On Wednesday, November 29, 2017 we will meet to discuss The Tempest by William Shakespeare. We will meet at 11:30 a.m. in room 2442.

From Lyn Ward Page:

This is our fourth Shakespeare play, and we’ve now covered all of the types, or genres, in which the plays are written. We’ve read a history, a comedy and a tragedy, and now are reading a romance–the late genre which is based on comedy, but includes the element of reconciliation. You’ll see in the summary that forgiveness is an important part of the conclusion of this play.

So your attachments are: a summary of the plot and list of characters; two power points from the Great Books Shakespeare course–a review slide on Shakespearean language–this play is written in poetry, prose and the broken lines of the monster, Caliban, and a slide on historical background for the play and its place in Shakespeare’s overall career; and, finally, some suggested questions for our discussion.

Happy reading–this is a magical play, with a magician as the hero, a love story and even some supernatural characters. At this holiday time of year, what more could we ask?!

p.s.–The pre-wedding masque, with music and dancing for Miranda and Ferdinand, is heavy going–it’s sometimes even cut in production. This was another popular element when the play was written–Shakespeare as musical comedy?!

The full text of The Tempest is available on the Folger Shakespeare Library website.


On Wednesday, October 25, 2017 we will meet to discuss selected stories from The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories compiled by Michael Cox and R. A. Gilbert.  We will meet at 11:30 a.m. in room 2442.

From the Introduction –

Whatever we do with the dead they will not go away.  Whether we entomb and isolate them or scatter their ashes, they remain as ghosts in our memories and faced with their continuing presence we have no option but to learn to live with them.  Our most effective way of accommodating them is, perhaps, to encapsulate them in stories, either as the vengeful or grateful dead of folklore, as the dull prosaic phantoms of physical research, or as the less predictable revenants* of fiction.


Circumstantial detail, believable living characters, economy of style, and the power of suggestion all create the necessary atmosphere for a successful ghost story. Just as essential is a due regard for dramatic strategy.  The story must be exactly paced and the narrative energy firmly under the writer’s control.  Although we know from the outset that the ghost’s appearance is inevitable, that appearance should be climatic rather than unexpected.  The most effective ghosts are those who intrude gradually but insistently and who, when they come, prove to be far from pleasant.

* A revenant is a visible ghost or animated corpse that is believed to have revived from death to haunt the living. The word revenant is derived from the Latin word reveniens, “returning”

We will read the following stories from the book:

The Tapestried Chamber (1829) Sir Walter Scott – pages 1 -12
The Judge’s House (1891) Bram Stoker – pages 109-124
The Friends of the Friends (1896) Henry James – pages 150-171
The Red Room (1896) H. G. Wells – pages 172-179
Mr Jones (1930) Edith Wharton -pages 354 -376

On Wednesday, September 27, 2017 we will meet to discuss Toby’s Room by Pat Barker. We will meet at 11:30 a.m. in room 2442.

From bookbrowse.com:

“From Booker Prize winner Pat Barker, a masterful novel that portrays the staggering human cost of the Great War. Admirers of her Regeneration Trilogy as well as fans of Downton Abbey and War Horse will be enthralled.

With Toby’s Room, a sequel to her widely praised previous novel Life Class, the incomparable Pat Barker confirms her place in the pantheon of Britain’s finest novelists. This indelible portrait of a family torn apart by war focuses on Toby Brooke, a medical student, and his younger sister Elinor. Enmeshed in a web of complicated family relationships, Elinor and Toby are close: some might say too close. But when World War I begins, Toby is posted to the front as a medical officer while Elinor stays in London to continue her fine art studies at the Slade, under the tutelage of Professor Henry Tonks. There, in a startling development based in actual fact, Elinor finds that her drafting skills are deployed to aid in the literal reconstruction of those maimed in combat.

One day in 1917, Elinor has a sudden premonition that Toby will not return from France. Three weeks later the family receives a telegram informing them that Toby is “Missing, Believed Killed” in Ypres. However, there is no body, and Elinor refuses to accept the official explanation. Then she finds a letter hidden in the lining of Toby’s uniform; Toby knew he wasn’t coming back, and he implies that fellow soldier Kit Neville will know why.

Toby’s Room is an eloquent literary narrative of hardship and resilience, love and betrayal, and anguish and redemption. In unflinching yet elegant prose, Pat Barker captures the enormity of the war’s impact – not only on soldiers at the front but on the loved ones they leave behind.”




On Wednesday, August 30, 2017 we will meet to discuss A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. We will meet at 11:30 a.m. in a picnic setting in the courtyard.  If there is no room for us or the weather is inclement, we have reserved room 1849.

From Amazon.com Review by Emilie Coulter ~~~

Francie Nolan, avid reader, penny-candy connoisseur, and adroit observer of human nature, has much to ponder in colorful, turn-of-the-century Brooklyn. She grows up with a sweet, tragic father, a severely realistic mother, and an aunt who gives her love too freely–to men, and to a brother who will always be the favored child. Francie learns early the meaning of hunger and the value of a penny. She is her father’s child–romantic and hungry for beauty. But she is her mother’s child, too–deeply practical and in constant need of truth. Like the Tree of Heaven that grows out of cement or through cellar gratings, resourceful Francie struggles against all odds to survive and thrive. Betty Smith’s poignant, honest novel created a big stir when it was first published over 50 years ago. Her frank writing about life’s squalor was alarming to some of the more genteel society, but the book’s humor and pathos ensured its place in the realm of classics–and in the hearts of readers, young and old.

On Wednesday, July 26, 2017 we will meet to discuss A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. We will meet at 11:30 a.m. in room 1603.

From Amazon;


Drawing on the diaries of one woman in eighteenth-century Maine, this intimate history illuminates the medical practices, household economies, religious rivalries, and sexual mores of the New England frontier.

Between 1785 and 1812 a midwife and healer named Martha Ballard kept a diary that recorded her arduous work (in 27 years she attended 816 births) as well as her domestic life in Hallowell, Maine. On the basis of that diary, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich gives us an intimate and densely imagined portrait, not only of the industrious and reticent Martha Ballard but of her society. At once lively and impeccably scholarly, A Midwife’s Tale is a triumph of history on a human scale.”


On Wednesday, June 21, 2017 we will meet to discuss The Diary of a Nobody by the brothers George and Weedon Grossmith.  We will meet at 11:30 a.m. in room 1603.

From Wiki:

The novelist Evelyn Waugh had been familiar with the Diary since his childhood. It was a great favourite of his parents—Arthur Waugh used to read passages aloud to his family,  and Evelyn’s biographer Selena Hastings has drawn attention to the distinctly Pooterish elements in the Waugh household.  Evelyn Waugh was initially contemptuous of the book, but grew to admire it, to the extent of writing in his 1930 essay “One Way to Immortality” that it was “the funniest book in the world”. He added: “Nobody wants to read other people’s reflections on life and religion and politics, but the routine of their day, properly recorded, is always interesting, and will become more so as conditions change with the years”.  Morton posits that several of the leading characters in Waugh’s early novels, though socially far removed from the Pooters, share the bafflement of Charles and Carrie with the problems of a changing world.

From the first edition printed in 1892 ~~

Introduction by Mr. Pooter.

Why should I not publish my diary?  I have often seen
reminiscences of people I have never even heard of, and I fail
to see—because I do not happen to be a ‘Somebody’—why my
diary should not be interesting.  My only regret is that I did not
commence it when I was a youth.

Charles Pooter.

The Laurels,
Brickfield Terrace,

The Diary of a Nobody is available on Project Gutenberg  and on WikiSource

On Wednesday, May 24, 2017 we will meet to discuss Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy.  We will meet at 11:30 a.m. in room 1603.

From the back cover of Profiles in Courage~~

“This is a book about courage and patriotism.  It tells the dramatic stories of a number of American politicians of various political and regional allegiances whose one overriding loyalty was to the United States and to the right as God gave them to see it.  They range from born aristocrats to self-made men.  Some are well-known, some almost forgotten.  But all of them, in the face of dreadful consequences, exhibited a special kind of greatness.  These stories about them remind us sharply that there is, in addition to a courage with which men die, a courage by which men must live.”

May 29, 2017 commemorates President Kennedy’s 100th birthday.