Monday, January 9, 2012

DECEMBER 2011 BOOKERS MINUTES - A Week In Winter by Marcia Willett

The magic blanket that wraps itself around us this time of year is something so intangible it is like a fragrance weaving a spell of nostalgia.  It is a time when we think of everything we have ever loved…and cherish those memories. 
                                (Paraphrased from Augusta E. Rundel quote)

29 Happy Bookers all decked out for the holidays entered the winter wonderland home of Jean Alexander for our annual Christmas gathering and meeting.  We appreciate Jean for hosting, Bernie for co-hosting, and Bonnie for making sure we were amply sated with wonderful food and beverage.  Visions of sugar plum fairies danced in the air, chestnuts roasted on an open fire, and the prancing and pawing of eight tiny reindeer were heard on the roof as the robust laugh of Jolly St. Nick echoed across the island shouting a Merry Christmas to all of East Texas.  If you didn’t witness any of this you obviously didn’t have enough champagne…it was perfectly clear to me.

Happy Birthday to Charlotte Pechacek and welcome to our own Dean Jean McSpadden, who took a day of vacation to be with us – she likes us, she really likes us – and the feeling is mutual.  Also, Melba was able to join us again and as always, she adds to our enjoyment of books and to the occasion with her presence.  We’ve missed her.
Janet Noblitt’s review of this month’s selection, A Week in Winter, by Marcia Willett plopped us down in an English countryside and into the lives of a cast of colorful characters.  With an old family farmhouse, appropriately named Moorgate, at the center of the story, we settled into our cozy chairs, imagined a view of the rolling hills, a fire snapping quietly in the hearth, a cup of real cocoa in our favorite mugs, and a plate of homemade cookies at our sides. 

Recently widowed and finding herself in a bit of a financial pickle, Lady Todhunter, or Maudie, decides that selling her stepchildren’s cherished holiday home is the only solution to alleviate her monetary crisis, and much to her surprise, the property attracts more buyers than she knows what to do with.  Selina, the wicked stepdaughter, with her biting tongue, acid words, and negative attitude cuts deep with everyone in her path, especially Maudie, who had the gall to betray her dead mother’s memory by marrying her father.  She has made it her mission to save the family home and sets a plan in motion to purchase the property.  Ron Abbot, the contractor, who has lovingly restored this wonderful home has secretly taken up residence within its walls and dreams of buying Moorgate and spending the rest of his life in this charmed house, but lacks the means to make this happen.  The third prospect is Melissa Clayton, a beautiful young lady whose life is being cut short by cancer, discovers everything she has ever wanted lies at Moorgate.

We meet Posy, Selina’s daughter, who is viewed as a traitor for having a relationship with Maudie.  Patrick, Selina’s husband, is treated like a dilapidated piece of furniture and finds happiness in the arms of another woman.  Polonius, Posy’s English mastiff, lives up to his namesake, the counselor in Shakespeare’s Hamlet who was valued for his wisdom, but often not taken seriously, is a delightful addition to the storyline.  Daphne, a family friend to both of Hector’s wives, Hilda and Maudie, drops a bombshell on the unsuspecting Todhunter clan confessing to an affair with Hector resulting in the birth of a daughter.

In the midst of this we are treated to the love story between Melissa and Rob as Moorgate’s wings of romance casts a spell as they fall in love and plan the purchase of the house.  Melissa hides her health issues from Rob and leaves Moorgate for the final time after their week in winter.  Her brother, Mike, is left with the job of informing Rob she has died and of his ownership of the house.  After Rob decides he cannot live there without Melissa, he asks Lady Todhunter to come for the weekend…and she brings Posy with her.  The magic of Moorgate delivers another fairy-tale as Mike and Posy, a match made in heaven, begin planning their wedding and life at this old farmhouse.

A tale of love found and love lost is wrapped up in a neat package leaving us with a warm and fuzzy feeling…appropriate for the holiday season.  The author used the prologue and epilogue expertly to give us a view of the life of Moorgate as described by a “lone walker…a schoolmaster who remembered the cream-washed walls of bare granite and a yard full of cows…voices of children as they clambered on the swing…now with an agent’s board…and workmen ready to go home.”  Only two lines of a verse he’d known from childhood were clear on that day.  We meet him again; the same “lone walker” on an early spring day, the old home clearly occupied now…again he heard children’s voices and remembered the verse he struggled with years ago:

“From quiet homes and first beginning,
Out to the undiscovered ends,
There’s nothing worth the wear of winning,
But laughter and the love of friends.”

We appreciate Janet’s insight and willingness to tackle anything we ask her to do!  Good job!

The majority of our group read the book and enjoyed it.  We discussed the good and bad of each character and tried to visualize them.  The English cottage on Saint Andrews Drive, once belonging to PWC and Bookers’ member, Kay Hazelbaker, was singled out as possessing the same charm and temperament as the beloved Moorgate.  We agreed Hilda and Selina were not only mother and daughter, but cut from the same mold – selfish and extremely enamored with their stature in life.  As usual, certain events in a book spark personal stories from our members and this one didn’t disappoint…but we’ll never tell! Although the book was a lighter read, and somewhat predictable, the author threw in a twist at the end that I doubt anyone saw coming…SURPRISE!

We discussed the pros and cons of the various e-readers but some concluded, that although they are wonderful technological tools, holding an old-fashioned book in your hands is hard to beat.  A Fierce Radiance, Unbroken, and The Art of Fielding were previously selected by popular vote, but still have not been assigned a month.  We also might consider Left Neglected as a selection.  We’ll continue to work out the details and keep you posted.  We talked of the importance of having fresh impressions of our book selections.  Some of us read them far in advance and re-read them closer to the scheduled meeting…others opt to read a review from the Internet to refresh their memories.  Both options work, but we might consider only picking three months at a time in the future…let’s talk.

We offered some ideas of how to enrich Bookers for the next year.  We all must continue to grow and there is always room for improvement, so, we ask that you think of ways we might enhance our Bookers’ experience when we begin our 9th season in September.


                                    WHITE:                       LIGHT READ
                                    PINK:                          MODERATELY CHALLENGING
                                    RED:                            CHALLENGING

January 10th:                 The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman
Note change:              Home of Bonnie Magee, co-hosted by Patty Evans
                                    Reviewer: Beverly Dossett

February 14th:               The Paris Wife by Paula McClain
                                    Home of Daryl Daniels, co-hosted by Janet Noblitt
                                    Reviewer: Patty Evans

March 13th:                  Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese
                                    Recommended by Beverly Dossett, Lee Durso, Alison Crawford,
                                    Jane Freer, Melanie Prebis, Jean McSpadden
                                    Home of Lee Durso, co-hosted by Kay Robinson
                                    Reviewer: Lee Durso

April 10th:                     Book to be announced
                                    Home of Donna Walter, co-hosted by Charlotte Pechacek
                                    Reviewers: MN & JoDee

May 8th:                       5th Annual Wine & Cheese Evening Meeting, 6:00 PM
                                    Home of Melanie Prebis, co-hosted by Linsey Garwacki
                                    Book (or not) to be determined

June 12th:                      Bonus meeting to be announced.

“There are two ways to live your life…one is as though nothing is a miracle…the other is as though everything is a miracle.”  Albert Einstein

Happy Holidays,
               Ms. Willett standing at the scene that inspired the book, although not in the midst of winter.

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