“Times have changed. But not times only.”

29939353The Brown Baggers met at the Central Library on February 21 to discuss Kathleen Rooney’s novel, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk.

The novel takes readers on a journey around Manhattan in starting in the 1930s and ending in the 1980s. Lillian Boxfish is a “devout walker” in her 80s, walking around Manhattan on New Year’s Eve in a mink coat, and reminiscing about her past. Along her walk, she meets and talks with several interesting characters and thinks about how much the city has changed. Boxfish was an accomplished poet when she was younger, and was notably the highest-paid woman in advertising in the 1930s. But her career was cut short when she married and became a mother.

The Brown Baggers loved this book! Many said that they identified with the main character and found her behavior very relatable. Others commented on the witty dialogue and how Boxfish described people in interesting ways. They also liked how strict Boxfish was with manners and that she was such a strong and engaging character. They commented that she had a supportive best friend and a great social life, all while having a career, not just a job, which was unusual for women during that time period.

Readers also liked that the novel was set during New Year’s Eve- a time for reflection. The only negative comments mentioned about the book were that the main character’s breakdown didn’t seem as realistic as the rest of the novel. But readers understood why she may have been depressed and thought that her husband did not challenge her, some even wondered why she married him. Brown Baggers also liked that the novel was based on a real person, Margaret Fishback, and appreciated that Rooney did so much research for the book.

About the author
About Margaret Fishback
Review from the Chicago Tribune
Review from Kirkus Reviews

Fried Green Tomatoes- movie and book
Groundhog Day
Margaret Fishback Poetry at UVa

The Brown Baggers will meet again on Thursday, March 14 at noon to discuss Lisa See’s Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.

“Jefferson’s advice on how to win friends and influence people did not have much appeal for a pugnacious John Adams.”

friendsdividedIt was an interesting and thoughtful discussion when the Brown Baggers met on Thursday, January 17 to discuss Gordon S. Wood’s book Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

Friends Divided delves into the complicated friendship of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. The dual biography examines the decades-long relationship between these two men who came from different upbringings and had contrasting personalities and political views. The book explores the falling out and then the reconciliation of the frenemies and how that helped shape our new nation.

Even though the book was lengthy, readers enjoyed learning about the two presidents. Some readers especially enjoyed the how the characters were described. More than one person mentioned that they learned a lot more about John Adams after reading the book- especially since many Brown Baggers grew up in Virginia and already knew the history and legacy of Thomas Jefferson.

Readers also discussed Abigail Adams and how she seemed to be ahead of her time, mainly by championing women’s rights and advising her husband, something that Martha Jefferson did not do. Some would have liked to have read more about the numerous letters written between Abigail and John Adams.

Most Brown Baggers liked Wood’s writing style, but felt that he became a bit repetitive, especially toward the end of the book, and readers would have appreciated a little more editing. Others said that the book was a little tedious to read, but upon reflection, benefited from reading about the similarities and differences between the men.

Brown Baggers also discussed how different Adams and Jefferson were politically- Adams favored a strong central government, while Jefferson was in favor of robust state rights. At the end of the discussion, one member wondered: how would Jefferson and Adams feel about today’s government, especially with the shutdown?

Books and Authors Mentioned
America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray
John Adams by David McCullough
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
My Dearest Friend: Letters of Abigail and John Adams, Margaret A. Hogan, editor (available at UVa)

Reviews, Articles, and Other Mentions
Interview with Gordon Wood on “Good Will Hunting”
Poggio A Caiano, Charlottesville’s Sister City
Kirkus Review
History of Currency in America
Adams Family Papers– includes full color digital images of the manuscripts and letters

The Brown Baggers will meet again on Thursday, February 21 at noon to discuss Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney.

Brown Bagger’s Book Club Selections

bookstack_112044239The Brown Baggers met on December 20 to select books for the upcoming months. Many new and classic titles were suggested by members, but after only one exciting round of voting there were some clear winners. Upcoming titles that the group will read include both fiction and nonfiction books.

Here are the upcoming titles for July 2019- May 2020:
The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe 
A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza 
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan
Educated by Tara Westover
There There by Tommy Orange
The Soul of America by Jon Meacham

If you’re interested in joining the Brown Baggers Book Group, you’re welcome to come to the Central Library on the third Thursday of the month from 12-1pm and participate in our lively discussion. You can call 434.979.7151 ext. 4 for more information or send an email. Also, check out JMRL’s wiki for the book club picks from previous years.

The Brown Baggers will meet again on Thursday, January 17 at 12pm to discuss Friends Divided by Gordon S. Wood.