Last week we had a very good discussion of Lucy Beckett's new novel, The Leaves are Falling. In a word, we thought it was great! However, a few did comment that it got a bit didactic at times. In effect, Beckett uses the story line in the novel to express her deeply held Christian beliefs and theology. She also presents a haunting portrait of two of the most terrible atrocities of the Second World War; one committed by the Nazi's and the second by the Soviets. The first atrocity is described by Josef, a young Jewish boy whose family was murdered by Nazi death squads who visited his village, Vilna. The second story line is told by Josef's father, Jacob, a Polish Army doctor captured by the Soviets and taken to a place called Katyn, where he and 8000 of his fellow Polish officers were massacred. We were deeply impressed by the meticulous research done by Lucy Beckett in recreating the thriving pre-War Jewish population of Vilna in Lithuania, the Soviet prison camps and the dreary streets of post-war London while simultaneously charting the political and spiritual struggles of ordinary people caught up in horrific events that were always beyond their control. This book serves as a stark reminder of the evils unleashed on the civilized world by both the Nazis and the Soviets. It is also a moving testament to the courage and humanity of those who managed to live through it. The novel is high on our list of "must read" Catholic literature!
And now, a few comments about our next novel. We will continue our reading about the horrors of the Soviet system and the people affected by that Godless enterprise. We will read Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s classic novel, In The First Circle. “The novel was published with great acclaim in the West in 1968. Written in the mid-1950s just after Solzhenitsyn’s eight years in the gulag, his nearly fatal bout with cancer, and his sentence to “perpetual” exile in Kazakhstan, this novel of tyranny and transcendence, set in a secret Soviet prison research facility, appears for the first time in full and in sterling English, following the Nobel laureate’s death at age 89 in 2008. In this many-voiced, flashback-rich, philosophical, suspenseful, ironic, and wrenching tale, Solzhenitsyn interleaves the stories of a grand matrix of compelling characters (women are accorded particular compassion) trapped in a maze of toxic lies, torturous absurdities, and stark brutality.” (From review by Booklist)
We will read the novel in two parts as follows:
October: Chapters 1-48 (Pages 1-367)
November: Chapters 40-79 (Pages 368-729)
And to remind, our next meeting will be on Wednesday, October 8th, 2015, at 7:00 pm in the St. Thomas More Library at the Church of St. Michael in Stillwater, MN.