Evening Book Group

December 16: The End of the Affair, Graham Greene
Set in London during and just after World War II, Graham Greene's The End of the Affair is a pathos-laden examination of a three-way collision between love of self, love of another, and love of God. The affair in question involves Maurice Bendrix, a solipsistic novelist, and a dutifully married woman, Sarah Miles. The lovers meet at a party thrown by Sarah's dreary civil-servant husband, and proceed to liberate each other from boredom and routine unhappiness. Reflecting on the ebullient beginnings of their romance, Bendrix recalls: "There was never any question in those days of who wanted whom--we were together in desire." Indeed, the affair goes on unchecked for several years until, during an afternoon tryst, Bendrix goes downstairs to look for intruders in his basement and a bomb falls on the building. Sarah rushes down to find him lying under a fallen door, and immediately makes a deal with God, whom she has never particularly cared for. "I love him and I'll do anything if you'll make him alive.... I'll give him up forever, only let him be alive with a chance.... People can love each other without seeing each other, can't they, they love You all their lives without seeing You." Bendrix, as evidenced by his ability to tell the story, is not dead, merely unconscious, and so Sarah must keep her promise. She breaks off the relationship without giving a reason, leaving Bendrix mystified and angry. The only explanation he can think of is that she's left him for another man. It isn't until years later, when he hires a private detective to ascertain the truth that he learns of her impassioned vow.

January 20: The Astronaut Wives Club, Lily Koppel
As America's Mercury Seven astronauts were launched on death-defying missions, television cameras focused on the brave smiles of their young wives. Overnight, these women were transformed from military spouses into American royalty. They had tea with Jackie Kennedy, appeared on the cover of Life magazine, and quickly grew into fashion icons. Annie Glenn, with her picture-perfect marriage, was the envy of the other wives; JFK made it clear that platinum-blonde Rene Carpenter was his favorite; and licensed pilot Trudy Cooper arrived with a secret that needed to stay hidden from NASA. Together with the other wives they formed the Astronaut Wives Club, providing one another with support and friendship, coffee and cocktails. As their celebrity rose--and as divorce and tragic death began to touch their lives--they continued to rally together, and forming bonds that would withstand the test of time, they have stayed friends for over half a century. The Astronaut Wives Club tells the real story of the women who stood beside some of the biggest heroes in American history.

February 17: The Man in the Wooden Hat, Jane Gardam
Old Filth was Eddie’s story. The Man in the Wooden Hat is the history of his marriage told from the perspective of his wife, Betty, a character as vivid and enchanting as Filth himself. They met in Hong Kong after the war. Betty had spent the duration in a Japanese internment camp. Filth was already a successful barrister, handsome, fast becoming rich, in need of a wife but unaccustomed to romance. A perfect English couple of the late 1940s. As a portrait of a marriage, with all the bittersweet secrets and surprising fulfillment of the 50-year union of two remarkable people, the novel is a triumph. The Man in the Wooden Hat is fiction of a very high order from a great novelist working at the pinnacle of her considerable power. It will be read and loved and recommended by all the many thousands of readers who found its predecessor, Old Filth, so compelling and so thoroughly satisfying.

March 17: The Woodlanders, Thomas Hardy
When country-girl, Grace Melbury, returns home from her middle-class school, she feels she is now above her suitor, the simple woodsman Giles Winterborne. Though marriage has been discussed between her and Giles, Grace soon finds herself captivated by Dr. Edred Fitzpiers, a sophisticated newcomer to the area – a relationship that is encouraged by her socially ambitious father. Hardy’s novel of betrayal, disillusionment and moral compromise depicts a secluded community coming to terms with the disastrous impact of outside influences. And in his portrayal of Giles Winterborne, Hardy shows a man who responds deeply to the forces of the natural world, which, ultimately, betray him.


To join the Evening Book Group mailing list, inquire about upcoming book selections or for more information, please contact Cecily Rogers at 415.292.1262 or email crogers@jccsf.org.

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