The Pfister isn’t too old to change.
It’s growing into the perfect place to engage with books and others who love them, and this was very apparent at our book club meeting last Thursday. 45 of us (!!) gathered to discuss The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor, and just like that, we outgrew the Pfister Mezzanine! For next month’s meeting, we will be in another, larger location in the Pfister (to be announced). I’m so proud and excited that in just three months, so many of you have attended book club and brought friends.
Pfister Book Club itself is developing too, growing in camaraderie. A feeling of familiarity and warmth was palpable this month. It’s so lovely to watch attendees get to know each other over the course of these first three book discussions, and to observe friendships budding between people who wouldn’t otherwise have met.
Travis Martinez, executive pastry chef, and his creations are steadily climbing my “Things I Enjoy Rambling On About To My Husband” list. Thanks to Travis, dessert at the Pfister is always creative, exciting, and memorable. This month, just for our Cottingley Secret book club, Travis put his own unique spin on “Eton Mess”, a traditional, and heretofore predictable, English trifle-style strawberry and whipped cream dessert usually eaten at important cricket matches. But Travis’s version of the Eton Mess was very different, composed of creamy brûlée, shortbread cookies, berries, chocolate, and delicate meringue pieces. It was a study in the whole being so much more delicious than the sum of the parts; we raved about the unexpected but complimentary textures and flavors. Many cups were licked clean.
September’s Book Club selection, The Cottingley Secret, is a novelization of a historical story from 1917 when two young cousins in Cottingley, Yorkshire claimed they’d photographed fairies at the bottom of their garden. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of Sherlock Holmes, corroborated their story, thus spreading it across England and to America. The cousins took four photos with fairies that they revealed to be a hoax many years later. But there’s an astounding fifth (and possibly a sixth, never shared with the public) photo that they claimed is real until their deaths.
This story is an intriguing look at what can happen when time period, new technology, the state of the world and a fascinating claim collide. We discussed the extraordinary things that we do and don’t believe in. (Loch Ness, aliens, mermaids, Sasquatch, and fairies, anyone?) We also discussed why society after the First World War was ripe for believing in something magical, and how to know that an enchanting story you’ve told or heard has gone too far.
Some of us recreated the ethereal Cottingley photographs with fairy tintypes taken by Pfister Artist in Residence Margaret Muza. She did a beautiful job replicating the famous photos as a special book club keepsake.
Our Pfister Book Club meets the second Thursday of each month from 7-9 pm. Our next meeting is October 12, when we will discuss Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss.
Here’s a description of Forest Dark:
From the bestselling, twice Orange Prize-shortlisted, National Book Award-nominated author comes a vibrant tale of transformation: of a man in his later years and a woman novelist, each drawn to the Levant on a journey of self-discovery. Jules Epstein has vanished from the world. He leaves no trace but a rundown flat patrolled by a solitary cockroach, and a monogrammed briefcase abandoned in the desert.To Epstein’s mystified family, the disappearance of a man whose drive and avidity have been a force to be reckoned with for sixty-eight years marks the conclusion of a gradual fading. This transformation began in the wake of Epstein’s parents’ deaths, and continued with his divorce after more than thirty-five years of marriage, his retirement from a New York legal firm, and the rapid shedding of possessions he’d spent a lifetime accumulating. With the last of his wealth and a nebulous plan, he departs for the Tel Aviv Hilton.Meanwhile, a novelist leaves her husband and children behind in Brooklyn and checks into the same hotel, hoping that the view of the pool she used to swim in on childhood holidays will unlock her writer’s block. But when a man claiming to be a retired professor of literature recruits her for a project involving Kafka, she is drawn into a mystery that will take her on a metaphysical journey and change her in ways she could never have imagined.Bursting with life and humour, this is a profound, mesmerising, achingly beautiful novel of metamorphosis and self-realisation – of looking beyond all that is visible towards the infinite.
My personal note to readers: Forest Dark is a heady book. It’s quite possible that it’s very different from what you usually read, which is the allure of a book club—we are open to being drawn out of the ruts we read in. I hope that you give this deep novel a try! Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to read it slowly to take in the nuance it offers. I’m really looking forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts about it next month!
I’d also like to announce my next three book club selections that will take us through fall and into winter!
November 9- Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
December 14- The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
January 11- Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney
Each month, I’m increasingly grateful to connect with so many of you over books, since reading is about as perfect a pastime as I can imagine.