On April the 17th, of 2016, the book club met at Rough Rare (its second time hosting) to discuss Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites. It is a fictional imagining of the final months of Iceland’s last citizen to face the death penalty. Agnes Magnusdottir begins the book nearly inhuman and covered in her own filth before being sent to a new sort of prison at the home of an officer/farmer.
In the early morning, at my friend’s slightly less prison-like apartment, the sky graced the floor with a puddle. But by the time book club came around, the weather had turned into a stifling, grossly hot cage. So hot that I switched out my jeans for a skirt I luckily had with me. Following my wardrobe change, we ventured out to the rather swanky cafe with a million dollar slogan. There, we talked about the book amidst many different foods. Seriously, their menu is extensive. At our table were sandwiches, curry, grilled Cajun chicken, coffee, tea, juice, and a parfait in a tree. This doesn’t even begin to cover the other options. If you go at lunch time, the sets are a fairly good deal and include access to the drink bar. The food was generally well-received, though the parfait could’ve used fewer corn flakes and the fries could’ve used less salt. All in all, it was enjoyable and I would go back (particularly for that parfait).
As for the book itself, we found it a worthwhile read. It garnered at average of 4 stars (or 4.0625 if you want to be precise). The tone was very effective at immersing readers into the harsh and miserable lifestyle of Icelanders in the 1800s. It’s based on historical events, so the ending is a foregone conclusion. Despite this, Kent manages to make readers care about Agnes’s story. Though none of us realized it until the author’s notes, each chapter actually begins with a translation of historical documents related to Agnes’s execution. I personally feel these would have been more interesting had that fact been made clearer from the beginning. Another pitfall was the lack of complexity for most of the characters. Few had discernable motivations for their actions or beliefs. Even considering these criticisms, the book is, while perhaps not enjoyable exactly, fascinating and really makes you feel for Agnes.
For our next selection, we have decided upon The Windup Girl, which, if Goodreads is to be believed, inspires pretty strong feelings one way or another. We are tentatively meeting at nomadika, which has become something of a tradition for the final book club of the year. Hope to see you there!
Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen’s Calorie Man in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, Anderson combs Bangkok’s street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history’s lost calories. There, he encounters Emiko. Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. One of the New People, Emiko is not human; instead, she is an engineered being, creche-grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman, but now abandoned to the streets of Bangkok. Regarded as soulless beings by some, devils by others, New People are slaves, soldiers, and toys of the rich in a chilling near future in which calorie companies rule the world, the oil age has passed, and the side effects of bio-engineered plagues run rampant across the globe.
What Happens when calories become currency? What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits, when said bio-terrorism’s genetic drift forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution? In The Windup Girl, award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi returns to the world of “The Calorie Man” (Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award-winner, Hugo Award nominee, 2006) and “Yellow Card Man” (Hugo Award nominee, 2007) in order to address these poignant questions.