Friday, March 20, 2020

Literary Sewing Circle: Book Talk

I am shifting around the scheduled posts a bit, so today's the day for some serious book talk! Our author feature will be posted a little later in the sewalong. How are you doing with the book? Have you started it yet? Finished it? Do you have any reactions you'd like to share? 

Here are a few questions to ponder today and for the next while -- whether you have begun reading, or you've only read blurbs & our interview so far and still have something to say, join in! Although there might be a few spoilers in the questions and discussion below so if you haven't got too far yet you might want to come back to this post.

I'll add some of my own thoughts and you can reply to them or add your own impressions. If you want to hear other takes on a part of the book that you are curious about, leave your own questions in the comments, too. I hope you are all enjoying it so far!

1. What was the first thing that drew you to this book? Was it the setting? The historical context?

I first picked up this book because I read everything by Susanna Kearsley as soon as it is available. But I was particularly interested in this one because of the time period of the past story. I studied North American history in university, and found the era of Wolfe & Montcalm fascinating, although I studied it mainly from the Canadian perspective and didn't think much about the American involvement. This story fleshes out that time period and I loved all the detail. 

2. There are multiple characters interacting both in the past and present storylines. Did you have any difficulty keeping them straight? Do you like this kind of read?

I love this kind of read, with tons of people involved and side characters who are fully developed, who give you a feeling that they have a full story of their own. I didn't have too much trouble following it, as I usually just go with a story like this and find that it sorts itself out in my head soon enough. The author helps here, though, by not giving characters similar names and by giving them all characteristics that differentiate them. I also like how the two stories are linked in the end. 

3. The romance element in both storylines is a slow build -- did you find it believable? Romantic enough for you?

I loved it! I liked Lydia and Jean-Philippe a little more; their romance felt a bit more true to the time period to have it slow and sedate. Charlie & Sam didn't seem to talk anything over though, they just suddenly became a couple. I can see them fitting well together but might have a liked a little more spark there. Charlie was too busy with everything else to have a grand romance, though! 

4. Both Sam and Jean-Philippe are the strong & silent type. The unappealing men, like Tyler or De Brassart, are both smooth talking charmers. Kearsley's type is clear -- do you also have an identifiable type? Do you agree with her characterizations?

I also prefer a quieter man with character and strength, so always find Kearsley's heroes appealing. The charmers are not so attractive to me. However, I did find that Tyler was very shallow (even perhaps a little one note), and wondered why the clever Charlie didn't see it as soon as everyone else in her life. Sometimes a charming man really is charming though, and can be a hero as well as a villain; perhaps some of Tyler or De Brassart's more redeeming qualities could have been shown as well.

5. Did you enjoy the ghostly elements of the story? Did you guess who the ghost was before it was revealed?

I love the ghostly elements of Kearsley's stories. This kind of slightly paranormal, slightly gothic romance story is one of my favourite kinds of read. This ghost was very homely and not very alarming, though I did not guess who it was before Kearsley revealed it in the end. It makes sense in the context, but wasn't what I'd expected. 

6. The legend of Lydia, her French officer, and the ghost that haunts the Wilde House grounds turns out to be wrong in several respects. Did you see the twists coming?

I really didn't, until close to the end. I was hoping that the tragic tale wouldn't be so tragic, and trusted that Kearsley would be able to find her happy ending. I love the legend though; it feels like something that people would tell about a historic house, and really liked how Charlie and the museum used it for their programming. I'd have definitely done the same as a museum director! I did like the legend as much as the real story of Lydia & Jean-Philippe. 

7. Is there a particular character that you found especially compelling? Any themes or symbols that really resonate with you?

I liked Lydia a lot -- she worked hard, was very efficient, brave, artistic, and had strength of character. And seemed willing to examine her own prejudices as necessary. I thought she was a good character to focus a story on. But I also found Violet very compelling. She seems like a person apart -- almost putting a face on during her parts of the story, but having a deep and complex life outside of this narrative that we can only glimpse. The modern day side characters are intriguing, too -- Frank's bluntness, Malaika's leadership, Charlie's fragile grandmother -- I found so many little bits to think about.

I found that on reading and rereading this one, the setting was very much part of the experience for me. I love the way that Long Island and New York are evoked both past and present, and would have also loved more on Quebec. I really do like the past era, though, and maybe that's another reason why I enjoyed this so much.

8. Is there anything specific  in the book that has sparked an idea for a project yet? Are you mulling over any ideas?

I think there are many, many directions to go in with a project. Past, present, imagery, characters, places, colours... a lot to work with! You could go with an historical recreation, or a modern reinvention, or something just lightly connected in some way. 

I am thinking about something inspired by New York, or maybe some of the imagery early on in the book. I have a great NY print that I might use, or perhaps just some bright yellow like Lydia's gown. There is also the fall imagery of apples and leaves that might appear somewhere...clearly I haven't quite decided! 


  1. I missed this reading suggestion dammit! Ah well, I still haven't done my Japanese inspired one, but there's way more time available now school has closed. Time will tell!

    1. Oh, it's an easy read and there is still 3 weeks of discussion and 3 project making weeks -- lots of time :)

  2. Hi Melanie. I'm almost half way through the book (managed to get it from the library before it closed down). I'm gonna comment on some of the points you made. As for point 2 about the multiple points of view: this is one of my favourite storytelling techniques in a novel. One of my favourite novels is The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver and she uses this technique really well. I noticed that in Bellewether, not only are there multiple points of view but Charley's point of view is expressed in first person and the rest are in third person.

    Regarding whether the romances are believable: welllllll, not so sure. I dislike it when a book makes it perfectly clear the moment a character is introduced that *this will be the love interest*. Sam is depicted right off the bat as too perfect. There's no mystery as to what is going to happen there. As for Lydia and Jean-Pierre, it's made clear explicitly in that we already know of the legend of their ill-fated romance, but at least with their relationship it's a lot more interesting finding out how they get there.

    I've skipped a couple of your points because I haven't read far enough to know the plot twists and who the ghost turns out to be.

    Not sure what sewing inspiration I'm taking from this yet, but the cover of my paperback copy is really gorgeous: a picture of Lydia in a yellow gown gazing out over an expanse of blue water with touches of yellow in the sky. Blue is my favourite colour and this colour scheme is quite beautiful.

    As always, thanks for all the work you put into this sewing circle!


    1. So glad you were able to get a copy before the library closed! I hope you are liking it overall.

      I agree with you that there is not much romantic tension in the current day romance. Sam is kind of the perfect guy from the start. I like your comment about the points of view; I hadn't really noted that, although now it is obvious of course! That really positions Charley as the pivot of the story, among the many characters, I think.

      Will look forward to your project, and seeing what inspiration you've taken. I have the same cover and love the colours.


Share your comments, ideas or suggestions here -- I am always interested in hearing from readers. It's nice to have a conversation!