Round Rock New Neighbors is a social organization of women welcoming women in the Round Rock area since 1978. Both "new" and "old" neighbors are welcome. For more information: [Barnes & Noble requires that RRNN's book club be open to the public, so you do not need to be an RRNN member to attend book club, and both men and women are welcome and do attend. ]

Literary Events

Literary Events

What's New?__________

July 6th, author Neil Gaiman will speak at the Long Center. $32.

Thanks to Cindy V. for sending me listings of 2 TV series you might find interesting, and you might have access to:

The Son (book by Philipp Meyer), starring Pierce Brosnan. On AMC starting April 8.

American Gods (book by Neil Gaiman) on Starz, starting April 30.
The Friends of the Georgetown Public Library’s Hill Country Authors Series will feature Texas author Paulette Jiles discussing her upcoming novel News of the World, which was shortlisted for the 2016 National Book Award for Fiction.
WHEN: Thursday, May 11, 2017, at 2 pm. Doors open at 1:30 pm.
WHERE: The Georgetown Public Library, 402 W. 8th Street in Georgetown, Texas.
WHY: All proceeds from the event will go toward meeting unfunded projects of the library. Tickets for the event are $15 in advance or $18 at the door, and may be purchased starting April 3, 2017, at the Second-Hand Prose bookstore on the second floor of the library, online at, or by contacting Marcy Lowe at 512-868-8974. A dessert and beverage from the Red Poppy Café in the library will be served.
THE BOOK: In 1870 a 10-year-old girls makes a journey back to her aunt and uncle’s home after living with Kiowa warriors who had killed her parents four year earlier. Subsequently she is traded to Capt. Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a 70-year-old war veteran, who takes her 400 miles to her family near San Antonio.

Round Rock Public Library Book Group meets Tuesday May 16th 7:00-8:30. They will discuss Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, by Ben Fountain. They will be voting on future book choices. Check the library website for more information, or ask Carla.

Book Buzz - June 6th, evening - Round Rock Public Library - Free, but seating is limited. Reservations are necessary and will open closer to the time of the event.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

How We Found Bernadette

We found Where’d You Go, Bernadette, by Maria Semple, fun to read, satirical, and a fairly in-depth character study of a creative and somewhat lost main character. Pam brought a list of thoughtful, thought-provoking questions, and we stayed mostly on topic. I’ll go over a few of the questions and responses here:

Question: What in the story was a surprise?
Janice was surprised by the Russian scam.
Linda was surprised that Audrey was redeemed. She enjoyed hating Audrey during the first part of the book and had to switch gears.
Jay was surprised by the author’s portrayal of the Canadians, and her satire of the Canadian attitude of equality. An elite person here would be equal to a bum there. Being special makes you get squashed down to everyone else’s level. Some of this makes the stereotyped Canadian too friendly and cheerful.
Jay was impressed by author’s knowledge of architects and her mention of Art Forum magazine, which is obscure and scholarly. It was clear that Semple researched this book carefully.

Question: Were you surprised by Elgie: the depth that he shared in letter and/ or his emotions?
Linda was surprised at his having an affair and that there was a child. Janice wanted the pregnancy to be false. I also wanted it to go away.
Pat was surprised at how Bee thought of Elgie on the ship, like a woman with a lot of stuff on his night table.
Patty was surprised about the Microsoft bashing. She was also surprised that the places in the book were real places.
Seattle Shared

Patty’s daughter-in-law went to Lakeside school. It was nicknamed “the Cadillac school. Patty’s son lives in a big beautiful craftsman house. The neighborhood of Craftsman homes in the story exists. And, the blackberries are a very invasive plant that is out of control. Patty saw blackberries covering an apple orchard.          
Carla’s son lives in an old Craftsman house in Seattle.  Although the author says the buildings in Seattle are just thrown together and block views, Carla said the public library in Seattle is amazing!
Jan K. felt that the author expressed being offended by the Craftsman houses. Jan’s son is in Oregon and there are many similar houses there. Jan suggested that since the Craftsman homes are all similar to each other, maybe author Semple was satirizing them as exemplifying a lack of creativity.
Pam said the stereotype is that every woman in Seattle has long or short grey hair, ie, the natural look without hair coloring to cover the grey.
Marla noted that the satire on Seattle reminded her of the TV show, Portlandia, which satirizes Portland, OR and is available on Netflix and is laugh-out-loud funny (Claudia’s opinion – one of the most consistently laugh-producing shows ever).

Of Seattle and Antarctica
Patty said that there is a permanent exhibit at the University of Washington in Seattle about Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition. Thus, this could be a connection to the author researching Antarctica and using it in the story.
I (Claudia)  brought some selected passages from my daughter’s emails from a college experience on a research vessel in Antarctica. (Thanks to Artemis Harbert for allowing this.) I thought it was interesting how closely the author’s descriptions of Antarctica and the activities in the story in Antarctica matched what my daughter experienced. I guess there is a limited array of activities and ways to do things in Antarctica. I hope everyone found the emails interesting. Maybe some in the group will be inspired to cruise down there. Tourists do speak well of it!
(For more information on Drake's Passage, just Google it.)

Insights & Themes
Patty read the book twice. She picked up a theme of St. Bernadette and the 18 Miracles and felt that the book was organized accordingly.
Patty also said she  tried to categorize the novel. What kind of novel? She couldn’t find a standard category but did notice a lot of exaggeration. She suggested a theme of exaggeration.
Pam noticed a theme of hills: blackberries on the hill, sliding into Audrey’s yard, and Dr. Kurtz from Madrona Hill. 
Pam thought that Bernadette was destroyed when her beloved home was destroyed and that she became depressed and agoraphobic after that. This explained why she needed the Indian assistant. I thought the assistant was satire, using exaggeration to make the assistant theme funny, at least at first, before the assistant’s true identity was exposed.
Janice thought that a psychiatric diagnosis for Bernadette as having functional bipolar disorder was exemplified by her throwing herself into things she was enthusiastic about. Also, there were funny aspects to Bernadette’s aberrated behavior, such as when she put the dirty dishes in the drawer for the maid. Janice suggested that medication could stifle some of the behavior but that Bernadette realistically needs a therapist and would need one back at home regardless of any satisfaction from building in Antarctica.
Pam had another psychological insight; that Bernadette might have been different if it hadn’t been for the miscarriages, Bee’s illness, and other problems that gave her a slow start in Seattle.
Marla saw Bernadette, Elgie, and Bee’s current house as symbol for Bernadette. Moving the pots for rain, putting a cloth in was like her quieting her own demons. The house problems were never fixed, as Bernadette couldn’t be fixed. Elgie tolerated the idiosyncrasies of the house, because if he wanted to fix things, he would have had to “make them a problem.”
Dennis thought the book was just meant to be entertaining.
Marla noticed that the title of the book was significant. She said that a person disappears when they marry, move, etc. When one finds oneself after that, one is somewhat new and restructured. Bernadette was going through a lot of these kinds of changes, to become a new person.
Pam said the author’s theme was, “Do what you need to do to not lose your essence.” Bernadette was an artist and needed to be an artist. Marla added that one defines oneself by how one feels, not what one does. The two can be tied together.
Patty said she had thought about why Antarctica was used in the story, and that it was as place for Bernadette to find herself. Carla agreed, saying  it was a tool, a place where Bernadette could get out of her routine, find herself, and not remain static.  Janice added that the trip cuts out everything in their lives except the cold and each other. Cindy T noted that this was helpful to Bee, too, as she was also at end of her rope after all that had happened in the book.   

About the Author
Pam told us some facts about the Maria Semple's work. She published a novel, This One is Mine in 2008, and Where’d You Go, Bernadette in 2012. Her television script-writing credits include Beverly Hills, 90210; Mad About You; Saturday Night Live; Arrested Development; Suddenly Susan and Ellen.  She appeared in the film I Heart Huckabees. Annapurna Pictures and Color Force acquired the rights to the film adaptation of the Where’d You Go Bernadette in January 2013. Semple is not writing the screenplay but will be an Executive Producer. Richard Linklater is in talks to direct. If you learn anything about this movie, please tell the Book Club!

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