June 2017

Our choice for June was Flesh Coloured Dominoes by the Latvian writer, Zigmunds Skujins. This surreal novel is split into two parts, one story set in the 18th century, and the other in the 20th (during World War II). One story is about a family in a Latvian town enduring the multiple occupations (Russian and German) of World War II. However, these individuals cannot be separated from earlier times. Surrounding the child protagonist is lush detail of the times, the characters and their interactions. In the fanciful world, lives overlap and intermingle, reflecting the author’s palpable enthusiasm as he enlivens the characters.

The protagonist was raised by his wise, imaginative grandfather who disdains conformity. But his ideas became dangerous when the Nazis and then the Soviets arrive in Latvia, when taking on a conforming identity was a matter of life and death. Skujins presents identity as both a genetic and philosophical link, and he explores the meaning of a collective identity. When the child asks, “Is nationality determined by what’s in your blood?” his grandfather explains this in terms of powers, totality and connections. The melancholy meditation on the nature of personal and national identity is thought-provoking, and the shaping of the boy becomes a narrative in itself.

This novel is very informative about Latvian history. In her afterword, Kaija Straumanis, the translator, explained how she had blended original Latvian text outlining history or explaining phrases into the novel.

Our reading group had an appreciation for this novel, recognizing it as clever, superbly written and an enjoyable read. It is a little surreal, sometimes farcical, rather humorous, often irreverent, and riddled with clever word-play.

It was acknowledged, however, that it is not a particularly easy read initially and does take some adjustment before the reader can be immersed in this pleasurable romp. Another criticism was that the final chapters were mostly extraneous, with the author unnecessarily emphasizing the didactic content.

Overall, a delightful addition to our year of reading.

Read a complete review here.

Ratings: Alexa DNF, Claudia 4, Denise 4, Di 3.5 , Gail 3, Janet DNF , Judith 3.5 , Margie 3.5 , Nic 3.5, Penny DNF and Viv 3.5.

Next month we get together on the  10/07/17 at 6:30pm at Preece House, 50 Nerang St Bischof Pioneer Park, Nerang (next to 54 Nerang St. shops) to discuss Amongst Women by  John McGahern. This continues our year of European novels in translation. Hope to see you there and Happy Reading!

 

About Us

We are a group that gets together once a month to discuss good books. Each of us gets to choose a book on a rotational basis, preferably one outside our personal comfort zone – we try to keep the trash to ourselves. After the discussion, we comment on other books we read that month. Most of the time we remain friends after the meeting.

Preece HouseWe meet at the 1948 heritage Preece House, 50 Nerang St Bischof Pioneer Park, Nerang (next to 54 Nerang St. shops) on the second Monday of every month from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. excluding Public Holidays. A small contribution is required towards the rent of the room, but not if you are a first timer. The amount depends on the number of people attending.
One book title is chosen each month and we all read that book. There is a ‘host’ who introduces and co-ordinates the discussion. The role of host is rotated around the group so that each member has the opportunity to nominate their book (it could also be an author, theme or genre). The host also acts as chairperson for that meeting.
Although we are not a social club (we are readers), we occasionally attend literary events, relevant movies or plays here at the Gold Coast, Brisbane or Byron Bay. We conform to basic meeting practices and everyone has an equal opportunity to express their opinion. Everyone’s interpretation is valid, as long as it’s expressed respectfully.
We welcome any new members who share our aims and are happy to contribute to our group. Newcomers are not required to have read the book to attend the first meeting and no contribution is required from them.
Feel free to have a look at our Booklist and Newsletters in the sidebar. If you are reading this blog in a mobile device, switch to desktop view.

CONTACT DETAILS

We meet from 6:30 to 8:30 PM on the 2nd Monday of every month at the heritage listed PreeceC HOUSE located on Bischoff Park, Nerang Street (next corner White St), Nerang next door to shops at 54 Nerang Street. Please contact us for info on meetings that fall on Public Holidays.
For more information use the contact form.

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