February, 2013: The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

(Book #34) A short time after we started this group, I began keeping a journal of all of our literary clambakes. At some point I decided I should have the hostess record the events of the gathering, but the journal would stay too long at one house, not be delivered to the next or the next and soon there was no record except those items I could remember. In the journal for this meeting, I’ve written: Geri hosted tonight — a very quick return to duty after hosting Christmas.  No notes about the food or our thoughts about the book.

All that remains is the review I wrote on Goodreads: As a fan of historical fiction, I enjoyed the book and its references to things like the musical Shuffle Along and the notion that Lysol (yikes) was once used as a form of birth control. But, in general the book didn’t seem to have the arc of a story. It was more memoir than novel. There were so many references to Cora’s corset and while reading I wondered where all the talk of her corset was leading, but it was just a detail in a diary.

January, 2013: City of Thieves by David Benioff

(Book #33) Melissa hosted our first book of 2013 and we started right off with vodka shots — that will get your book club going! And of course we had dozens of deviled eggs, no shortage of eggs here. For dinner, we had borscht, rye bread, sausage, sauerkraut, meatballs and pelmeni.  It was hardy winter fare for those who had been many days without food in the freezing cold, or more accurately, for those who had been reading about many days without food in the freezing cold.

Melissa and I both LOVED this book. With a mock Russian dialect, Melissa announced that all authors should be made to write books as good as this one or sent to Siberia! One of my favorite aspects of the book is the source of Lev’s appreciation for Kolya: In spite of all his irritating qualities, I couldn’t help liking a man who despised a fictional character with such passion. The book is so clever and well written and yet so stark because, in the end their victory is pointless.

Other favorite quotes:

In certain ways I am deeply stupid. I don’t say this out of modesty. I believe that I’m more intelligent than the average human being, though perhaps intelligence should not be looked at as a single gauge, like a speedometer, but as a full array of tachometers, odometers, altimeters, and the rest.

Too many words for one book — truth might be stranger than fiction, but it needs a better editor. 

You couldn’t let too much truth seep into your conversation, you couldn’t admit with your mouth what your eyes had seen.”

The partisans would continue picking off Nazis; the Nazis would continue massacring noncombatants; and eventually the Fascists would learn that they could not win the war even if they killed thirty civilians for every one of their dead soldiers. The arithmetic was brutal, but brutal arithmetic always worked in Russia’s favor.

The Third and Final Year of the Simple Bookmark, 2013

This year the bookmark was laminated, had a lanyard and a trinket, but I lost the original bookmark before 2013 ended — maybe I left it at the hospital when my grandson was born!!

The reading list for 2013:

City of Thieves by David Benioff

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

Money: A Suicide Note by Martin Amis

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifkin Brunt

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin

The Great Lenore by J.M. Tohline