Thursday, August 4, 2016

Bookish Banter: The Memory of Us by Camille Di Maio

I hate book clubs. I've tried quite a few, but I've yet to find one I really fit into and I find that incredibly frustrating as someone who loves talking about books. It's not something I generally think about, but after stumbling over another list of pre-written discussion questions, I found myself wondering why I shouldn't work through them on my own. I'm a book blogger aren't I?Putting my ideas out there is what I do!

For the record, Bookish Banter is not a regular post here at Flashlight Commentary. Not every book has questions and I don't have the time to sort titles that do to the top of my TBR, but as a semi-regular event I thought it'd be fun to post my two cents when the opportunity presents itself. 

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  Try to conceal your shock, but this post contains SPOILERS. Proceed at your own risk.

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How might Helen, looking back over the years, identify with the life cycle of the caterpillar that Kyle finds for Charles in Chapter 1? 
I think Helen would have an intensely difficult time likening herself to a caterpillar. The life cycle of the caterpillar transforms it into something beautiful and her insecurities about her physical appearance ultimately lead her to deny relationships with the people she holds most dear. I understand how the book ends, but I don’t feel that ending put her insecurities to rest. It is one thing to accept someone else’s opinion of you, but it is another to alter your own perceptions. 

Lucille is the voice of reason as Julianne struggles with Kyle’s impending ordination to the priesthood. Would you have given Julianne similar counsel or encouraged her to pursue him? 
Neither. I don’t like placing myself in positions that might inspired resentment down the road, so I’d have helped her weigh the pros and cons of each alternative without recommending a course of action.

Julianne loves that Kyle takes her to the ruins of Saint Dwynwen on their honeymoon. What is the most romantic thing you have ever done that required thought over cost? 
There’s a question. Am I meant to liken myself to Julianne or Kyle in this situation? 

Was Julianne’s abandonment of baby Lily the ultimate sacrifice of a mother or the self-serving action of a distraught woman? 
I think it was self-serving and I know that sounds cruel, but hear me out. Julianne never tried to make it on her own identity. She rejected her assets, her name, her upbringing, her parents, her husband, and her child because she was ashamed of her appearance. There was no proof that her parents would have rejected her baby after the war and none that her husband would have abandoned her. She actively distanced herself from her child and under these circumstances, when so much of her action was based on assumption rather than fact and experience, it didn’t seem like a sacrifice so much as a cop out. 

Julianne has witnessed the Last Rites at the deathbed of Mr. McCarthy, and later, as Helen, at the side of Mrs. Campbell. How has her character evolved between the two events? 
Her light faded. As a young girl, she had hope and compassion, but as an older woman, she is pragmatic and unaffected. On some level I was sad to see this transition, but I suppose this is true of all people to some degree. Julianne’s isolation is definitely more extreme than most, but that’s another issue.

Why does Julianne choose nursing as a career, and how does that decision shape her life? 
I think she likes people and she likes helping, but at the end of the day, helping (I refuse to call it nursing as she was never formally trained) is one of her few genuine skills and I think it reminds her of the early days she had with Kyle and her brother. On some level, I think it is a way of hanging on. 

Before Helen goes to Charcross to work for Father McCarthy, she stops in Liverpool and observes her parents. Should she have revealed to them who she was? Or did she spare them from further grief and shock? 
The moment Helen spends with her father angered me. I desperately wanted her to open her heart to him and the fact that she didn’t rubbed me the wrong way. She might have been rejected, but she never gave either parent the opportunity to reconsider themselves after ‘losing’ her. Call me crazy, but I felt that cruel and I hated that she chose her self-imposed purgatory over a possible reconciliation. 

How might Kyle’s and Julianne’s lives have played out if he had never left for the war? 
I don’t think this a fair question at all. They might have enjoyed many years together, but they are just as likely to have been killed by a German bomb. Next question.

How does the author weave the concepts of Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell into the story? 
I think the only moment of real hell is seen during the air raid, which is interesting, as Julianne emerges from it only to choose a life on the fringes of society which I equated to purgatory two questions back. I never got a heaven vibe while reading this book, but I suppose one could argue the representation inherent in idyllic and peaceful moments Julianne spends with her husband.

What scene or character most resonated with you personally?
Jane Bailey was easily my favorite character in the novel and I really wish she’d been a stronger player in the scheme of things. I think the novel would have been stronger if it’d been told from her point of view, but I think her the most genuine of the entire cast. 

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Have you read this book? Do you agree? Do you disagree? Do you have an opinion you'd like to share? Please leave a comment below. I'd love to hear from you!

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