By Wayson Choy
As part of the reading for my local library book club, we read the lovely, poignant story of The Jade Peony, by Wayson Choy. Set in
I read it again for the book club and it was the second reading for many in the group as well. I still loved it, but it’s a very different experience to read a book for your book club rather than simply reading on your own, especially if you’re lucky enough (as I am) to belong to one with people who not only love to read, but who have opinions and love to voice them!
Most of us liked the book very much, for various reasons: learning something about the Chinese culture; seeing the world from a child’s perspective; strong characterization; beautiful language; learning some history through fiction rather than non-fiction. We all agreed that although the book is set more than 70 years ago, about a culture that is different from most of us there that day, many of the ideas that Choy explores are universal. Family loyalty, racial prejudice, fitting in, and the role of women in society are as relevant today as they were then. He shows us how much we are the same, despite our differences.
Each month this book club reads and discusses a work of fiction (usually). We vote on the selection of books for the coming year and are quite honest in our thoughts about the book. By-and-large, it is a generous, forthright group of people who are not afraid to share their ideas and to perhaps learn something in the process. I count myself very fortunate to be a part of such a lively, intelligent community of readers and look forward to the next discussion.
November’s selection: The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery.