Books, foster care, clairvoyance, writing, this post has it all…

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I apologise in advance for the words that are about to spew forth. I went to book club last night and our discussion was so diverse – not just about the two books that we read – that I kind of came home and ruminated on it all and couldn’t get to sleep. I was home at 10.30pm but I did see 1am on the alarm clock and I was awake again at 5am. WTF is with that?

So where to start? Pride and Prejudice was last month’s book club selection, and when I last blogged about it, I hadn’t yet finished it. I ended up enjoying it to a degree. Yes, the way it was written kind of made me frustrated, it was convoluted at times and I felt like getting a red pen and writing ‘TIGHTEN THIS’ across most of it. But then, it was written in 1813 and I guess this is a sign of the times for then. I can understand why it is a classic and I believe that maybe in another few years, I’d be happy to have a re-read and see if I pick up anything new in it, now that I am familiar with the writing style of Jane Austen. And the movie – I am keen to watch it and see how it compares.

SIDE NOTE: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant was another that I had not finished yet when I posted about it. Quite simply, it is a compelling and beautifully written novel. It encompasses womanhood and female bonds and when both of my daughters are old enough to read it (and by this I mean maturity, not reading level), I will be passing it on to them to read.

The second book that we talked about last night was our current one, The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. The majority of us loved this book, and I am one of them. It is so completely different to anything that I have ever read. Victoria is now eighteen and after having had a childhood of being in the foster care system and continuously let down or mistaken or sabotaging her possible opportunities at happiness, she gets a second chance. She communicates using the Victorian language of flowers (for example: marigold = grief) and this has served her well until she must learn to open herself up in other ways. This novel skips between past and present, but you are never taken out of the story; it flows well and it all melds together wonderfully.

READ THIS NOW!

READ THIS NOW!

Because one of the questions about this book was what we all thought of the American foster care system after having read it, we also moved onto the topic of actually being a foster carer here in Australia. I think I can honestly say that I don’t think I would have the emotional capacity to do it. Obviously the majority of kids that would be coming to you are from broken homes, violent backgrounds, parents with a drug abuse or alcoholic history and so on – and while I feel desperately for these children, I believe I would have enormous trouble not getting attached to these kids in need and would hate to give them back knowing that they are possibly being thrown straight back into the thick of a really shit situation. And while this doesn’t help the already overworked system, it is quite simply how I identify with the whole state of affairs. Heavy stuff, right?

Now, another topic discussed was clairvoyants. Diverse bunch aren’t we? I have never been to one, and quite frankly am still not sure that I would be comfortable to see one. I don’t disbelieve in them (I think there are too many things in this world that can’t be explained), but also realise that there are probably more shonky ones out there who would be keen to take your money and tell you any old crap to keep you happy than real ones. I am probably more afraid of finding  a clairvoyant who is a ‘proper’ one and hearing stuff that I’m not ready or don’t want to hear. But at the same time, I do want to hear it. Does that make sense? If my husband reads this, he’ll be shaking his head and rolling his eyes and thinking, weirdo.

The subject of raising children, and in particular the differences of boys and girls (hello to Steve Biddulph, I will be buying two specific books soon) and when you should be encouraging them to participate in group activities and finding their own groove in life and everything in between was also brought up. Oh boy. If only being a parent was straight-forward. But then life would get boring, yes?

And finally… *inhale* I also came out last night. No, not as someone who is at AA or identifies as LGBT. I came out as a writer, to my book club group. And I tell you what, it got me in a bit of a flap. It is so true what many people say, that many writers are introverts at heart and to say out loud that we write, almost feels like we are admitting that we just sit around all day long wasting our time and not doing anything worthwhile like proper work. Which is a load of bullshit. Most writers still have full-time jobs and/or families and/or commitments and/or health issues and/or a life in general. Wednesday is my only (almost) set-in-stone writing day, because I have no kids under my feet. And while I don’t ‘work’ in a normal job, I do do the farm book work and have three kids, two of whom are participating in guitar, NRL, tennis and dance this year. It makes it bloody busy after school, I’ll just let you know quietly. And then there’s the littlest one who constantly needs feeding or being pushed on the swing or supervised in the toilet and all that stuff that is a part of being a mum… And so while I am slowly letting others know that I am a writer (because I am!), which is something that close family and friends do already know, there is still a bit of a ‘What are other people going to think?’ feeling that I have running around in my brain all the time. The ladies last night were very encouraging though, and I think I have some new beta-readers when the time comes. I did mention it might not be for another year or two yet, but they’re there waiting in the wings… *waves* Hello, book club girls! *exhale*

So, my questions for you today are:

Have you read Pride and Prejudice or The Language of Flowers or The Red Tent or Raising Boys or Raising Girls? Thoughts?

Are you a foster carer? How do you go? If not, do you think you could be one?

Do you write, but are too scared to admit it? 

And now that I have all of that off my chest, I’ll get to work on my manuscript, which is currently sitting at 14,111 words (not 15,000 like I thought last night – hopefully I’ll hit that today!) See y’all on the other side 🙂

A book club catch-up

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It’s been a while since I updated what we have been reading at book club:

  • October –‘Murder by Family’ – a true story written by Kent Whitaker, whose family was shot, killing his wife and son, and injuring Kent and his other son. I am not giving away the ending by saying that it was his injured son who orchestrated the shooting, as this book focuses on how Kent forgives his son via his religious beliefs. While it verged on evangelical (in my eyes), it can’t hurt to ask yourself: Would you be able to forgive your own child, for killing your spouse and other child?
  • November – The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton – I’ll give you the link for the blurb, because I’ll be honest, I didn’t finish this. I did try, but it just wasn’t for me. It was however, the 2013 Man Booker Prize winner, so it’s obviously a great book according to some rather accomplished judges.
  • December – The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards – What would you do if your daughter is born with Down Syndrome? Keep her or send her to an institution? While this might be an easy question for you to answer, now think about this: It is 1964. You are a doctor. Your wife delivers a healthy son first, before his twin is delivered. This second baby is a surprise. It has Down Syndrome. Your wife realises none of this… A compelling read about Caroline, the Doctor’s nurse, who keeps baby Phoebe as her own, and disappears from town. The Doctor’s wife on  the other hand, believes her child dead, while the Doctor must keep his secret.
  • January – break for school holidays.
  • February – Pride and Prejudice – this classic by Jane Austen was meant to have been discussed this week, however, having four farmer’s wives in the group meant that we were stuck at home with children while the husband’s were planting (or in the case of one lady, a day of mustering). This is lucky in a way, as I still haven’t finished it, meaning I should be ready by the time we have double book club in March. I can understand why this is such a favourite novel among many, and while I don’t dislike the book so far, it’s not one that I will rush out to read again. It just doesn’t do anything for me… Please don’t shoot me down in flames for saying so!

We have our books picked out for the next little while:

March – The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

April – The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas

May – Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

June – Nine Days by Toni Jordan

July – Eyre by Time Winton

August – Trail of Broken Wings by Sejal Badani

A diverse range to read, if nothing else! Do you want to join in? 

Book club: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

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I’ve joined a book club. When I told a good friend, she casually remarked, “Yeah, right? And that’d float ya boat, sitting down and talking about books?” To which I had to say, I’m honestly not sure. I hope so! I love reading and I love writing and I am part of an online writers group where we critique each other’s work. So I’m hoping this will be a happy extension of my interests.

When I heard about this book club, my immediate reaction was, “YOU HAVE A BOOK CLUB! CAN I JOIN?!”

Because, lo and behold, I have been contemplating starting one up for a while now, but never realised that there was one already in action. It’s all about who you know, people.

My next question was, “So do you all read the novel and then go and sit around and drink wine with the occasional remark about the book, or do you actually have a proper conversation about it?” Apparently, yes, proper conversation. Which kind of scared me a bit…

The book for this month is The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. Originally published in 1997, this is the description from Booktopia:

Her name is Dinah. In the Bible, her life is only hinted at in a brief and violent detour within the more familiar chapters of the Book of Genesis that tell of her father, Jacob, and his twelve sons.
Told in Dinah’s voice, Anita Diamant imagines the traditions and turmoils of ancient womanhood–the world of the red tent. It begins with the story of the mothers–Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah–the four wives of Jacob. They love Dinah and give her gifts that sustain her through childhood, a calling to midwifery, and a new home in a foreign land. Dinah’s story reaches out from a remarkable period of early history and creates an intimate connection with the past.
Deeply affecting, “The Red Tent” combines rich storytelling with a valuable achievement in modern fiction: a new view of biblical women’s lives.

Writers are told to read widely, so as to broaden our ideas and imagination. I’m not embarrassed to say that novels based on religion generally don’t ‘do it’ for me and this is not a book that I would personally have picked to read in a normal situation. So, for it to be the selected novel in the month that I join strengthens my reasons for becoming involved with a book club – I will occasionally be pushed out of my reading comfort zone. I am sure there will be books that I enjoy immensely and others that I have trouble finishing, but at least I will be trying something new.

And guess what? Having finished the prologue and Chapter One, I am so far pleasantly surprised and will happily continue to read it. Now to get it finished before Wednesday!

Are you in a book club? What book are you currently reading?

Have you read ‘The Red Tent’?

Joining in over at #WeekendRewind @Maxabella @Life Love and Hiccups @Hugzilla