Book Club

This Beacon-affiliated group meets on the fourth Thursday of the month at 7 pm.

Thursday, Feb 28, 2019

Do Not Say That We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien, c. 2016, 473 pages
Nominated by: John Hagen
An extraordinary novel set in China before, during and after the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989–the breakout book we’ve been waiting for from a bestselling, Amazon.ca First Novel Award winner. Madeleine Thien’s new novel is breathtaking in scope and ambition even as it is hauntingly intimate. With the ease and skill of a master storyteller, Thien takes us inside an extended family in China, showing us the lives of two successive generations–those who lived through Mao’s Cultural Revolution in the mid-twentieth century; and the children of the survivors, who became the students protesting in Tiananmen Square in 1989, in one of the most important political moments of the past century. With exquisite writing sharpened by a surprising vein of wit and sly humour, Thien has crafted unforgettable characters who are by turns flinty and headstrong, dreamy and tender, foolish and wise. At the centre of this epic tale, as capacious and mysterious as life itself, are enigmatic Sparrow, a genius composer who wishes desperately to create music yet can find truth only in silence; his mother and aunt, Big Mother Knife and Swirl, survivors with captivating singing voices and an unbreakable bond; Sparrow’s ethereal cousin Zhuli, daughter of Swirl and storyteller Wen the Dreamer, who as a child witnesses the denunciation of her parents and as a young woman becomes the target of denunciations herself; and headstrong, talented Kai, best friend of Sparrow and Zhuli, and a determinedly successful musician who is a virtuoso at masking his true self until the day he can hide no longer. Here, too, is Kai’s daughter, the ever-questioning mathematician Marie, who pieces together the tale of her fractured family in present-day Vancouver, seeking a fragile meaning in the layers of their collective story. With maturity and sophistication, humour and beauty, a huge heart and impressive understanding, Thien has crafted a novel that is at once beautifully intimate and grandly political, rooted in the details of daily life inside China, yet transcendent in its universality.”–
(Source: Burnaby Public Library Catalogue)

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan, c. 2011, 311 p.
Nominated by: Marilyn Meden
This is a new part of an old story: 1930s Berlin, the threat of imprisonment and the powerful desire to make something beautiful despite the horror. Ernst told them not to go out. Said don’t you boys tempt the devil. But the cheap beer in his gut must have made Hieronymus think a glass of milk would be worth the risk. Of course Ernst was right, and the star player on the Berlin scene of the late 1930s, right before the war began for the second time, was taken away that night by the Boots. An easy target, being a mixed-race German. Not like the others, the Americans, Europeans, black, white and Jewish, who could hide a while longer. Fifty years later and Sidney’s going back, to hear for the first time the unfinished recording the band was making, the obsession that kept them there long after it was safe. The thing that stopped them using those visas while they were still good.
(Source: Burnaby Public Library Catalogue)

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Lincoln in the Bardo: a novel by George Saunders, c. 2017, 343 p.
Nominated by: Gail Thomson

February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. “My poor boy, he was too good for this earth,” the president says at the time. “God has called him home.” Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns, alone, to the crypt several times to hold his boy’s body. From that seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of its realistic, historical framework into a thrilling, supernatural realm both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state—called, in the Tibetan tradition, the bardo—a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul. (Source: BPL Catalogue

For more information, please contact bookclub@beaconunitarian.org