Our Books & Berries meeting began with our annual book sale fundraiser. There were so many books donated that you could hardly see the tables beneath that displayed them! During the housekeeping/announcement portion of the morning we were informed by our Regional Coordinator, Janice Mallison, that the Toronto chapter of JASNA will be closing. This sparked conversation about what we can do as members to ensure that we keep our region thriving. Janice encouraged the members to devote some time to outreach over the summer. We then had a reading by Sue Kaufman of excerpts from Pride & Prejudice featuring Charlotte Lucas.
The meeting continued with the book review segment where a few members shared their insights on various literary works. From classics to modern retellings, and even historical examinations, the members covered a diverse range of books that we can add to our reading lists.
The Reading List (2021) by Sara Nisha Adams
Barbara Phillips began the session by expressing her admiration for The Reading List. The characters in the book were portrayed as working through grief by finding solace in literature. Barbara shared the reading list that was used in the book and included one of Barbara’s favourite novels, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. She shared her personal story about how Rebecca sparked her love for reading, and she even recommended exploring the black-and-white adaptation featuring Lawrence Olivier available on YouTube, as well as a Daphne du Maurier documentary on the same platform.
The Murder of Mr. Wickham (2022) by Claudia Gray
Phyllis Ferguson-Bottomer introduced and recommended a book that entwines several of Austen’s characters with a murder mystery set during a house party. She praised it as a readable mystery with a delightful romance, providing a fresh perspective on Austen’s characters.
The Whole Picture: The colonial story of the art in our museums & why we need to talk about it (2020) by Alice Proctor
Turning the focus to art, Phyllis recommended this book which is described on Amazon as a “provocation to look more critically at the accepted narratives about art, and rethink and disrupt the way we interact with the museums and galleries that display it.” Bringing it close to home, it is interesting to note that Haida Gwaii art is featured.
The Real Bridgerton (2023) by Cathrine Curzon
Naomi Sutherland presented a book that would particularly appeal to those who enjoy gossip. The Real Bridgerton offers an amusing read, yet it also serves as an eye-opening look at how women were treated during the Regency/Georgian era. The scandalous relationships depicted in the book added an intriguing element to the narrative. Naomi enthusiastically recommended this non-fiction gem.
I’m not Charlotte Lucas (2023) by Kasey Stockton
This modern retelling is a cute story that follows the protagonist, Charlie, as she fights against becoming a side character in her own life. The book received Naomi’s recommendation for its charming heroine and relatable narrative.
Governess: The Lives and Times of the Real Jane Eyres (2008) by Ruth Brandon
Laureen McMahon presented this work of non-fiction that is a detailed history of governesses and sheds light on their challenging roles within families. The book explores the struggles and experiences of governesses, ranging from being treated as members of the family to facing poor treatment, long hours, and demanding employers. For those women without family protection there were limited options for earning an income, and only a small percentage of single women found employment as governesses. Laureen enjoyed the book though it was a sad read. The book highlighted the evolving desire among women to receive education, leading to the establishment of women’s colleges, but also addressed the prejudice against single women at the time. In addition, Laureen mentioned a similar book titled Agnes Porter that also touches on the lives of governesses and is available in our own JASNA library.
The Daughter of Time (1951) by Josephine Tey
Janice Mallison recommended book #5 in the Inspector Grant series by renowned mystery writer, Josephine Tey. Inspector Grant, who, while confined to a hospital bed, seeks to solve an unsolved mystery with the help of a young historian. Despite being a mystery, Janice assured us that it would appeal to a wide audience. She described the book as well-written, fast-paced, and atmospheric, emphasizing that it was not solely a mystery novel but an exceptional piece of literature
Our Books & Berries meeting proved to be yet another enriching experience, showcasing the members’ diverse tastes and literary interests. From Austen-inspired mysteries to modern retellings and historical examinations, the works discussed provided us with book suggestions featuring a wide range of perspectives and captivating narratives. At the conclusion of the meeting, the bountiful basket winner was drawn. Congratulations to last month’s speaker, Cindy Aalders!