Reading with friends enhances the your book delight. Here, at least in a book club, are allies who not only listen to your ravings (positive or otherwise) about your latest read, but they have their own thoughts about it. You do not have to convince any of them to read the books, because, oh sweet relief! They already have.
Whether you’re an avid reader searching for kindred spirits, in need of a night out, or simply wanting to read more; a good book club fits the bill.
The Tea Hags (or, the THs) Book Club held our monthly meeting just this past weekend. Our September reading selection was a challenge, albeit an intriguing novel that left us all with plenty to discuss! The book? Nobel prize winner Jose Saramago’s book “Blindness“.
“Blindness” is a speculative novel that toys with a rather scary “what if?”. If an epidemic of blindness were to suddenly and inexplicably hit a city, what would happen? How would people react? Banished to a mental hospital the first victims must survive as civilization crumbles around them, leaving only the best- but often the very worst- of their fellow inmates to contend with.
Let the reviews begin!
Kate’s (Yup, That’s Me) Review
Overall, I did not enjoy this book. Was it well-written? Yes. Did it capture my interest? Absolutely. Were there dynamic characters and an interesting plot? Affirmative to both. While different from my normal book selection I enjoy a challenge, and reading outside of my comfort zone is one reason why I’m in book club. Ultimately though, one third into the novel I put the book down.
Why you might ask? Although the style of “Blindness” was unique (warning: the lack of usual punctuation and the narrator’s detached voice take some getting used to) my decision to put the book down was rooted elsewhere. Going in I knew that this would be a dark book. After all, what story with characters going into a decrepit, long neglected mental hospital ever ends well? Sensing the horrors awaiting the doctor, his wife and company (violence, rape, and starvation to name a few) I could read no more. Call me a wimp, but I have a very hard time even reading about such things. Saramago doesn’t exactly scrimp on the details either. No veil is drawn over such scenes in the story. You, as the reader, have a front seat to all the suffering the characters must endure to the very end of the book. After awhile I choose not to suffer along with them.
Am I sorry then to have read “Blindness”? Decidedly no. It provided ample food for thought. At the very least I can add it to my list of “Oh yes, actually I have read that one” should I ever wish to impress someone because all in all, it’s still an impressive book.
Imagine that every single human being is blind. That thought serves as the premise for the allegorical novel, Blindness, by José Saramago. If there was no one to turn on the power or keep the sewers flowing, what would we do without fridges and furnaces, or flushing toilets? If there was no one to drive the trucks or fly the planes that carry the food we pull from the grocery store shelf, what would we eat? More importantly, what would we do if there was no one to see us doing them? To what lengths would we go to keep family, or even just body and soul, together? What social mores would we abandon, what morality would survive if no one could see who was cheating, hurting, stealing, or killing?
This is the situation Saramago creates, and it is chilling, inescapable. There are no heroes and villains in the usual sense. There are only survivors. The characters, who remain nameless, are deeply flawed. Sometimes their choices are good, sometimes appalling. The voice throughout remains clinical and distant, inviting you to remain outside the situation, to issue judgment on their behaviour. And you do.
You feel, by turns, critical, even outraged, shocked, and then, saddened by what they do, by what they must do. The invitation is a trick, though, because soon, it becomes clear that your judgment, too, is flawed, blinded by your own prejudices and limited vision. The people you would first dismiss as bad make good choices. The good and upright make bad choices, and many just make whatever choice seems least evil, whatever choice is necessary to survive.
And then, to turn the proverbial knife in our judgmental souls, Saramago tells us, “Fear can cause blindness…we were already blind the moment we turned blind, fear struck us blind, fear will keep us blind.” At this point, you are forced to turn your vision inward and ask yourself, what would I do in this situation? Would I be able to be a hero? Would I take advantage and be a villain? Or would I just survive? Is surviving enough? Finally, we must ask the question: To what extent am I already blind? To what extent do I want to remain blind? And what is the cost of seeing?
If you need more book suggestions (perhaps for your one book club), there are more Tea Hag reviews from our May, and June meetings. Up next, some of our top picks from over the years, and befroe I started blogging. Much reading delight awaits!
Until next time then, happy reading to you all.