by Susan Withee, Adult Services Manager
With the holiday season behind us and 2015 ahead, Manhattan Public Library is happy to resume monthly readers’ events for adults and will again host our annual winter series of TALK book discussion programs. The TALK series, “Talk About Literature in Kansas,” is a service of the Kansas Humanities Council and is sponsored at MPL again this year by the Manhattan Library Association. Avid readers will meet on the last Thursday of each month from January through April at 7:00 p.m. in the Library’s Groesbeck Room and will explore a different book each month, guided by knowledgeable and insightful discussion leaders from the KHC. Please join us for any one, all four, or as many of the discussions as your schedule will allow.
This year’s ambitious theme is British Literary Classics of the 19th Century, and our selections are “Emma” by Jane Austen, “Far from the Madding Crowd” by Thomas Hardy, “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens, and “The Mill on the Floss” by George Eliot. These authors represent the great age of British novelists and our four novels are among the best of the era. They were written as the Industrial Revolution began to transform England forever and usher in the upheaval, uncertainty, and excitement of the modern age. Copies of the featured books are available for checkout at the Library’s Information Desk and available in free down-loadable e-book format from Project Gutenberg. And for reluctant readers, or those of you in a time crunch, the good news is that all four of our selections are also available from the library in DVD format!
First up, on Thursday, January 29, is “Emma,” Jane Austen’s beloved comedy of manners. Lovely, privileged, and headstrong Emma Woodhouse is the doyenne of her small county society. She takes a keen interest in the affairs of her neighbors and enlivens her quiet, uneventful life with efforts at match-making. The characters in Emma’s circle are drawn with good-natured humor, the plot entertains, and the dialogue sparkles. In the end, Emma finds out the hard way that people don’t fall in love according to plan, but the outcome is happier than even she could have planned.
In “Far from the Madding Crowd,” February’s book selection, beautiful, willful, and independent Bathsheba Everdene attracts the passionate attentions of three very different suitors in a 19th century English village. Like her biblical namesake, the choices she unwittingly makes cause catastrophe for the men who love her and particular heartbreak for Gabriel Oak, a man of stalwart courage and integrity. Set against a backdrop of the lush English countryside and the rhythms of rural life, this is an absorbing, beautifully descriptive, character-driven masterpiece.
For March 26th, we’ll read Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations,” the story of orphaned Pip, his desperate early years, his struggles to overcome his past, and his dreams of becoming a gentleman. Drawing on Dickens’ frequent themes of Victorian wealth and poverty, love and rejection, weakness or strength of character, and the eventual triumph of good over evil, the novel weaves multiple storylines into a tight plot, imagines scenes rich in comedy and pathos, and introduces a succession of unforgettable characters.
We’ll finish up on Thursday, April 30, with “The Mill on the Floss” by George Eliot. The most autobiographical of all Eliot’s novels, this is a tale of English rural life, rival families, and sibling relationships. As a child, Maggie Tulliver is independent and intellectually curious, but her thirst for knowledge and desire for meaningful relationships is eclipsed by family financial calamity and thwarted by her conventional rural community. As she grows to womanhood, tensions with her family and community increase, and the novel explores the conflicts of love and loyalty and between desire and responsibility.
Please join us to discuss the first book in this winter series, Jane Austen’s “Emma,” on Thursday, January 29th, at 7:00 p.m. in the library’s Groesbeck Room.