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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Discussion of No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod

A member, J.B.,  played three Scottish Highland tunes on her violin setting the mood for the discussion of this novel that memorializes a small group of Cape Breton immigrants and the large clan of descendants.  Members all loved the book and were moved by characters especially the grandparents and the narrator's older brother: Calum. Historic events give an outline to their story...but it is through the details about their interaction with the natural world of Cape Breton and each other that  readers come to learn about and care for these people.  Members remarked that the animal stories were particularly powerful.

Members also noted that  the  origin stories are passed down and  retold and how they become myths that each successive generation shares. Red hair, first names, dark eyes, strength of character, can all be traced back to their Scottish Clan's great great great grandfather.  Even the character traits of the author's childhood dog "caring too much and trying too hard"  is said to be inherited from its Scottish ancestor.

The narrator reads a slogan on a T-shirt:  "Living in the past is not living up to our potential."  Yet all of the characters are attached to their past, their history, and to each other.  Contrasting with modern isolation, the warmth of the past draws them back to Cape Breton in memory  and, whenever they can, in reality.  Potential?  The narrator and his sister...the lucky/unlucky ones... reached success in the modern world...but whenever the reader glimpses that modern world it seems empty.

Although a British General James Wolf said that it was no great mischief if the Highlanders fell in battle; thus the title, each death, each disappearance in this novel feels a great loss to the reader.

Highly recommended by all.

Oh by the way:  Margaret Laurence's book: The Diviners mentioned in No Great Mischief is highly recommended by a member:  J.P.

And...we now are challenging ourselves to come up with musical intros to each book...glad it isn't food as some groups I have heard of do!

Found this book club review...

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