Archive for October, 2010


water for elephants

we gathered on a bright sydney spring sunday, white wine, sun, cheese and a cool breeze. It was a lovely, light, relaxing, comforting afternoon. it was time well spent with a lot of pleasantness and not too many surprises, just like the book.

It starts beautifully with a great evocation of the 90 something jacob, irascible and grumpy in his nursing home, having flash backs to his days as a circus vet, in depression era america.

circuses, and the depression they are great visual material to work with and the author makes the most of those striking images. So much so that its not surprising to hear the book is to be made in to a movie.

unfortunately, it almost seems like the author found out it was to be a movie when she was half way through the book. up to that point i loved it. afterwards it got very melodramatic and cliched. The second half was still entertaining and easy to read but a lot like a hollywood film – fights, boy gets girl, intermittent jokes, big climax, baddies get it in the end, happily ever after

nevertheless, it was fun and bookgroupers took the opportunity to talk about what an amazing time the depression must have been. We all related stories we had been told by our depression era parents, and our own memories of the circuses that came to our towns as kids, which was a great way to spend an afternoon.

in short – probably just the thing for xmas holiday reading or even to give as gift – it would be hard to be offended by it


October 23, 2010 at 11:50 am Leave a comment


Arcadia by Tom Stoppard gave us a beautiful evening. It was a truly arcadian occasion at Arcadia Road. Mountains of food, all delicious, especially the cajun chicken, and gentle but passionate conversation, that roamed across the mandlebrot set, utopia and academic jealousy, but somehow always seemed to come back to the play.

The book is a famous play by one of the worlds most famous living playwrights (shakespeare in love, rosencrantz and gildenstern). Its written in 1993. its set in an english manor house in two times. 1809, as the enlightenment is unfortunately giving way to the dreaded romantics, and the present day (1993), when, in many academic circles at least, reason has given way to the dreaded post-modernists.

In 1809 the household tutor, septimus hodge, is exchanging very insightful witticisms about maths, sex and byron with teenage genius tomasina, whilst supposedly teaching her, and at the same time sleeping with all the women in the house.

In 1993, the son of the household and visiting young academic hannah, are engaged in much the same witticisms, on the same subjects, whilst heaping scorn on wannabe celebrity academic bernard, who is trying to make his name from an expose on byron.

Luckily, one bookgrouper had worked on the sydney production of the play, and another had seen both the sydney and london productions,and researched the whole issue of utopia/arcadia. so we were well armed to analyse the play, which we did, but mostly we just really enjoyed it.

The lively, good natured intellectualism, and curiosity, of the play sat well with bookgroupers. The sexy irreverence of septimus and hannah was as familiar to bookgroupers as the pretentious over-reaching competitiveness of bernard. Most of all the audacity of deliberately constructing a ruin in your back garden and stocking it with a real live (pretend) hermit, in order to achieve the romantic ideal of authenticity, was strikingly reminiscent of sydney-siders never-ending search for so-called authenticity in the form of ever more exotic and bizarre cuisine, music and holiday destinations.

in the end i really enjoyed reading the play, but i absolutely loved the bookgroup evening that we created, based on the play

October 10, 2010 at 11:09 am 1 comment


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