The Pfister Mezzanine was a wonderful place to hold our book club, but it pales in comparison, of course, to a bonafide ballroom. This week, our Pfister Book Club met in the Rouge for the first time, and the ballroom opened its elegant arms to us and our books.
We saw our largest crowd yet, 50 attendees, and six lively groups discussed Ann Patchett’s enthralling novel Bel Canto, a story of terrorists taking over a party of diplomats, businessmen and an opera singer, and the startling relationships that develop as a result. It’s a novel dense with potential discussion, so we talked. We talked about the characters we grew to love and grieve over, the way the hostage situation subtly mesmerized us even as it did the same to the captives in the story, and the epilogue none of us saw coming.
Though it was published in 2001, we found Bel Canto a timely book– it spoke a powerful word of seeing the humanity in others different from ourselves, which both moved us and challenged us to deeper compassion. And much of the plot revolves around captives and captors alike falling in love with music, so it made many of us want to listen to opera!
To accompany our discussion, we enjoyed a very interesting dessert that Executive Pastry Chef Travis Martinez dreamt up called “Opera Torte”. Because Bel Canto takes place in an unnamed South American country, he infused almond sponge and hazlenut buttercream with spicy flavors like coffee, clove, paprika, and cayenne. The result was utterly unique and delicious.
Please join us next month– the Pfister will be all decked out for Christmas and we’re discussing a wintry, magical book called The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. It’s the perfect book to curl up with in these quickly-darkening days. I’ve read it three winters in a row and still find it enchanting.
Here’s the publisher’s description:
Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart – he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone – but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees.
This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place, things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.
I can’t wait to discuss The Snow Child with you on December 14!
NOVEMBER READER PROFILES:
A book drew Paige and Nate together. When they were first getting to know each other after meeting online, she chose the book Island by Aldous Huxley and discussing it together via Skype was the first step to falling in love. Now engaged, this was their first time attending the Pfister Book Club, so I asked them a little more about their reading lives.
What do you enjoy reading the most?
(I pushed them a little to narrow this down, while thinking how cute it was that they’d both said “Everything!” so emphatically.)
Paige: Favorite genre is science fiction, especially the author Isaac Asimov.
Nate: Favorite genre is emotional stories, especially Where the Red Fern Grows, which he first had read to him as a child and has reread annually for the past fifteen years.
Special reading memory:
They read out loud together on the eleven-hour drives they regularly take back to Paige’s hometown.
Have you been in a book club before?
Both: No– this is the first one! They heard about it online and since they’d also never been in the Pfister, they knew they had to try it. Cocktails in Blu began their evening.
What did you think of Bel Canto?
Paige: “Fantastic. I cried at the end. Nate wasn’t as affected as I was; he was a little lukewarm. But I thought it was so good I couldn’t put it down. The language of it was easy but still captivating. I thought a major theme was emotional vulnerability.”
Nate: “I was very emotionally connected with the characters. A major theme that stuck out to me was compassion, and how you developed it (as a reader) even for the terrorists.”