “Mary Day” and definitely one of the most memorable parts of the novel, ‘anointing Mary with honey’. I found that I really missed this part in the movie because this scene illustrated many things, community and unity being chief among them.

I watched this movie with my husband and I must say, I was surprised that he watched it with me. I thought he would find something else, anything else, to do rather than watch this movie. To my surprise, not only did he watch the movie with me, but he enjoyed it too! However, he was glad when I told him that they removed most of the “Mary worship” scenes, otherwise it might have been too much of the feminine divine for him.

The first change I noticed was at the beginning of the movie when Lily tells T. Ray that she would like a silver charm bracelet for her birthday, but that she would settle for information about her mother instead. This scene introduces the main theme of the movie: Lily’s desire and longing to know more about her mother and I think the movie did an excellent job of keeping to this theme throughout the movie.

Another difference is that the sweet and budding romance between Lily and Zack that was illustrated so beautifully in the novel didn’t translate to the screen adaptation very well. In the movie, it seemed like they were barely more than friends, but I think the reason for this is that the movie had a different focus: Lily’s quest to know more about her mother.

Also, in the movie, Lily and Zack went to a movie together, but it didn’t happen in the book. However, I think this scene served as a reminder that all of this was happening at the height of desegregation.

There was one scene in the movie that wasn’t in the book which I enjoyed and that was the scene where May was doing Lily’s hair. May shares how she made a 7-Up cake for a boy when she was fifteen years old which resulted in a wealth of kisses and Lily opens up and reveals to May that her father is an unfeeling man whom Lily wishes was more like May. This was a sweet and tender scene.

There were several other changes, but the final difference worth mentioning is at the end when T. Ray starts to drive off in his truck. Lily runs after him with a burning question she needs answered-but it was not the same question she asked in the novel! It worked for the screen adaptation though because it nicely tied up Lily’s story of her search for information about her mother.

The pink house, the life lessons through bee keeping, and August and her sisters were all the same. The acting by everyone was great and Alicia Keyes really was the perfect June Boatwright!

All in all, I think the movie did a great job of capturing the story of a young girl longing and searching to fill the hole left in her heart by her mother’s absence.

I had a lot of fun writing this review. It actually helped me to see why they make the changes they do when they are adapting a novel for the screen. There just isn’t enough time to include everything, so they include what they can and what makes the story flow.

My final thoughts are that both the book and the movie were great and if you haven’t read the book or watched the movie yet, you definitely should, you will be in for a real treat!

Have you read the book or watched the movie? What did you think of them? Tell me in the comments below.

Reviewing The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

I only have two words to describe The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd: Beautiful and Amazing.

Summary:

Fourteen year old Lily Owens lives with her father, T. Ray, on a peach farm in South Carolina. Her mother died when she was four years old and Lily still lives with the foggy memories of what happened.  When T. Ray tells her that her mother didn’t just leave him, but left her as well, Lily runs away desperate to prove him wrong.

All Lily has of her mother is a picture of her, a pair of white gloves and a wooden picture of a black Mary Madonna with the words Tiburon, South Carolina on the back.

After Rosaleen, Lily’s stand in mother, is arrested because of an altercation with three of the town’s biggest racists, they both run away to Tiburon. There, Lily is determined to find out anything she can about her mother.

In Tiburon, Lily and Rosaleen meet August Boatwright, the person who makes the honey with the black Madonna label on it, and Lily believes she can tell her more about her mother. August welcomes them both into her home and they enter a wonderful world of beekeeping and honey making mixed in with a unique form of spirituality.

 

I loved this book! It was such an engaging story and the writing was wonderful. I was completely drawn in by this story- by these strong and loving women- and the power of love to transform lives.
I loved the character of August Boatwright! She was so strong and wise. I respected that she chose never to marry because she loved her freedom, which is different from June who didn’t want to marry because she was afraid to be hurt again. August chose a life of freedom and independence and with her freedom, she nurtures, loves and gives to others. She is a special lady!

I also loved how beekeeping and honey making drew Lily in and allowed her to be a part of something. I was also happy that Rosaleen was included and brought into the family atmosphere. For the most part, she worked in the kitchen and developed a friendship with May, but both Lily and Rosaleen blossomed in this nurturing and supportive environment.

And then there is the black Mary Madonna who played such a key role in the lives of these women.  August tells Lily that the image of Mary on the honey jar is of Mary of Breznichar of Bohemia. She clearly represents the female divine in this story. In many ways, Mary led Lily to Tiburon and to August. The Mary Statue in the front room of their home is actually a figurehead from an old ship, but the power lies in her story. She is called “Our Lady of Chains” because she broke her chains and she helps those who look to her to break free from their chains, in addition to offering comfort, love and courage.  I saw Mary’s influence in their lives as symbolic and connected to her story -which was meant to be remembered- as they applied it personally in their lives. A person should remember where they came from, know who they are and move forward in love and strength.

Southern Life:

South Carolina 1964

The story takes place in South Carolina in 1964 just after the Civil Rights Act is signed into law. We see the racism that existed at that time: the most obvious being Rosaleen’s encounter with the three men on her way to register to vote. We hear of riots in different parts of the South at that time and there is real concern about the upcoming local visit of actor Jack Palance who is “… bringing a colored woman with him.” p 154. Add to this that Lily realizes she herself has prejudices she didn’t know she had which are brought to the surface when she starts staying with August. She sees this in herself, experiences what its like to be on the other side and realizes that skin color doesn’t matter-people do- and her budding romance with Zack was very sweet.

Despite everything in her life, Lily reaches out in hope.  She runs away with Rosaleen, meets August and finds what she was looking for: a mother’s love. This is very much a journey of self discovery and healing for Lily and I was happy to watch it all play out.

I am going to stay with The Secret Life of Bees just a little longer. In my next post I will compare this wonderful book to the movie and discuss the similarities and differences.  That should be fun!

Now I would love to hear from you. Have you read this story? If so, what did you think of it? Tell me in the comments below.

Weekend Poem to Consider: ‘New Year: A Dialogue’ by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Happy New year!

I hope 2016 has been treating everyone well so far. I also hope that 2015 was a good year for everyone. I’m sure it was momentous for some and simple and serene for others. I also realize that there are many who may have had a difficult year and are ready for a fresh start.

I wish everyone good cheer, hope, success, good health and mostly love in 2016. I thought this poem was very sweet and encouraging. I like that it offers hope and encouragement to someone in poor health and pain. To the person who doesn’t expect much to change and who may be growing cynical and bitter ‘The New Year’ is actively reaching out with a beautiful message of hope and love. The key lesson is to open our hearts to love and in doing so, we invite health, peace and beautiful blessings into our life.

I hope 2016 is filled with much love for everyone! I hope we are all surrounded by family and friends and enjoy good health. To me, this is what real prosperity and true blessings look like. In the end, what more could we ask for?

Happy New Year!

New Year: A Dialogue – by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

MORTAL:
“The night is cold, the hour is late, the world is bleak and drear;
Who is it knocking at my door?”

THE NEW YEAR:
“I am Good Cheer.”

MORTAL:
“Your voice is strange; I know you not; in shadows dark I grope.
What seek you here?”

THE NEW YEAR:
“Friend, let me in; my name is Hope.”

MORTAL:
“And mine is Failure; you but mock the life you seek to bless. Pass on.”

THE NEW YEAR:
“Nay, open wide the door; I am Success.”

MORTAL:
“But I am ill and spent with pain; too late has come your wealth. I cannot use it.”

THE NEW YEAR:
“Listen, friend; I am Good Health.”

MORTAL:
“Now, wide I fling my door. Come in, and your fair statements prove.”

THE NEW YEAR:
“But you must open, too, your heart, for I am Love.”