Good Reading : November 2010
book club books of the month This month your book club might like to look at illicit love in Shakespearean England, or check out the history of Naples. NON-FICTION BOOK OF THE MONTH Street Fight in Naples Peter Robb Allen & Unwin $49.99 Naples is always a shock. Beauty and squalor like nowhere else in Europe. The only European city whose ancient past still breaks through its layers of history in the irrepressible life of its people. People from all over the early Mediter ranean found a seductive and fertile beauty in a wide bay dotted with islands and shadowed by a dor mant volcano. Peter Robb's Street Fight in Naples completes a trilogy begun with Midnight in Sicily and A Death in Brazil. It ranges across nearly 3000 years of Neapolitan life and art, from the first Greek landings in Italy to the time of Robb's own arrival 30-something years ago. It looks at what happened to Naples when in 1503 it became the Mediter ranean capital of Spain's world empire and the base for the Christian struggle with Islam. Naples was a metropolis matched only by Paris and Constantinople, the site of an extraordinary concentration of miltary power, lavish consumption, poverty and desperation. Naples was the teeming city where Caravaggio, the greatest painter of his age, fled to in 1606 after a fatal street fight. He found in Naples an image of his own sense of the age's crises, and the human reality of his painting released among the painters of Naples the energies of a great age in European art. Questions for discussion 1. Peter Robb combines his own experiences of Naples with history of the city. Do you think this blending of experience and history has enhanced the book? Why? 2. Discuss how Street Fight in Naples may have changed your perceptions of Naples. 3. Why is the past so significant to the Neapolitan identity? 4. In 1503 Naples became the Mediterranean capital of Spain's world empire and the base for the Christian struggle with Islam. What were the effects of this? For more questions and discussion ideas for your book club for both Mr Shakespeare’s Bastard and Street Fight in Naples go to www.goodreadingmagazine.com.au and click on ‘Book Clubs’ on the bookmark on the left of the screen. Peter Lehmann’s ‘Layers’ Nothing beats meeting up with a group of friends and discussing a good book over a glass of wine. This month, why not try a bottle of Peter Lehmann’s ‘Layers’ series? ‘Layers’ is crafted to illustrate Peter Lehmann’s belief that the whole is often greater than the sum of the parts. Blended from diverse vineyards and grape varieties, these flavoursome wines perfectly complement the many textures of modern cuisine. Intriguingly complex, simply beautiful. WINE OF THE MONTH Write and tell us about what your book club is reading, how your meetings are structured or any events your club has organised for your chance to win a dozen bottles of the ‘Layers’ series. Write to ‘Layers Promotion’, GPO Box 3835 Sydney NSW 2001, or enter online at www.goodreadingmagazine.com.au. You must be over 18 to enter this competition. WIN a mixed dozen of Peter Lehmann wines FICTION BOOK OF THE MONTH Mr Shakespeare’s Bastard Richard B Wright 4th Estate $29.99 In failing health, Aerlene Ward, an elderly housekeeper in an Oxfordshire manor, feels compelled to confess the incredible secret that has shaped her life: she is the illegitimate daughter of William Shakespeare, England's most famous playwright. But will anyone believe her? Even Charlotte, the young mistress of the house, who is writing down Aerlene's words, seems doubtful. Enchanted by the power and rhythm of words that she considers her birthright, coupled with her own imaginative mind, Aerlene draws back the curtain on her own life and that of her mother, the sensual Elizabeth, who allowed herself to be seduced by a poor but ambitious writer from Stratford. She recounts a story of love, daring, shame, consequences, beauty and truth and, as her tale unfolds, secrets are revealed, mysteries are uncovered, and lives are changed in the most unexpected of ways. Mr Shakespeare's Bastard interweaves an engaging blend of invention and historical detail, with echoes of the Bard himself. Richard B Wright, master storyteller, brings the teeming streets of Elizabethan London to life in a novel that will delight the senses and touch the heart of every reader. Questions for discussion 1. How did Aerlene and Elizabeth rebel against their family's beliefs? How did this lead to their freedom? 2. How did Wright use history to shape the story of Mr Shakespeare's Bastard? 3. In what ways are Aerlene, Elizabeth and Charlotte all trapped by their circumstance and sex? 4. What was the most interesting thing you lear nt about Shakespeare's life while reading this novel? 5. How much of Shakespeare's work has influenced our culture and ours ideas about romantic love? In what way?
December January 2011