Monday Night Reading/Discussion Group
1100 E St
San Rafael, CA 94901
The Downtown library has a book club that meets on the 2nd Monday of the month from 6:30 – 7:30 pm in the Library Meeting Room.
We read shorter classics, contemporary short stories, poems, articles, essays, plays, excerpts, and…? Participants have input on future readings.
January 8 (January 1st is New Years Day holiday)
Four Short Pieces in Honor of Martin Luther King’s Birthday:
The Battle Royale from Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Growing Up Colored by Henry Louis Gates
The First Day by Edward P. Jones
Everyday use by Alice Walker
February 12 – Farwell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakasuki Houston & James D. Houston
March 12 – Essays: Feminism Past & Present
March is Women’s History Month. We’ll be reading a selection of essays from Susan B. Anthony, Jill Lapore, Katha Pollitt, Roxane Gay, Rebecca Solnit, Pearl S. Buck, Katie Piophe.
April 9 – Nature Poetry
April is National Poetry Month! Reading selections include poems of Wendell Berry, Mary Oliver, Kamilah Aisha Moon, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robinson Jeffers, Robert Frost, Robert Penn Warren, Lloyd Schwartz, William Cullen Bryant, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Sheila Black, Marianne Moore, Arthur Sze, and Jane Hirschfield.
Copies are available at the Reference Desk or online here.
May 14 – May is Mystery Month
We’ll read Murder at the Vicarage (1930) by Agatha Christie
(6 copies are in the MARINet Catalog)
In the first novel to feature Christie’s other famous detective, Miss Marple, someone everyone in town wanted dead turns up murdered, and there is not one but two confessors to the crime. Miss Marple is a fantastic creation—a seemingly mild, unexceptional old woman whose keen intellect catches clues others miss and makes deductive leaps others would never dream of. The determined, gentle pressure of her investigative techniques eventually bring out the truth—which is naturally something Christie made very plain, but which readers almost always misconstrue. It’s a classic.
This 1930 novel is the first book featuring Miss Marple, an elderly spinster modeled on Christie’s step-grandmother and her cronies. Wikipedia says:
“ The character of Jane Marple in the first Miss Marple book, The Murder at the Vicarage, is markedly different from how she appears in later books. This early version of Miss Marple is a gleeful gossip and not an especially nice woman. The citizens of St. Mary Mead like her but are often tired by her nosy nature and how she seems to expect the worst of everyone. In later books she becomes more modern and a kinder person.”
I thought that you might enjoy some of the reviews of this book from when it came out in 1930-
The Times Literary Supplement of November 6, 1930 posed the various questions as to who could have killed Protheroe and why and concluded, “As a detective story, the only fault of this one is that it is hard to believe the culprit could kill Prothero [sic] so quickly and quietly. The three plans of the room, garden, and village show that almost within sight and hearing was Miss Marple, who ‘always knew every single thing that happened and drew the worst inferences.’ And three other ‘Parish cats’ (admirably portrayed) were in the next three houses. It is Miss Marple who does detect the murderer in the end, but one suspects she would have done it sooner in reality”.
The review of the novel in The New York Times Book Review of November 30, 1930 began, “The talented Miss Christie is far from being at her best in her latest mystery story. It will add little to her eminence in the field of detective fiction.” The review went on to say that, “the local sisterhood of spinsters is introduced with much gossip and click-clack. A bit of this goes a long way and the average reader is apt to grow weary of it all, particularly of the amiable Miss Marple, who is sleuth-in-chief of the affair.” The reviewer summarized the set-up of the plot and concluded, “The solution is a distinct anti-climax.”
H.C. O’Neill in The Observer of December 12, 1930 said that, “here is a straightforward story which very pleasantly draws a number of red herrings across the docile reader’s path. There is a distinct originality in her new expedient for keeping the secret. She discloses it at the outset, turns it inside out, apparently proves that the solution cannot be true, and so produces an atmosphere of bewilderment.”
In the Daily Express of October 16, 1930 Harold Nicolson said, “I have read better works by Agatha Christie, but that does not mean that this last book is not more cheerful, more amusing, and more seductive than the generality of detective novels.”
In a short review of October 15, 1930, the Daily Mirror said that, “Bafflement is well sustained.”
Robert Barnard: “Our first glimpse of St Mary Mead, a hotbed of burglary, impersonation, adultery and ultimately murder. What is it precisely that people find so cozy about such stories? The solution boggles the mind somewhat, but there are too many incidental pleasures to complain, and the strong dose of vinegar in this first sketch of Miss Marple is more to modern taste than the touch of syrup in later presentations.”
I also enjoyed the online article Miss Marple vs. the Mansplainers: Agatha Christie’s Feminist Detective Hero
You might also like this 2010 New Yorker article about Christie herself.
Enjoy Murder at the Vicarage and see you soon!