Reading The Seasons is a must-read for book clubs and book lovers alike, offering a wealth of recommendations for new titles, while delighting in the power of reading itself.
Book Club Questions:
1. For a time, reading became Germaine’s Achilles’ heel, a way to stay an observer rather than experiencing life, while Sonya describes books as enabling her to weather the vagaries of existence. Do either of these reflections resonate with your own experience? How would you describe your own history in relationship to books?
2. Books and reading created the foundation of a friendship and added an extra depth of intimacy for Germaine and Sonya. Have books offered the start of a friendship for you or created a deeper intimacy with friends?
3. Do you believe in reading lists and the idea of there being books you ‘should’ read?
4. Sonya saw a client who likened keeping a notebook about his reading experience akin to writing in a journal after making love to a woman. Germaine, in turn, saw a client who believed that her reading notebooks, containing quotes and impressions of books she had read, were more personal and showed more of her inner world than a diary. What are your thoughts on the private depths that reading can reveal within us?
5. Germaine had a client who was looking for memoirs and fiction that could act as a guide or friend when navigating the next stage in their life. Have you turned to stories as mentors on your own life journey?
6. Sonya is a poetry lover, feeling that poems access a depth in her that she believes cannot be reached otherwise. Germaine responded that Freud once wrote that wherever he went, he discovered a poet had been there before. What do you think about the power of poetry to reach the depths of the psyche, and how do you think that is possible in so few words?
7. How do you feel about so-called ‘summer reads’? Is summer a time of year when reading becomes more important to you? If so, what kind of reading do you find yourself drawn to?
8. Germaine and Sonya write about the emotional experiences they were trying to understand through their reading during adolescence. What books, if any, helped you understand this confusing time of life?
9. Hilary Mantel, in a Guardian article written in memory of English author Elizabeth Jane Howard, noted how undervalued British female writers were in the 20th century. She included authors such as Anita Brookner, Barbara Pym and Elizabeth Taylor in that category. Do you agree? Have you read any of these authors’ works and if so, why do you think they didn’t receive the recognition enjoyed by male authors of that era?
10. Both Sonya and Germaine found wisdom and comfort in the following quote from Dante’s Inferno: ‘At the midpoint of the path of life / I found / Myself lost in a wood so dark, the way / Ahead was blotted out’. Are there any specific literary quotes that have helped you navigate your way through a difficult time in your life?
11. Author Javier Marías once said that the need to read is a ‘need for recognition rather than cognition’. Is reading to be reassured that you aren’t alone something that resonates with you?
12. After children’s writer Judith Kerr’s death, Germaine and Sonya were reminded of the nostalgia of reading to small children and the emotion that stirred up. Are there any children’s books that make you nostalgic for a time or place?
13. When Sonya finishes a book she loves, she goes through a grieving period and must step back from reading for a moment, while a friend of hers goes straight to the bookshelf for the next one. Germaine may go to a different genre as a break. Do you ritualise the end of a book? And if so, how?
14. Robertson Davies believes that ‘a truly great book should be read in youth, again in maturity and once more in old age, as a fine building should be seen by morning light, at noon and by moonlight’. This speaks to Heraclitus’ assertion that ‘you never step into the same river twice’ – each reading will be a new experience, as you are a different person each time. What are your thoughts on this? Do you reread books? If you do, is it to learn something new or revisit a past moment?
15. Later in the book, Sonya ventures onto Tinder and includes a photo of her standing in front of her bookshelf. Germaine mentions she feels she could be friends with the owners of an Airbnb she’s staying in, based on their bookshelves. Have you ever formed an opinion of someone after seeing what’s on their bookshelves?
16. Sonya comments in one of her letters that she always feels like sharing a glass of something celebratory when she writes to Germaine to talk about books. The two share gin, champagne, wine, tea and coffee throughout their seasons. What’s your favourite tipple when talking to friends about books?
April 12, 2021