Posts filed under ‘TTL Book Club’

The Orchard by Adele Crockett Robertston

the orchard book cover

Pub Date: October 1995

 Non-Fiction (Adult)


 234 pgs.

The Orchard is our 2015 A Book Grows in Topsfield title.  A Book Grows in Topsfield is the name of the Topsfield Town Library’s Community Read, in which we encourage the entire community to read the same book at the same time, hosting book discussions and events related to the book along the way. A Book Grows in Topsfield kicked off on Friday, March 13th with a wonderful cabaret concert featuring music of the 30’s at the Gould Barn.  

Tomorrow, March 26th is our first book discussion of The Orchard.  Everyone is welcome!

A patron compared reading Robertson’s The Orchard to “running your hands over smooth velvet.”  That was her assessment of Robertson’s writing style, and I thought that was beautifully put.  Adele “Kitty” Crockett Robertson’s memoir about running her family’s apple orchard during the Great Depression is filled with straightforward but poetic prose, descriptions of hardship, monetary and otherwise, and anecdotes of the colorful characters she met along the way.  Robertson is a natural storyteller and you get the sense that she lived a full life and must have been even more entertaining in person.  Indeed, the Foreword and Epilogue–written by Kitty’s daughter, Betty Robertson Cramer, the one who discovered and published her mother’s manuscript posthumously–are just as interesting as the memoir itself.  I wanted to know more about Kitty’s life, even after The Orchard.

The best part of choosing The Orchard as a Community Read title is that it truly is about our community, or at least, a very nearby community. Several patrons who have already finished this book have come in and remarked that they are familiar with the farm portrayed between the pages.  Robertson, an Ipswich native, penned this memoir between 1932 and 1934, a couple of the worst years of the Depression.  Not only do the themes of sacrifice, hard work, and general bleakness certainly resonate today, but being able to visit and look at the same landscapes as Kitty make this a special Community Read.

We hope you will be able to join in a book discussion or another event for A Book Grows in Topsfield!



March 25, 2015 at 8:51 pm Leave a comment

We Are Water by Wally Lamb

waterPub Date: October 2013

Fiction (Adult)

576 pgs.

We Are Water was the TTL Thursday Night Book Club selection for January 2015. This book generated a great discussion!

The TTL Book Club is a library-sponsored book club that is open to all. We meet every other month and take a break for the summer.  Our next meeting date is March 26, 2015.

We Are Water is an ambitious – and lengthy – novel by the acclaimed author of She’s Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True.  In it, Wally Lamb has created a saga focusing on the Oh family in Three Rivers, Connecticut, that spans several decades and deals with racism, divorce, gay marriage, the NYC art world, natural disasters, murder, and familial abuse, among other things.

The story opens with a somewhat confusing and tangential account from a venerable local artist. (This character is never heard from directly again – he is connected to the story, but it’s not immediately clear how.) It then unfolds from the point of view of all five Oh family members – Annie, a newly famous shock-artist about to marry her art-dealer girlfriend, Vivica; Orion, divorced from Annie and a psychologist at a turning point in his career; and their three grown children Andrew, Ariane, and Marissa, all with varying problems and prejudices of their own.  Annie, Orion, and Andrew get the largest narratives, while Ariane, Marissa and a few other supporting characters round out the chapters.

Lamb’s take on the Oh family and the small town they call home is engaging, if a little too ambitious at times.  It almost feels like he was trying to write three different novels: one about the dissolution of Annie and Orion’s marriage and Annie’s new-found discovery of herself; one about the long-term effects of various forms of domestic abuse; and one about the persistent culture of racism that exists even in the years immediately following the election of an African-American president.

Scattered focus notwithstanding, where We Are Water truly benefits is in Wally Lamb’s gift for character development. Lamb has worked with and taught writing to incarcerated women, and his empathy for the down-trodden shines through in his characters. His gift for characterization is especially evident in his portrayal of Orion Oh, a man who is coming to terms with many things in his life, not least his family’s deep emotional scars.

We Are Water is a thought-provoking book that encourages discussion on a variety of topics.  It may be just the book to sink your teeth into during these long, cold winter days.


January 30, 2015 at 5:11 pm Leave a comment

The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro

Pub Date: Ocart forgertober 2012 Fiction (Adult) 368 pgs. **The Art Forger is the TTL Book Club selection for November.  We will meet tomorrow night, Thursday November 6, at 7pm in the library meeting room. All are welcome and refreshments will be served.  If you have read this book, please stop by!** I am no artist. I possess little artistic talent, and although I enjoy visiting art museums from time to time, the technicalities and intricacies of fine art don’t interest me greatly. With that said, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed The Art Forger and how much I learned. Claire Roth, a young artist living in Boston, makes a living forging great works of art, legally. She works for a company called, painting exquisitely accurate copies of famous art works.  She is also tinged by scandal, after her affair with her older graduate school professor ended with his suicide and the question of who actually painted his acclaimed new painting hanging in the MOMA. Three years later, Claire finds herself faced with an intriguing prospect.  A rich, charismatic gallery owner approaches her to paint a reproduction of a famous painting in his possession by Edgar Degas.  A painting that was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990.  But Claire, with her expert eye, suspects that the apparently stolen painting may be a forgery itself. From here, Shapiro takes on an incredibly interesting ride.  Her story is brimming with rich characters and unfolds at a good pace. You will learn a lot about techniques of art forgery, and it’s all fascinating!  Shapiro inter-cuts her narrative with juicy letters – alas, wholly fictional – written by Isabella Stewart Gardner herself, as well as flashbacks to Claire’s relationship with her professor, Isaac, three years earlier. She twists together several narratives, throws in some mystery, and it all works beautifully. One of the best parts is the local setting, featuring places with know and love: South Boston, Newbury Street, and especially the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.  I have actually never been to the museum myself, but after reading this book, I can’t wait to visit. -Becky

November 5, 2014 at 4:12 pm Leave a comment

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

Pub Date: Dec. 2009

Fiction (Adult)

400 pgs.

The title may sound…familiar.  It may even seem like you can’t pick up a magazine, turn on the TV or get a good book recommendation lately without hearing about it. And with good reason.  Shades of Grey is the wonderfully clever, inventive new novel from Jasper Fforde, author of the beloved “Thursday Next” literary fantasy series.  I assure you, you’ve come to the right book.

In Britain more than 500 years in the future–centuries after the ominous-yet-vaguely-titled “Something That Happened”–the world has become a Colortocracy, its hierarchy based on the amount of pure color perception one has.   Our narrator, Eddie Russett, is a Red.  Reds happen to be the second-lowest color on the totem pole, above only Greys, who have no or very little color perception at all.  Nonetheless, Eddie cheerfully accepts his lot in life, following the ridiculous Rules laid out by “Munsell” centuries before, and planning his marriage to Constance, a union that will guarantee Eddie a lifetime of cushy complacency.

But then Eddie and his father are unexpectedly sent to the Outer Fringes, ostensibly to conduct a “chair census,” and Eddie meets a feisty, disagreeable Grey named Jane.   Eddie is instantly smitten.  Jane, less so.  Soon, Eddie finds his worldviews challenged and his eyes opened to a vibrant underground network of Grey dissidents and other like-minded radicals.  Eddie finds himself in love with Jane, although she attempts to kill him, multiple times, and even ends up pitching him into the mouth-hole of a carnivorous tree.  How does that turn out for Eddie? You’ll have to read on to find out.

This book blew my mind.  It’s the only book I have ever felt compelled to read twice in a row, in two different formats.  First, I listened to the audiobook version–it’s a treat on audio, voiced with acerbic perfection by John Lee, a renowned British voice actor.  I enjoyed the audio immensely but felt like I was missing something, and immediately obtained the print version after the audio was over.  I’m so glad I did.  The audiobook whet my appetite, but this is a book that can really be savored in print–Fforde adds so many absurdist touches and clever details that I got so much more out of it the second time.  Also, some may fear dystopian novels like Shades of Grey to be too dreary or heavy-handed—but then, they haven’t read Fforde.   Shades of Grey manages to be satirical, absurd, serious, insightful and extremely funny all at once.

So go on, pick up Shades of Grey, and see what everyone’s talking about.  And then tell all your friends–you’ll be glad you did.


August 31, 2012 at 3:20 pm 1 comment

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