Book Club with a Tea Tie-In

322 Replies
Serenity said

I’m going rogue and not even looking at the Penguin guide questions, as I’ve had too much to say and ponder upon and now here’s a question for you: after Anna’s death, did you find it very jarring that the next chapter just focusses on something else? I know Tolstoy had all these different threads, but for me, that felt so jarring. Maybe it was meant to, but I felt it interfered with the momentum of the novel as a whole.

Josie Jade said

Yes, I did feel that it was very odd that the book continued on after Anna’s death. I just assumed it would end with that, or if it continued on that it would talk about the repercussions of her death and Vronsky. It was very odd to me how it went right back to the same old stuff with Levin. I agree that it interfered with the momentum. I thought it was odd how it mentioned that Oblonsky had gone back to his normal life, he and Anna seemed so close.

I guess that’s just a reflection of how ‘unimportant’ women were?

Josie Jade said

Yes, I think so Terri. I think too that there wasn’t any mental health awareness in this time period, so instead of Anna’s friends and family pondering on how they could’ve better helped her before she decided to commit suicide, they saw it as an embarrassing end to her sinful life. They probably wanted to sweep the whole situation under the rug, so to speak, and Tolstoy’s last chapter that had nothing to do with Anna just 2 short months after her death shows that the matter was over and done with.

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Serenity said

Ok, I’ve been thinking about this first question from the Penguin guide so I’m just going to go for it:
“How are we to understand the epigram “Vengeance is mine, I will repay”? Should Anna’s fate be considered the result of God’s vengeance? Is Anna’s desire to take vengeance on Vronsky being condemned?"
My take on this was: it is not our place to judge. Leave that up to God. That here is a story about all kinds of people, living their lives as best they can, making mistakes along the way. I could not help but think about Jesus when he sat there, drawing in the sand, sitting next to a woman who had sinned in the eyes of her community. Everyone was there to start stoning her because that was the punishment for her crime, right? It was legally sanctioned. He just sat there and finally asked them ok, any of you completely innocent? Any one? If you are go ahead and start stoning her…. And then everyone was all like, oh, this is awkward, and just wandered away. Ok, I’m putting it all in my own words, is that blasphemous? I honestly have no idea and mean no harm, it was just what I thought of!
Levin had ‘sinned’ and made Kitty read about it, so he’d be going into their marriage with a clean slate. I read that Tolstoy did that to his wife and she was so horrified and like, why did you make me read this?
So, lots of issues I was thinking about, in terms of innocence and judgement. Oh, my brain hurts, I think I need more tea now.

TeaRunner said

That is a very noble attitude – no judgment. We all saw, however, how much people’s opinions and judgments shaped other people’s lives in the book and how easy it was (is?) to make somebody’s life miserable with judgments alone. That serves a function – kind of a spontaneous law enforcement, I guess.
I can’t help thinking that many religious people, instead of, like Serenity rightly suggests, leaving the administration of justice to God, are even more fierce in making sure all is done according to whatever scripture they consider the prevailing one. Think stoning or abortion clinic bombings. No judgment is a wonderful rule to strive for, though!

Josie Jade said

I may be completely missing the point, but what if it is referring to Anna’s original sin of leaving her husband for Vronsky? She ultimately made a decision that affected a whole string of people in such a negative way. Was Tolstoy meaning perhaps that Anna was being punished for leaving her husband for another man? (It’s early and I’m cold and sleepy despite 2 cups of tea, so I may be way off!)

Serenity said

Yeah, I don’t know! I’m still pondering it all. I read a bit about Tolstoy and his experience with Christianity, so that may have colored my musings. Then I read something else about Tolstoy’s message being all about: if you try just to live for yourself, it does not work. If you strive only for happiness, you miss the point.
Vronsky and Anna just wanted to be happy, and I empathize with that, but they made choices that hurt themselves and many others, yes.
I have empathy for the overwhelming rush of how Anna and Vronsky felt: if you’ve ever fallen madly in love, it is like a madness, your brain actually changes! It is as though you on drugs, literally. So to be all sensible in the middle of that passion, that would take so much strength. The book made me think a lot about various things, which is one thing I love about novels, I come away with so much!

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Cavocorax said

I just wanted to add a quick note thanking Serenity and Josie Jade for the book club. I think this was a great idea, and I’m happy it got us out there reading the book. :) I’ll try and reply to the discussions after dinner, but I wanted to get that out there.

Thanks guys!

Yeah, I second that motion! It was great that you girls got this rolling, including sending out teas to go with the book! Thanks!

Serenity said

Aw, that’s so sweet! It was all Josie’s doing! Such a pleasure.

Josie Jade said

THANK YOU all for participating and to Serenity for all of her wonderful ideas regarding how to proceed! I think this book would’ve taken me years to finish if I didn’t have a Steepster deadline to meet!

And thank you to Terri HarpLady too for sending out the Czar Nikolas II tea! It was so perfectly matched to the book!

You’re welcome!
Honestly, if I hadn’t committed to our book club, I would have lost interest in the book fairly quickly, LOL, but I am glad I finished it.

Serenity said

Yes, having a deadline made me power through some of the tangent-y parts!

CK select said

Hello fellow readers, sorry I’m a little late returning for the discussion… I agree – This was a great idea and much thanks for the tea Josie! I am kind of glad others also had to power through parts of the book, and now I feel a sense of accomplishment having finally read this classic book lol. Book club power!

Serenity said

Book club power indeed! Powered by tea, love of literature, and comradery!

I’ve actually always wanted to be part of a book club, but my life is such, what with students, gigs, & family, that it isn’t really possible for me to commit to any kind of actual gathering. Inevitably, no matter what day a book club (or yoga class, etc) chooses to meet, I will end up with a gig that day more often than not. Can’t turn down money!

I gave my oldest daughter Jess my Kindle & I read on the Kindle app on my iPad, so her & I are sharing books & discussing them somewhat but I love our Steepster book club! Being able to be part of a discussion group is awesome! And I can do it from my home, in whatever free time I have! Thanks again! I’m looking forward to our next selection!

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TeaRunner said

Wait! Wait!
The tea! We only discussed the decaf/herbal version! What do you think of the other tea?!
I (greedy old thing) got not just one, but two samples from the reading club! I know, I know, but remember we said no judgment? Thank you Terri and Josie!
As I mentioned before the club made me kind of obsessed with rose teas and rose petals, so I was very glad to explore that taste, especially when combined with the caravan taste. I did not want to buy the whole box, remembering how I did not like the burned rubber taste of Lapsung Souchang. My impressions:
Czar Nicholas II Valentine tea (thank you Terri!)
The rose flavor is very distinct, you can see rose petals in the tea, but there is also a distinct taste of rose oil. I was complaining before that rose petals/buds alone don’t do it for me, this one is so intense, that I am planning to “dilute” my next cup with some more intense black tea to get it just right,
ROT Anna Karenina tea (thank you Josie):
I did not detect any rose flavor (my baseline must have been altered with the St. Valentine…) but found the wood smoke surprisingly pleasing!

Josie Jade said

I posted both of my reviews for the Russian Rose Caravan and St. Valentine’s Tea. Out of the two, my favorite was definitely the St. Valentine’s!

I liked the sound of the Russian Rose Caravan, and while it wasn’t a horrible tea I just couldn’t get past the smokey flavor. I couldn’t detect any rose flavors in the tea itself, and I am a huge rose lover so this tea just wasn’t a winner for me.

Now, the St. Valentine’s tea was perfect in my opinion! It smelled and tasted very strongly of rose, but there was a nice fruitiness present also. And the black tea base was strong enough to make it a bold, flavorful cup of tea – wonderful! I will definitely be ordering some of this blend and can’t thank Terri enough for introducing this tea. It saved the day for my tea tie-in while reading Anna K!

What did everyone else think of the tea?

Serenity said

Oh, right! The tea! Thank you Josie for the sample of TRoT Russian Rose Caravan. The first time I tried a smokey tea, I was horrified. I believe it was Russian Caravan by Peet’s. My husband loves smokey flavors, well, he smokes a PIPE! He belongs to a pipe club in real life! He needs a pipester! But, all that was in the past and I was very eager to try the sample. I brewed a cup for my husband, straight nothing added. I think he could really taste the smoke; he loved it. He said so seriously how good it was. I made mine with milk, plenty of milk! The smoke flavor was so faint that way, it was almost as if there were a fireplace nearby, or someone in the neighborhood had her wood burning stove going; a sweet, smokey hint. The rose flavor, I don’t know if I could really pick it up, but there was a sweet, floral note going on that was very nice.

Cavocorax said

I tried the Republic of Tea sample and I enjoyed it. I think it helps that I enjoy lapsang souchong, so this was a muted version for me, mixed with delicate roses to contrast the harsh smoke.

Hmmm. Now looking at metaphors, I could say that the rose represents the character’s passion, while the smoke threatens to overwhelm it, much like societal pressures.

Being an English major is fun sometimes.

it is so much fun listening to the discussion :)

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TeaRunner said

A good one!

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Serenity said

I love reading everyone’s comments here. Each person has a such an important point to make. I just want to call out: any steepsters out there who did not finish the book but want to join the discussion? In the book club I’m in (a meet up group) if one has not finished the book, one cannot attend the book club meeting. I am just going to go ahead and say my opinion: no worries if you have not finished, if you’d like to chime in or talk about the tea(s) you’ve tried, please feel free! That being said, I can understand not wanting to have the ending spoiled if you are still reading, or plan to pick the book up again in future! : )

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Serenity said

I looked at the rest of the questions in the Penguin guide, and in a way, I feel as though our free flowing discussion threads have touched upon many of the issues within the questions. If there are any questions from that guide you want us to discuss, please go ahead and post. For me, the last two questions under the heading For Further Reflection will stay with me for quite some time, I think:

“For Further Reflection”

“What should we take into account when trying to balance responsibility to ourselves with responsibility to others?

To what extent does a society determine which of our individual desires can be satisfied?"

I think we’ve already touched upon this, but I think the themes here really resonated with me. I look back at when this novel was written and I’m impressed with not just how different life was then, but how similar. I know a woman who fell in love with a man, but she was already married. He was, too. She had a daughter. He had a son. It was so painful for her, and for all involved, she did not ask for this to happen, she felt so blindsided. People judged her when she began to divorce her husband and they knew she had fallen in love. Well, now my friend is happily married to this man, she shares custody with her ex husband, and life is not without its difficulties, but she does not regret her choice. Even people quite close to her judged her, behind her back. Certain friends cut her out of their lives, siding with her ex. I believe she is a happier person than she would have been if she had stayed with her husband. By the way this isn’t me lol saying ‘my friend’ as a disguise for me! :) I think what was my favorite thing about this novel was how very real the characters seemed: that takes a lot of art, skill, imagination, and empathy!

Josie Jade said

Thanks for sharing that story about your friend, Serenity. That really is almost a parallel with the story in the book. I am happy that your friend’s situation worked out and it kind of shows that society has progressed in the fact that your friend was at least able to obtain a divorce and remarry the man she fell in love with. It sounds like it was difficult during the divorce since everyone was judging her but that she has been able to move on. I think in the time period of the book that it was pretty much impossible for Anna to move on and to not care what people thought.

AK reminds me of Bridges of Madison County. Quite the opposite of this tho!

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CK select said

Those are interesting questions… not easily answered.

I think people ought to think about responsibility to others but ultimately have more responsibility for themselves. In the end, no one has control over yourself except you. Any decisions I make, I want to know that I can live with it and am willing to accept consequences that come from it so if I make a decision that’s against what society deems acceptable I hope I’d have thought it through. I do think it doesn’t work if you live all one way (either being selfish or self-sacrificing).

Some people don’t care what society thinks, so I think that society determines only so much as a person cares what society thinks and lets that affect their personal decisions. I mean, we have criminals so we know that individual desires trump society for some people.

Josie Jade said

I agree with you CK, about living all one way. I don’t judge Anna for leaving Karenin to be with Vronsky, but I do wish she had not been plagued by so many jealousies and ultimately taking her life. I think to an extent you need to do what makes you happy even if it hurts other people’s feelings. But I also think you need to take responsibility for your actions and stick to them even if it’s not what you thought it was going to be.

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Josie Jade said

I think we should take suggestions and vote for a new book/tea club pairing. We can still discuss Anna K, but picking a new book now will give everyone a chance to order the book and to get the tea out. Once we choose I will start a new thread for that book. Any suggestions!?

Josie Jade said

I’ve noticed a lot of people have talked about Life of Pi, and there is a Republic of Tea that goes along with this too. Thoughts?

Book:
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/life-of-pi-martel-yann/1114077507?
ean=9780547848419

I can’t find the tea online, but I know that it is available in some World Market stores

Josie Jade said

Serenity has also mentioned the No. 1 Ladies Detective Series by Alexander McCall Smith. We also already have the tea for this one – The Republic of Tea was kind enough to send it to us when we mentioned that we were doing a book club based off of their Anna K. tea. :)

Book:
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/no-1-ladies-detective-agency-alexander-mccall-smith/1100321500?ean=9781400034772

Tea (We have this one):
http://www.republicoftea.com/Speedy-Motors-Breakfast-Black-Tea-Bags/p/V01099/

Also a rooibos version available:
http://www.republicoftea.com/Precious’-Cup-of-Comfort-Vanilla-Red-Bush-Tea-Bags/p/V01098/

Serenity said

Yes, I have two TRoT samples to share: Precious’ Cup of Comfort Vanilla Red Bush and 97%, the Grace Makutsi inspired blend of green rooibos, ginger and a little red rooibos (bush). I can provide the link for that, too. While supplies last! Regardless of what we read!

For what it is worth, I have already read the No. 1 Ladies Detective Series books, and I’ve read The Life of Pi. If the consensus is for either of these books I will happily read it, but I am hoping some new-to-me books are suggested, too.

I’ve really been enjoying everyone’s insights into different aspects of Anna Karenina.

Although I have a backlog of vampire, wizard, & other fantasy books in my cue, plus the entire Sherlock Holmes collection (thanks to Nik! It’s free at Amazon!) & have started reading ‘Cold Days’, the latest Dresden Files book, I’m in for another book club selection! My vote is for Memoirs of Geisha, which I’ve wanted to read for some time. On the other hand, I’ll be glad to read whatever the group selects!
I haven’t read the #1 ladies detective books, although I enjoyed the tv series. I haven’t seen the movie Life of Pi, so between those 2, I’m thinking Life of Pi maybe, although either one would be fine!

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TeaRunner said

I just had a good chuckle that I’d like to share. I did some random search on books with “tea” in their titles and one of the results was
“Tea of Ulaanbaatar”. So far so good, right? Sounds right, geographically at least. I went on to investigate further. The “tea” turns out to be “A hallucinegenic blood tea (that) blinds them to harsh winters, homeless, starving and drunken natives, lack of electricity or health care and cruel isolation.”
Not exactly what we had in mind, right? But I just had to share the chuckle!

Serenity said

How funny! Now I actually kind of want to read it, fearfully!
Good idea to look up tea titles, though!

Josie Jade said

Wow, sounds very interesting. Not really light reading material, though! Hahaha

Josie Jade said

Ok, so far we have the following suggestions:

-Life of Pi
-The No. One Ladies Detective Agency
-Memoirs of a Geisha

Any others? Please send in your votes by either this thread or you can PM me suggestions/votes also. Let’s give it until Wednesday and then we’ll make the final decision for the next book based on feedback.

Serenity said

Books to consider:
These have been highly recommended to me and are on my to read list:
The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones: “What opens as an amusing Edwardian country house tale soon becomes a sinister tragicomedy of errors…” —Jacqueline Winspear
By Blood by Ellen Ullman: “Extrodinary…This fascinating tale leaves the reader wondering about the line between science and art, analysis and feeling. It is a novel set twenty years ago, yet perfect for our time.” —Lynne Perri, USA Today

Serenity said

Another book to consider: (especially if you are a Downton Abbey fan!)
American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin:
Summary "Be careful what you wish for. Traveling abroad with her mother at the turn of the twentieth century to seek a titled husband, beautiful, vivacious Cora Cash, whose family mansion in Newport dwarfs the Vanderbilts’, suddenly finds herself Duchess of Wareham, married to Ivo, the most eligible bachelor in England. Nothing is quite as it seems, however: Ivo is withdrawn and secretive, and the English social scene is full of traps and betrayals. Money, Cora soon learns, cannot buy everything, as she must decide what is truly worth the price in her life and her marriage. Witty, moving, and brilliantly entertaining, Cora’s story marks the debut of a glorious storyteller who brings a fresh new spirit to the world of Edith Wharton and Henry James. “For daughters of the new American billionaires of the 19th century, it was the ultimate deal: marriage to a cash-strapped British Aristocrat in return for a title and social status. But money didn’t always buy them happiness.” -DAISY GOODWIN IN THE DAILY MAIL"- Provided by publisher.

Alphakitty said

I’ve been wanting to read the Life of Pi for a while, but they all sound pretty great—especially American Heiress, never heard of it but the summary sounds very intriguing.

Serenity said

-Life of Pi: Read it!
-The No. One Ladies Detective Agency: Read it!
-Memoirs of a Geisha: Read it!
(Will re-read if consensus chooses one of these, of course!)

Serenity said

I read a good review of this one in a blog I follow: The Painted Girls by Cathy Buchanan: historical, French, Degas…Am I already suggesting too many books? It’s just that…I…well, I LOVE to read!
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-painted-girls-cathy-marie-buchanan/1112185234?ean=9781594486241

TeaRunner said

The more suggestions, the more informed our choice will be.
This one sounds like fun.

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