Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, Translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones 

Our books for 2022 are part of an anatomical theme and each includes a body part in the title. The titles were presented as part of the game Operation: Book Club Edition using many of the game’s original idioms.

(Book 144) Mary was originally scheduled to host on the 22nd, but graciously accommodated our request to change it to the 27th so that all could attend. As it turned out, Geri and Karen were not able to join us, but we tried. Mary started the evening with an array of appetizers including salsa, guacamole, tortilla chips and two kinds of Terra chips. I am not the investigative journalist I should be, because I can not tell you what the two kinds were. She greeted us and then ran off to the condo of a friend in the building, a little bit like an episode of the Dick Van Dyke show in which Laura didn’t have oven space for the entire dinner. Mary was making two kinds of lasagna which required different temperatures, so one pan was baking one floor down. First she went down to remove the foil and later when it was time to bring it up, I accompanied her. Her friends had returned by the second trip and they gave me a little tour of their place. The floor plan is just like Mary’s but they converted the back part of the large front room with wall/partitions to create and office.

The two lasagna’s were both excellent. One was butternut squash, mushroom and sage from the website Feasting at Home and the other was spinach, artichoke and garlic from Cookie and Kate. These were served (Yes, we had both, some chose smaller portions of each, but I was not among that number.) with crusty bread and a salad. Dessert was a frozen mousse pie with graham cracker crust made with Noosa strawberry rhubarb yoghurt. It was delicious and as my sister Dodie likes to say “refreshing!”

On to the book. Most of the members really enjoyed this quirky novel. Most agreed that it is so cleverly written (and translated) and though the central character Janina is bristly, dark and querulous, she is completely engaging. Even the two Russian judges, Sharon and Chris, gave it a 5 star rating! [Please forgive the political incorrectness of the use of “Russian judges.” It dates back to when the judges from Russia were the hardest to please in the Olympics and of course it’s inappropriate, but it’s meant in good clean fun. Unlike the Russian invasion of Ukraine.] Rosalie said that she didn’t like the central character at first, but warmed to her. Linda said she didn’t like her either because she just “seemed crazy” to which Chris responded “I like crazy!” (Yes, I think there was an exclamation point there.) I don’t want to give anything away to the two or three people who might read this, so I will just say that Rosalie referred to Janina as the classic unreliable narrator. Most of us did not see the ending coming the way it did.

We loved the characters and the personal naming system Janina used such as Oddball and Bigfoot. Susan loved that Janina cared more about the the Animals than people and that the Animals were uprising and getting revenge! We loved her desire to know animal script so that she can leave little notes saying “Don’t go over there, that food is lethal!” Linda was worried about the use of the term “Little Ladies” and worried that something truly awful had happened. A great quote about the animals: “‘Its Animals show the truth about a country,’ [Duszejko] said. ‘Its attitude toward Animals. If people behave brutally toward Animals, no form of democracy is ever going to help them, in fact nothing will at all.”

Chris read us one of her favorite quotes:

“It’s hard work talking to some people, most often males. I have a Theory about it. With age, many men come down with testosterone autism, the symptoms of which are a gradual decline in social intelligence and capacity for interpersonal communication, as well as a reduced ability to formulate thoughts. The Person beset by this Ailment becomes taciturn and appears to be lost in contemplation. He develops an interest in various Tools and machinery, and he’s drawn to the Second World War and the biographies of famous people, mainly politicians and villains. His capacity to read novels almost entirely vanishes; testosterone autism disturbs the character’s psychological understanding.”

We also appreciated Janina’s belief that we should get to know more in advance: “The fact that we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future is a terrible mistake in the programming of the world. It should be fixed at the first opportunity.” And I don’t think we talked about this one but it’s one of my favorites:

“Nowadays no one still has the courage to think up anything new. All they ever talk about, round the clock, is how things already are, they just keep rolling out the same old ideas. Reality has grown old and gone senile; after all, it is definitely subject to the same laws as every living organism — it ages. Just like the cells of the body, its tiniest components — the senses, succumb to apoptosis. Apoptosis is natural death, brought about by the tiredness and exhaustion of matter. In Greek this word means ‘the dropping of petals.’ The world has dropped its petals.”

Everyone gave their star rating for the book. Chris, Melissa and Sharon gave it 5 stars, Marcia gave in 4.5, Mary, Susan and I gave it 4, Linda gave it 3.5 and Rosalie gave it 3 for an average of 4.22. We read a great book. We ate some delicious lasagna. We are some lucky Little Ladies.

2 Replies to “Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, Translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones ”

  1. While I don’t see anyone who’s really Little in any way, we’re all surely Lucky Ladies! Thanks to you and Dave Larson for fixing BookClub 101!

  2. My other favorite quote, from Janina:
    “I once read about some Rats that were sued for causing a lot of damage, but the case was deferred because they never showed up for the hearings. Finally the court appointed them a defense lawyer.”


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