Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Update on Discussion of The Spiral Staircase

The spiral staircase that springs to my mind when I hear those words is the double one designed by Leonardo Da Vinci, seen here, and found in one of the most interesting chateaux on the Loire, Chambord.


Well, I promised you an update on this meeting of the Short Book Club. Firstly, we had all twelve members present, which hasn't happened for quite a while. We had a pleasant dinner together and so it was quite a surprise when the discussion opened on The Spiral Staircase, by Karen Armstrong.

I would say that probably 9 out of the twelve are not religious but what I didn't realize was that at least three or more are anti-religion. Although the majority of the people found the book interesting and were glad to have read it, the discussion was dominated by those who did not enjoy it. In fact, hated it. They were very harsh towards Karen, whom they considered whiney and had no sympathy for her. In fact they didn't want to read about her life at all, although did concede that some of her ideas about other faiths were interesting. Those of us, who did like the book and had empathy for Karen's struggle, as well as finding her ideas interesting, tended to talk quietly amongst ourselves, since we couldn't manage to break into the discussion, where religion seemed to be being blamed for everything.

I sure hope that we don't have another religious book again, because I don't want to go through another evening like that. Funnily enough, we read Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson, in the club some months ago. It's quite a religious book, but it did not provoke the extreme response that I saw last night.

Moving on to the choice for next time we meet, The Highest Tide, by Jim Lynch. I haven't heard of it, but found that it is a novel about a young 13 year old boy, living on Puget Sound, with an intense interest in marine life. One review said: "This beautiful novel is sure to charm readers with its stunning imagery and amazing characters." Now that doesn't sound too controversial, does it?

10 comments:

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, jmb. I read KA's first two books some time ago and was sad to learn that she has had such a diddicult time since leaving the convent. The reactions of your members was very interesting - nothing stirs people up like religion, whether they have one or not! Thanks for the pic of the staircase, btw - I'd not seen one before. Look forward to the report of the next meeting!

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

sorry about typos - late.

jmb said...

Hi WCLC,
I was a bit taken aback because the convener of the group is a non-believer but liked the book. We had discussed it a little so I was quite surprised that some would be so antagonistic.
Did you read her History of God? I thought that sounded interesting.
Regards
jmb

Sarabeth said...

This isn't about the book, but about the staircase that you visualized. When you said that this was the book you were to read for the book club, I immediately thought of the staircase in Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A friend of mine got married there. It's a lovely chapel.

I stay away from books about religion. They only anger me. But, her story has similarities to a movie I saw--A Nun's Tale.

jmb said...

Hi Sarabeth,
No wonder that spiral staircase springs to your mind. It's beautiful and so is the chapel. What a wonderful place for your friend to have been married in.
Regards
jmb

Lee said...

It's sad that the book couldn't be discussed objectively...I hate to say it, but perhaps those who weren't prepared to discuss in fairly are a little narrow-minded, jmb (now, I didn't say that!) ;)

Lee said...

I love that staircase, by the way!

Janice Thomson said...

Methinks they doth protest too much. I find it interesting that aside from religion they could not have at least just appreciated the plain human struggles Karen went through. Thanks for the update... awesome photo of that staircase.

jmb said...

Hi Lee,
It was interesting that they could not discuss the book objectively. Obviously they did not find Karen an engaging character whereas I certainly felt for her in her struggle to find a place for herself.
But people have their own experience to bring to a book reading and that always colours their reaction.
Regards
jmb

jmb said...

Hi Janice
Well several who spoke adamantly against the book admitted that they had been members of churches in times gone by, but left for whatever reason. But you could see that their reaction was not to the book but to religion in general.
Regards
jmb