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  • Writer's pictureSusan Flanagan

Book Club picks | The Kids are Alright | Oct. 23, 2012

Cloud Atlas, the movie, is due out tomorrow.

As luck would have it, my book club, the Read Hots (pronounced like red hot pokers), also meets tomorrow. I say that not because I’m disappointed I’ll have to wait to see the movie.

Au contraire, I want to wait a while before I see Cloud Atlas on the big screen.

Why, you ask?

Because I want my book club to read Cloud Atlas, the book by David Mitchell, before they all ruin it by seeing the movie first.

I know however that this will be no easy feat. For over two years I have been doing my best to persuade my well-read friends that Cloud Atlas deserves to be on the top-100-books-you-must-read-before-you-die list.

So why don’t they want to read this masterpiece?

“Too cerebral,” said one member who was looking for a summer beach book at the time.

I admit Cloud Atlas is not an easy read. But one of the reasons I am in book club is so I will read books I otherwise would not pick up. I know for a fact I would not have read Seven Daughters of Eve by Bryan Sykes or Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides if they had not been book club picks. But I am a better person for it. I probably wouldn’t have read The Post-Birthday World either. This book, although not difficult to follow, has an interesting format. Author Lionel Shriver follows his first chapter with alternating stories every other chapter. After chapter one, you could essentially skip every second chapter or you could delve into the what-ifs. What if the protagonist had done this instead of that? What if she had just gone home to bed instead of…?

Both this book and The Shack by William P. Young are perhaps the two most debated books in the history of our club.

And rightly so, it is these books that people either love or hate that make for interesting debate. Although a book like The Guernsay Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows was loved by every member of book club, we had nothing to discuss after the inevitable “I didn’t know the Germans occupied those small islands off the south of England during WWII.”

Cloud Atlas is definitely a book that welcomes discussion and thus makes good book club fodder. David Mitchell jumps from the age of sail to futuristic science fiction where identical servers in a fast food restaurant experience rebellion (not my favourite part, I have to admit). Each story is sort of like a Russian nesting doll, unveiling layers of Mitchell’s master plan to have each section of the book somehow experienced by the main character in the next section. I had to take notes to keep up with how all the sections were connected and why. It’s like 6 degrees of separation on steroids.

So tomorrow evening I will add Cloud Atlas to the list of potential reads that members submit each meeting. And for perhaps the 30th time, Cloud Atlas will get one vote, maybe two. The 9-13 women present will undoubtedly choose something else.

So why do I keep trying?

Because Cloud Atlas is a book that you need to share with others. Once you finish it, you’ll feel the need not only to discuss it, but also to read it again.

Over the course of the decade we have discussed fiction, nonfiction and everything in between. We have done young adult books like The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. We have done poetry by Mary Dalton. We have invited Newfoundland authors like Lisa Moore, Michael Crummey, Francoise Enguehard and Bernice Morgan to meetings so they could read for us and answer questions about their works.

One evening writer Chad Pelley found himself seated at the head of my dining room table surrounded by 13 well-read (read hot) women. He held his own and loved listening to our views of his brilliant debut novel, Away from Everywhere.

We have done difficult stories like The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, Room by Emma Donahue and Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay.

There are some scenes which will stay with you like the finger scene in Little Bee by Chris Cleave, the second section in Room by Emma Donoghue and the entirety of The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.

Plus we’ve read some pretty fluffy novels in our time. I remember one in particular that we discussed when we hosted club in the baths at Spa at the Monastery. Fluff was a good choice on that cold February evening back almost ten years ago because no one really wanted to spend a lot of time debating point of view or plot. But now on the cusp of winter, before the rush of Christmas, we need a book we can really dig into.

Tomorrow evening we’ll discuss poetic novel Ru by Kim Thuy and Beauty of Humanity Movement by Camilla Gibb, in which both authors beautifully tell stories of Vietnam.

And hopefully, everyone keep your fingers crossed, our next pick will be Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. Because the best things about book club are the camaraderie and choosing to read books that you otherwise wouldn’t. Hear that ladies, one of the best parts of book club is reading a book you normally wouldn’t choose.

Long Live David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas.

Here’s are some of my favourite book club reads from my years with the Read Hots book club.

1. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

2. The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis

3. Horn of a Lamb by Robert Sedlack

4. Life of Pi by Yann Martel

5. My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

6. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

7. Empire Falls by Richard Russo

8. Still Alice by Lisa Genova

9. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon

10. No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod

Susan Flanagan is an avid reader who is now devouring David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. She can be reached at

Ice Cream feedback

Bev Welsh who owns the Ice Cream Parlour in Bishop`s Falls writes: “Just wanted to send you a quick note to thank you for the kinds words you wrote in your recent article in The Telegram about our town and our Ice Cream Parlor. The article has created a little bit of a buzz around town and I personally thought it was very well written. It’s nice to have such a well written article about our town. I feel blessed that our paths have crossed and sincerely hope you come to visit us again. Thank you so very much.”

Newfoundland Crest Plate feedback:

Elizabeth Winter writes: “Delightful story about your plate. In the sixties and early seventies my husband Ernest and Sam Wilansky were very active with the Sixth St. John's Boy Scouts. Sam’s wife Sylvia sat with me on the Ladies Auxiliary. The Sixth St. John's received generous funding from the Wilansky family but I was not aware of the true source until your story. It is rewarding to hear such nice things about… old friends.”

Karen Lynch writes: “Very interesting article you have here in today's edition of the Telegram 10-16-2012.

I have a 12 piece place setting of NL Tartan. It was given to me by late grandmother in 1982. What I have says Ridgeway Potteries Ltd 1789 Royal Adderley.

I'm wondering now if this was in fact designed by Mr. Samuel Wilansky. I always thought that 1789 was the date that it was manufactured. It does have a reg # 166-23099.

I'm very interested in finding out more information on my NL Tartan dishes.

I did use the dishes from time to time, however haven't in quite some time in fear that I would break a piece and not being able to replace it would devastate me. They mean so much to me. It's an heirloom.

Any help you can give me would be greatly appreciated.”

Doris writes: “I love those kinds of stories; also I must check my NL souvenirs packed away somewhere. Thanks for reminding me.”

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