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Posts Tagged ‘read-along’

I recently mused on the current popularity of World War I stories in our culture – Downton Abbey (I loved the Season 2 finale!), the Maisie Dobbs series (I just read an ARC of the newest installment), and others. And thanks to Book Club Girl, I can keep indulging my taste for this fascinating era – she’s hosting a read-along of the Bess Crawford series by Charles Todd.

Bess is a nurse in World War I who keeps stumbling upon mysteries, and is also struggling to find her place in a rapidly changing England. Raised in India, she inherited a strong sense of duty and a mile-wide stubborn streak from her officer father; she’s blunt, thoughtful and hardworking. I’ve already read A Duty to the Dead, the first book in the series, but you have plenty of time to catch up since the first discussion isn’t till March 26. Here are the other titles and dates for the read-along:

April 30An Impartial Witness discussion
May 1A Bitter Truth paperback on sale
May 29
A Bitter Truth discussion (May 28 is Memorial Day)
June 5An Unmarked Grave – new hardcover on sale
June 25
An Unmarked Grave discussion
June 28
Book Club Girl on Air Show with Charles Todd to discuss the entire series

Look for updates along the way on Twitter (#besscrawford), and on the Book Club Girl and Charles Todd Facebook pages. If you’re going through Downton withdrawal (or simply intrigued by a good mystery), I hope you’ll join us!

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Well, here we are again, folks – delving into Part 4 of Gone with the Wind, which takes us through Scarlett’s second marriage, the beginning of her career as a businesswoman (which scandalizes Atlanta), and deep into the years of Reconstruction. As this part opens, Ashley has come back to Tara and it seems like everything will be fine – but of course, that’s not quite how it works in the postwar South. And as Part 4 unfolds, we realize that the end of the war hasn’t ended the trials of the South – in fact, the struggle has just begun.

Every chapter in this section has something in it to break my heart – the threat of high taxes on Tara, Scarlett’s attempt to wheedle money out of Rhett Butler (wearing a dress made from Ellen’s green drapes!), her second marriage to her sister Suellen’s beau, and the increasingly desperate actions she takes to make more money. Scarlett changes in this section into someone cold and hard – the total opposite of the gentle, gracious mother who raised her and whom she always idolized. Some of her actions make me furious; others make me shake my head, but it kills me when she confesses her recurring nightmare to Rhett: she’s terrified of going hungry again.

It’s also worth noting that Scarlett feels remorse – for the first time in her life – after the KKK incident in which her husband and another man are shot and killed. The remorse doesn’t last long, but it softens her for just a moment, makes her human. I wonder, if she had sat with her guilt and regret a bit longer instead of drinking it away, if it would have changed her. As it is, I think she begins her final downhill slide into a callous, lonely, alcoholic life when she lets Rhett talk her out of feeling guilty, and agrees to marry him although she (still!) doesn’t think she loves him. (Part 5 is so full of sordid tragedy that I’m rather dreading picking the book up again.)

And speaking of remorse, guilt and innocence, I love Rhett’s solution to the problem of proving where Ashley and the other KKK members were on the night in question – he swears they were all at Belle Watling’s brothel with him. Finally, he has done a gallant good deed for Atlanta society, but he’s done it on his own terms, and the Old Guard – except for Melanie – don’t appreciate it one bit. What a perfect piece of irony! (Side note: having grown up with a totally different, entirely negative perception of the KKK, Mitchell’s defense of it horrifies me.)

If you’re reading along, or if you’ve read Gone with the Wind before, what strikes you about this section?

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I love Book Club Girl’s delightful blog – partly because she blogs about books, and partly because she is one of very few people I know who loves Betsy-Tacy as much as I do. And partly because she is a dear, sweet person in real life (we met at the Boston Book Fest in October). Anyway, she is hosting a read-along of the Maisie Dobbs books, a series of mysteries set in England in the late 1920s. I love read-alongs, and I love stories set in England, and when I found the first book in the series at Brattle for $5.95, I took it as a sign. (I’ll probably have to get the others from the library, but that’s all right.)

So, I’ll be reading at least the first Maisie book, and very likely the whole series. Anyone else want to join in? You’re most welcome!

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