Check out these novels before their movie adaptations hit theaters this year:
The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman – Documents the true story of Warsaw Zoo keepers and resistance activists Jan and Antonina Zabinski, who in the aftermath of Germany’s invasion of Poland saved the lives of hundreds of Jewish citizens by smuggling them into empty cages and their home villa.
Movie release date: March 31, 2017
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Daniel Bruhl, Johan Heldenbergh
Wonder by R.J. Palacio – Born with a facial deformity that initially prevented his attendance at public school, Auggie Pullman enters the fifth grade at Beecher Prep and struggles with the dynamics of being both new and different, in a sparsely written tale about acceptance and self-esteem.
Movie release date: April 7, 2017
Starring: Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, Jacob Tremblay
The Circle by Dave Eggers – Hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful Internet company, Mae Holland begins to question her luck as life beyond her job grows distant, a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, and her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public.
Movie release date: April 28, 2017
Starring: Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, Karen Gillan Continue reading
Books on Tap read We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson at Champion Brewery on January 5. Starting at the ending, most attendees didn’t care for the novella. A few had read Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” but the majority had not read any of her works, especially her memoirs of raising her family. The revelation of the murderer at the end was not a surprise to half the readers and the other half agreed that it was obvious upon a re-read. A few readers were enthusiastic about the spooky tone while others failed to find a moral in the story. However, after learning more about Jackson’s own agoraphobia and ostracization, many readers appreciated the symbolism more.
And symbolism abounds. Taking her source material from a real-life crime in England, Jackson transposed the setting to her small-town Vermont and based the the sister protagonists on her own daughters’ characters. Indeed, the fictional sisters read like two sides of the same person. Child-like 18-year-old Mericat, her older sister Constance and their uncle Julian live isolated in a grand house outside of town. Dogged by rumors that Constance poisoned her parents, brother and Julian’s wife, the trio seldom receive visitors and Mericat is the only one to leave the grounds. Variously teased and shunned by the townsfolk, she resorts to magical thinking and rituals to defend her property. Uncle Julian is supposedly working on a family history but repeatedly asks Constance if his memories are true. Along comes cousin Charles, whom the reader and Uncle Julian know is bad news, upending Mericats rituals and routines and thawing Constance. Mericat’s reaction to Charles tightens the underlying tension until the house burns down (debatably Mericat’s fault) and the fire chief implicitly gives the gathered townspeople permission to ransack the once forbidden house. While the townspeople then react by bringing food and other gifts to the sisters, Mericat manifests their psychological barriers by enclosing them in the kitchen and blacking out the windows. The futility of their hiding and rituals is exposed by rain pouring into the kitchen and neighbors, formerly kept at bay, pouring onto the footpath along the house. One reader pointed out that this was Mericat’s use of the feminine power available to her, versus the masculine power of Charles. Another thought the towns’ reaction was analogous to society’s fear of young women’s potential and the impulse to cage them. We all discussed the fine line Mericat rode between insanity and eccentricity, the distancing her peculiarities forced on the narrative and how much better the story would have been as a Young Adult movie franchise.
Finally, we wish founding member Emily best of luck in the new Vermont chapter of her life!
About the author
Joyce Carol Oates on Jackson in the New York Review of Books
Upcoming film adaptation
Previous stage adaptations
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Want to learn a new subject this new year? Head online and sign up for a MOOC. MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses, are free, open access courses, designed for unlimited participation. Traditional course instruction like filmed lectures, reading, website links, exercises, assignments, and final projects are provided in an online environment. These courses were first started in 2008 and have gained popularity in the past few years. Topics vary widely from computer science to English composition and everything in between.
There are a variety of MOOC providers and most include courses from major universities. To access some you may need to create an online account which will just take a few minutes. A few of the more popular providers are:
Coursera (available as an app on iOS and Android) – This is a for-profit company that offers free courses with a pay for a certificate model. It offers subjects such as mathematics, business, computer science, digital marketing, and data science taught by universities like University of Michigan, Standford, Duke, and our very own UVA.
Khan Academy (available as an app on iOS and Android) – This is a nonprofit site that is primarily videos, but does now offer accompanying exercises for some subjects. It is an excellent resource for high school students as it covers a lot of subjects they are studying.
edX (available as an app on iOS and Android) – This is a non-profit site created by MIT and Harvard which now includes other contributing universities like UC Berkeley and the University of Texas. It hosts university level courses on subjects from sciences to humanities.
If these don’t have what you’re looking for, search around for another that might.