Welcome to our Book Club Blog! (August 2008 Books)

                                                                                                                                                                                We can post book reviews, book club dates, books, whatever we want on this site. 

The books for August are “The House on Fortune Street” by  Margot Livesey and “The Double Bind” by Chris Bohjalian.  UPDATE:  We’d recommend both books.

Click on the “comment” at the bottom of this post to get the review of “The Double Bind” that Chris found.  

Cathy

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2 Comments

Filed under August 2008 Books, Book Club, Books

2 responses to “Welcome to our Book Club Blog! (August 2008 Books)

  1. blatherblog

    Review of The Double Bind from the Washington Post — just the first one I found says Chris:

    Identity Crisis
    A young social worker finds her life intertwined with “The Great Gatsby.”

    By Reviewed by Carrie Brown
    Sunday, February 18, 2007; Page BW05

    THE DOUBLE BIND

    A Novel

    By Chris Bohjalian

    Shaye Areheart. 368 pp. $25

    The last line of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby has become one of literature’s most recognizable sentences: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” Nick Carraway’s haunting reflection as he stares up at Gatsby’s abandoned mansion from the shoreline on his last evening in West Egg is part stately elegy, part defeated warning, and it tolls out across the landscape of American fiction with the beautiful and mournful sound of a bell ringing in the mist. Few writers have expressed the hopelessness of the human condition — the “hopeless dust,” as Nick says, the “abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men” — with as much eloquence as Fitzgerald. The tragic figure of Gatsby and the exhausted appeal of Nick’s voice, at once so corrupted and so disappointed, have long cast a powerful spell over writers and readers.

    Chris Bohjalian’s new novel, The Double Bind, is a kind of reply to Gatsby, both its place as a monument on the literary horizon and its message about human destiny, but it is not easy to say what sort of reply it is. Indeed, The Double Bind is a difficult novel to describe because at every turn there is the risk of spoiling the story by divulging its surprise ending. Fitzgerald set Gatsby in 1922 (and published it in 1925), and the novel’s events and characters — Gatsby himself, Tom and Daisy Buchanan, even many of the minor characters — form the background to the present-day events of Bohjalian’s The Double Bind. Yet that background is chimerical; Bohjalian has dropped a veil between fiction and reality — the two seem to merge in this novel in disturbing ways — and he does not lift that veil until the story’s final pages.

    The author of nine other novels, Bohjalian is a master of literary suspense. He does it so well, it’s as if he simply can’t help himself; convolutions of plot and a perfect instinct for timing are characteristic of his work, including the bestseller Midwives. They are the sorts of books people stay awake all night to finish, and The Double Bind exerts that same hypnotic tug, even if the reader is sometimes more bewildered than intrigued.

    Here, at least superficially, is the story’s plot: The main character, Laurel Estabrook, is a college sophomore in Vermont when she is viciously attacked by two masked men late one fall afternoon while bicycling alone on a country road. It takes her months to recover and return to college life, and even then she is withdrawn and careful, her social circle drastically diminished.

    A few years later, and by now employed at the local homeless shelter in Burlington, Laurel comes into possession of a trove of photographs belonging to a homeless man; Bobbie Crocker has died and left no trace about his past except the tantalizing trail suggested by his photographs, including images of a girl on a bicycle on the very road where Laurel was assaulted.

    The coincidence is as unsettling as it is intriguing, and the novel follows Laurel as she pursues the truth about the identity of the man who left behind this rich store of images and his role in the events of that autumn day when she was assaulted. Many of his photos are of well-known figures from the 1950s and ’60s, including Chuck Berry, Robert Frost and Martin Luther King. (These images, Bohjalian explains in an author’s note, are actual photographs taken by a real homeless man whose work was brought to Bohjalian’s attention; a few of them are reproduced in the book.)

    There’s an additional, important complication: Some of Bobbie Crocker’s photographs are of West Egg, the fictional setting of The Great Gatsby and the place where Laurel happened to grow up. In fact, the descendants of Gatsby’s main characters — Tom and Daisy Buchanan’s unfortunate children — roam the novel’s pages as if the world from which they sprang were entirely real.

    The idea of the invented self hovers over Gatsby. Jay Gatsby, we remember, begins an unpromising life as James Gatz and is murdered for a crime he does not commit. Bohjalian, too, is interested in the gray area between hope and delusion, in how people are shaped by the events of their lives and the efforts they make to hold the self inviolable against fate and harm. As Nick Carraway concludes, the past is powerfully present in the future, and Laurel’s investigations into Bobbie Crocker’s life lead her inevitably into her own history. Some readers may reach the end and feel blindsided rather than enlightened, but The Double Bind describes just how circuitous that inescapable journey can be. ·

    Carrie Brown’s new novel, “The Rope Walk,” will be published in May.

  2. blatherblog

    Hi,
    Just returned from car trip.
    Listened to Great Gatsby this afternoon on the trip back to K.C. I would suggest that any aspiring book club should read the two together; Gatsby first.
    I guess teaching TGG for a couple of years, but, several decades ago, left me in a confused state a few times, while reading The Double Bind. TGG is such a good read anyway, a period novel……. racism, antisemitism and male chauvinist pigs. abound!
    Things have changed………… right?????
    Mary

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