PART I

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March 29, 2012 at 2:01 pm #318

Paola

Which of the two main characters do you sympathize with more?

A discussion question for you: (from the official reading group guide)

The novel’s setting and strong sense of place seem to echo its mood and themes. What role does the wintry Wisconsin landscape play? And the very different, opulent setting of St. Louis?

 


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April 4, 2012 at 6:35 am #330

Alix

My part I of the book doesn’t include St-Louis so I can only talk about the section of the book that happens in Wisconsin until Catherine arrives in St-Louis.

At first I was really intrigued. I wanted to know more about what horrible thing Ralph had done to be sunned by the rest of the village. I wanted to know what had happened to Ralph to write for a wife. I wanted to know why Catherine accepted, what her grand plan was and why she was doing this. Unfortunately I was pretty disappointed by the explanations. I really enjoyed Ralph’s story of his abusive mother, enabling father and his love story with Emilia and the tragic ending. I think it explained his brokenness and the judgement of the town’s people towards him. Catherine’s story on the other hand I didn’t find quite satisfying. Her past is still very much unclear and while her motivation is clear that she wants to kill Ralph and inherit his fortune so she can run off with her “lover”, whenever she refers to that “lover” it has a negative ton to it which makes me question why she is doing this.

Overall I’m still having the same issue with the box that every other page, heck paragraph, turns back to sex, sexual desires, characters thinking about how they would have sex, and it’s just a bit much for me. I think there’s a way to incorporate sexual desire and sexual repression in a book in a less jarring way. Aside from that, I’m also not enjoying how slow paced and repetitive the book has been so far. I’m hoping the slow paced is to mimic the slowness of the life in Wisconsin and that the pace picks up in St-Louis. I also found that once some of the characters pasts and desires were revealed, nothing much else was elaborated and the author kept coming back to those same points.

I’m looking forward to the St-Louis section. I’ve very intrigued by the introduction of Ralph’s most likely illegitimate son who he wants to bring home and what that will mean for Catherine’s plan.


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April 5, 2012 at 10:27 pm #332

Paola

“I think there’s a way to incorporate sexual desire and sexual repression in a book in a less jarring way.” I agree, Alix! I also feel that the slow pace is supposed to bring the reader more in tune with the monotony of life in rural Wisconsin during winter, and I guess the frenetic amount of sexual thoughts from the characters is supposed to serve a similar purpose. Still, it bugs me about this book.

Right now I don’t know who I sympathize with more. I mean, the natural tendency is to feel sorry for Ralph, who is getting the raw end of the deal thanks to Catherine’s gold digging scheme. Except, I know there’s probably something else in the background that I don’t know about him yet, so I’m reserving my judgements for now.

I think the author is holding back on Catherine’s history in order to unwind it through the rest of the book… I’m about halfway at this point. What I do like about his handling of Catherine’s character is that he makes her believable. I was under the impression that Catherine would be this stone cold bitch, but the author renders her more human by showing that she has fears and uncertainties about herself and even about the plan that she formulated to get Ralph’s money. She can be thrown off balance and doubt herself. This makes her a lot more interesting; she keeps me guessing, and I kind of hate her for what she wants to do to Ralph, but at the same time I find that there’s a part of her I sympathize with.


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April 10, 2012 at 3:23 pm #334

Jinny

I haven’t been to the St. Louis part either, but with wintry Wisconsin, I think it kind of shows how Catherine and Ralph are “stuck” with one another in this situation now. They are isolated from the town, and the cold winter-ness of it all shows how the two characters are not warm to one another; they don’t know one another at all. Thinking about it now, it would be kind of perfect if the book ended happily in a summer season to contrast the beginning!

As for the characters, I feel more sympathy for Ralph but only because we have the entire backstory for him. Catherine’s backstory is still more or less under wraps so it’s difficult for me to feel sorry for her. Plus, it’s already been revealed that she’s a gold digger, sooooo … I guess it’s just easier to want to support Ralph instead, even if he is sex-obsessed ;P


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April 26, 2012 at 9:48 am #339

Marjorie

The Wisconsin setting was one of my favorite parts of this book. (Maybe because I have an obsession with snow, since I don’t see any of it.) I like the slow pace, the stark winters that nearly blind you, and the ordinary people that live there. I think it paints a picture of how isolated and lonely Ralph feels living there.

Ralph’s back story explained a lot about his character, which was a relief because the author was definitely pulling for a sorrowful character but until now didn’t back it up substantially. I do feel sorry for him still, but I saw this is where he will likely change as the story plays out. At this point I was still struggling to figure out if Ralph was a nymphomaniac or the author just likes to refer to everything with sex.

I was more curious about Catherine at this point, and I was hoping she would have a change of heart before making Ralph the saddest part of the book if her plan succeeds. After reading his back story, I felt he deserved to be happy.


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April 27, 2012 at 1:44 am #343

Jinny

Marjorie:
At this point I was still struggling to figure out if Ralph was a nymphomaniac or the author just likes to refer to everything with sex.

I was totally thinking that to myself at that part too! “Is he just a guy who really likes sex? Or is he a nymphomaniac?!”


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April 27, 2012 at 9:29 am #347

Alix

Jinny: I was totally thinking that to myself at that part too! “Is he just a guy who really likes sex? Or is he a nymphomaniac?!”

Haha me too!


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