“Some things are so frightful that a bit of madness is the only sane response. You know that, don’t you?”

payingguestsTightly plotted and superbly written, Sarah Waters’ The Paying Guests gave the Brown Baggers much to discuss. Perhaps not surprising for a novel with a relatively small cast, much of our talk concerned the two main characters, Frances and Lilian. Frances, with her strong sense of duty along with a suffragette background, was an excellent emblem of the changing times: respectable, but with a rebellious streak. It was more difficult for us to pin down Lilian’s true nature. Many felt that she could be naive in some matters, while slyly self-aware in other ways. By the novel’s end, most readers hesitated to definitively categorize her as conniving, but we definitely felt she knew how to take advantage of certain situations. Continue reading

“Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.”

all the lightIn agreement with most critics, bestseller lists, and the judges of the Pulitzer Prize Board, the Brown Baggers thoroughly enjoyed Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. It can be difficult sometimes to discuss literature we love without just parroting favorite parts, but the Brown Baggers still had a rich discussion full of insight about this novel. Continue reading

“One theory here: the deanery is annoyed with our requests for parity and, weary of waiting for us to retire, has decided to kill us. Let the academic year begin!”

dear-committee-members-coverShowing our good taste and our knack for predicting literary accolades, the Brown Baggers discussed Julie Schumacher’s Dear Committee Members shortly after it won the Thurber Prize for American Humor. Notably, Schumacher was the first woman to win the award. The impressive field of nominees also included Roz Chast and Annabelle Gurwitch. Continue reading