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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Winter Garden Discussion - Happy Halloween!

Here we are at the end of October and hopefully all of you have read Winter Garden by Kristen Hannah.  Here are the general questions I would like everyone to answer:
1.      On a scale of 1-8, what would you rate this book overall?
2.       What genre would you select for this book? (i.e. Mystery, horror, etc.)
3.      On a scale of 1-6, what would you rate this book to difficulty with 6 being the most difficult to read.  (your reasons for the difficulty rating would be helpful)
4.      Yes/no:  Would you read this book again?  Would you recommend it to someone to read?
5.      How would you rate the quality of the story? Author’s writing? Reality of the characters?

My husband accused me of writing a term paper here but I am just trying to simulate a reading group.  I don’t know if there is another way to do it but ask lots of questions and hope people respond. 

Here are some other more in-depth questions for you to ponder and share answers to:
  1. Meredith and Nina are both reluctant to let the men in their lives help them through a difficult time, yet both are suffering from the grief caused by the death of their father. Do you think this is something they’ve inherited from their mother? In what other ways are they similar to their mother? Do you think it’s impossible to avoid becoming like the people who raised you?
  2. One of the themes in this book is female solidarity and strength during hard times. Nina witnesses women in Namibia, Africa holding hands and laughing, even though their country has been ravaged by famine and warfare, their bond impenetrable. Why do you think she’s so interested in this theme? How else does this theme play out throughout the novel
  3. Meredith often regrets--when looking at old family photos taken without her--that she was often off organizing or obsessing over details, while everyone else was living in the moment, creating memories. How common is this for women and mothers? What memories keep your family together?  If you know the story of Martha & Mary from the Bible – can you relate them to Meredith and Nina?
  4. As a child in Leningrad, Anya learned that it was dangerous to express emotions. By doing so she would be putting what was left of her family at risk with the secret police. But now, with Meredith and Nina, her inability to express emotion is driving them apart, destroying the family she has now. How has Anya passed down this legacy to her daughters? How has it harmed their relationship?
  5. Anya is an unsympathetic character throughout much of the book. How did your perception of her change as the fairy tale unfolded? Did you end up sympathizing with her, or even liking her? Or do you feel that her treatment of her daughters was inexcusable, regardless of the hardships she had faced in her life? How do you think you would have fared in Leningrad under the siege? Was Anya heroic in Leningrad, or a failure?
  6. How did you feel about the ending? Why do you think the author chose the surprising meeting in Sitka?

Finally a few weeks back I posted an excerpt from an article reducing great literary works down to one or two sentences.  What would your sentence be for Winter Garden?

OK- enough of my blathering about the book, what it meant and asking for your reflections.  I hope you will take some time to post some responses & comments.  I will also respond in a day or so.

I promise that I would announce the book for November.  It will be:  Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.  My library has 3 copies and they are all out on loan so I may be buying this on Amazon if one of the books doesn’t come back soon.  I hope we all enjoy it.  There is a much shorter book for December since we'll all be so busy with the holidays and you can download it free!

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and RedemptionHey, look how fancy I'm getting by putting pictures in!


  1. My dear,
    First I must come right out and say that I actually enjoyed this book very much. Despite some of your concerns that I may find it to be a "girlie" book,it wasin fact interesting to me on many levels.
    The character development and interplay was very good. As you know I like history and I found the plot twist taking us back to World War II Leningrad was historically accurate. Most Americans have no idea of the suffering of the Russian people during the
    German invasion....or under Stalin..
    I would give the book a 6 overall. In other words good to very good.

  2. Now the rest of your questions are stimulating and I will work on answering some of them over the next day or two. As a heads up I think their is a limit to posting comments in terms of character count. I think my first post encountered this as I was not "done" but could type no more. You may want to think about multiple choice...
    Anyway I love your questions and blog.

  3. I very much enjoyed Winter Garden. I would give this book an 8! On reading difficulty, I would rate it a very easy read and a difficult book to put down. I have recommended this book to others and would continue to do so, however i doubt if i would ever read it again only because i never do that. I enjoyed the relationships in the book and felt that i knew the characters. They came to life for me. Throughout the book, I thought of Mary and Martha from the Bible. You are doing a great job with this blog, Barb!! Thanks!!

  4. Continuing my book report.
    I would rate it a 3 on the difficulty scale (The cat in the hat would be a 1!).
    I would read again, but not until a few years later to see if perspective would change.

    From a guys perspective Nina and Meredith both exhibit traits from their mother! They were traits we guys might call moodiness and indecision. Now I know that I am oversimplifying. Heck I am sure the insensitivity of Meredith's husband would be something women could relate too as well?

  5. My final comments will relate to Anya. I was sympathetic to her from the start. It seemed obvious to me that her distance from her daughters was painful to her. I think most of us have found different levels of emotional support from our parents. Meredith and Nina were well nurtured by their father. Mom was the young (to an extreme maybe) to his yang. Our baggage comes in part from both parents for better or worse. What came through to me was the underlying theme that all of us long to have a meaningful relationship with our families, and these three women were no exception. Now the ending with the "long lost" daughter seemed to unbelievable to me. However she had to tie it together somehow
    Now a

  6. I hate this posting limitation. Correct young to ying in my previous post. And finish with now the author had to tie it together somehow I suppose! The book club discussion is fun Barb keep it up!!

  7. Overall I would rate the book a 6. The genre I'd say is drama. I think the book was easy enough to read and it held my interest, which is always important, so I'd rate it a 3. I probably wouldn't read it again, I usually don't do that, unless it is a really good book that I read years later (or before the movie comes out and I analyze and compare the movie vs. the book, which my husband hates because I talk through the whole movie!!)
    The quality of the story was excellent, again, it held my interest and really got me involved with all the characters.
    I've read the November book already, and it is pretty good...looking forward to the new book for December!