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kmensing
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Re: Chapters 10 through 13



KxBurns wrote:
I was just looking over the thread for chapter 1 and was reminded of Ginny's comment about having children: "But Vivi herself was still a child. She hadn't yet developed those womanly urges to hold her newborn, to feel and need their dependence, and to realize that that was what life was all about and nothing else mattered. Nor had I..."
 
We have to reconcile this observation by present-day Ginny with her response to Vivi's anguish over being unable to have children on the ridge walk, when she thinks: "It had seemed such a small price to pay for her life."
 
What do you think? Does it point to Ginny having agreed to Vivi's request?


Message Edited by KxBurns on 03-08-2008 04:17 PM


In my mind, I can't get over this request.  Here is a family of scientists.  Clive is determined to breed the perfect imperfection--so there is knowledge of birth defects, whether it be insect, animal or human.  So what bugs me is---if they all think something is wrong with Ginny---Why does Vivi want her to give them a baby?  Isn't anyone worried about inherited birth defects?
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gosox
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Re: Chapters 10 through 13

I initially felt sympathy for Ginny when I read the passage of her discovery of Maud and her comment that she had "let [Maud] down," (111)  however, as I made my way through  the next chapter, I find that I now have conflicting feelings about Ginny.

 

Ginny declares that she understands how she got so caught up in her work that she didn’t notice Maud’s descent,  but she also states that she does not make excuses for the problems that arose from her obsession. (110) Like others who have commented, these chapters seem to portray a far more lucid or calculating Ginny than I feel we have seen before. As narrator, she seems to be trying to convince the reader to understand her actions. On page 110 she states “you must believe me,” and again on page 121 she confides to the reader, “I’ll tell you something now, . . . and I can only hope that you’ll try to understand why I felt it.” Is she trying to garner our sympathies for an event that she is slowly revealing to us?

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bookhunter
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Re: Chapters 10 through 13

Oldesq wrote:
"The problem with The Sister is that there is too much weirdness here. Every single encounter is fraught with weirdness and all of a different type. Ms. Adams seems to be setting us up for a grand climactic event, a denouement which the reader already fears is unlikely to satisfactorily resolve this world. Some novels are able to include a cast of quirky characters - Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil has already been mentioned or the denizens of the Pequod in Moby Dick. But in a successful book, these characters are mere window dressing that add a colorful depth to a well developed core story. However, the characters in these side stories can't carry their own baggage as they would sap energy from the main plot-- here, these extras are packed for a round the world tour:..."
 
Everyman wrote:
 
"Excellent post. I agree.

It's like meal that is all strong spices and no base food to balanced the spices against. We need some normal characters to balance the weirdness against; pure weirdness quickly palls. But we don't have any. There doesn't seem to be a single normal, healthy person in the whole story."
 
They ARE a bunch of oddballs.  The reader does not have a character to "relate to" unless it is an understanding of what it is like to live with an alcoholic or someone with some other single-minded obsession.
 
To me, the enjoyment of the novel is coming from Ginny's unique voice and unique perspective.  Her narration reveals much about her outlook on the world, and this would not be the same had the book been written in third person.  (I like spicy food!)  I did not know the term unrelieable narrator before beginning this discussion, but her unreliability makes it something of a puzzle to figure out what is reality as it has filtered through Ginny.  and once you get a grasp of how Ginny "sees" the world, you CAN kind of relate to her and follow her reasoning. (Not that you have to AGREE with her.)
 
Everyman and Peppermill, I agree with your comments about older epic novels originally serialized lending themselves easier to this type of analysis.  I am one who read the book through and then returned to the boards to discuss, and would say this is my favorite "First Look" book.  As I go back through to examine chapters more closely I am getting more insight into the characters and the writer's craft.
 
The tone of the book seems to be that Ginny is relating the story to someone, and that type narration would be done over a short amount of time.  Even the timespan in the (current) story is just a few days.
 
Go finish the book!:smileyhappy:
 
Ann, bookhunter
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bookhunter
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Re: Chapters 10 through 13

This book does not have the beautiful language of some other books, nor many passages that are especially quotable.  But I do love the description of winter on page 132:  "I like its contradictions:  cold but cozy, sparse but beautiful, lifeless but not soulless."
 
Do you all think this is a good description of Ginny as well--full of contradictions?
 
Ann, bookhunter
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pheath
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Re: Chapters 10 through 13



KxBurns wrote:


pheath wrote:

The "partnership" between Ginny and Maud is something that Ginny seems to do with good intentions. It seems like a leap to me to equate this to a parasitic relationship where she is trying to take advantage of Maud.


I do think Ginny's enabling of Maud's alcoholism is partially motivated by a combination love and guilt -- but Ginny herself says that she's ashamed to admit that she enjoyed the intimacy that their shared secret allowed, an intimacy that mimics Maud's formerly close relationship with Vivi. And Ginny says she doesn't just enjoy it but she looks forward to it. To me, this is parasitic in that she is benefitting from Maud's worsening illness and she knows it. She may not be taking advantage per se, but she is thriving on Maud's weakness.
I might discount it still were it not for her reaction to Vivi's moments of neediness, from which Ginny also extracts strength/enjoyment. Is it a coincidence that the time period when Ginny appears the most coherent and "normal" is also a time of great need for her mother and sister?
What I'm getting at is that I just have a hunch that Ginny is going to turn out to be the cannibal. It's sort of like how the cannibal moths have "just got a look about them," according to Vivi -- we can just tell that something is off with Ginny but we're struggling to put a precise name on it.





I guess I might be splitting hairs, but Ginny's other motives of protecting Maud from the Clive and Vivi finding out and vice versa give me difficulty with thinking of this as a parasitic relationship. While her actions are not from a pure heart, I wouldn't describe them that way.
-Philip
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krb2g
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Re: Chapters 10 through 13

Peppermill,

I think this question is great. My response is very general in places, and I really do apologize for over-simplifying and sweeping statements.

First of all, I would think modern authors are generally writing for a bigger audience then ever before (the world's population has grown, the world's English-speaking population has grown [think of all the former British colonies], and the world's literate population has grown, especially in first world countries). Books are cheap, especially with the development first of the paperback (which is not to say I don't love hardcover books [especially old ones] or illuminated manuscripts for that matter [not that I could afford them]) and, more recently, print-on-demand technology. With the changes in the demographics of the reading public, the things authors can rely on have changed too. The idea of a literary canon has been deconstructed to such an extent (and religious belief in the English-speaking world become so diverse), as an author, you could hardly rely on everyone picking up on allusions that you could have made easily one hundred or three hundred years ago (that is, echoing Homer, Virgil, the King James Bible, or the Book of Common Prayer). When Laurence Sterne quoted the Enchridion (a classic work of Greek stoicism) on his title page to the first two volumes of Tristram Shandy, he didn't bother to translate it, or even cite it, an act which implies to me that he counted on his reading public being familiar with that class of Greek literature. I think the discussion on these boards has emphasized this point: I've seen a lot of people bring in a lot of very smart literary allusions that might be intentional on Ms. Adams's part, or might be the sort of happy coincidences in which people who love literature take delight--but these allusions can often be very hit-or-miss in terms of people picking up on them, because people are familiar with such a wide range of literature, that doesn't always overlap. Authors can no longer rely on their readers having (suffered) through a classical education.

In terms of the specific questions of mode of publication (serialization) and pacing, I think these questions are very specific to the time of publication and intentions of the author. Lots of modernist writers sought to create structures in their books that would require readers to re-read large sections (if not the whole thing) over and over again. Faulkner did it brilliantly in Absalom, Absalom!, Joyce did it in Ulysses (a book which itself was published serially until it was banned), and Nabokov did it in Pale Fire (perhaps a novel despite the fact that the text consists of an introduction, a 999-line poem in heroic couplets, a series of annotations to the poem and an index [note: Pale Fire uses butterflies and butterfly imagery quite successfully]). Based on Ms. Adams's structuring of the book into parts, and then using each part to move forward a day in "present time" as well as back into an increasingly clear past, I think she invites the reader to re-read and re-visit former sections like some of the other authors I have mentioned. If we find ourselves frustrated with the step-by-step analysis the method of "serializing" this book into sections to allow everyone to keep up has encouraged us to take, I think Peppermill's questions are one productive line of interrogating the text, but I also think we should consider the possibility that perhaps there's not as much here as in some of the other books I have mentioned.

Whether or not people speed read is probably personal on some level (and I might guess, happens more in the era of television/internet/information overload/instant gratification--but here's more rampant speculation) but is also a function of the text. Sometimes people who aren't used to reading poetry will skim it if it appears in an otherwise-prose text (I was one of those people the first several times I read Tolkien). I would guess people are more likely to skim when the material seems irrelevant. Also, some texts refuse to be skimmed. If you skimmed Faulkner or Joyce, I find it hard to believe you would be able to understand anything--sometimes texts are so obtuse (through hard words, long and complicated sentences, etc.) that they require all or nothing in terms of attention. I don't happen to think this book is written in a particularly difficult style to follow, hence it would be fairly easy for me to skim.

[continuation of Pale Fire note: apropos of the butterflies, not moths, on the cover--was anyone else struck by the insistence on moths as opposed to butterflies? I understand that they're different types of creatures, but the butterfly is used as a redemptive image in so many types of literature; perhaps moths are much easier/more popular to study than butterflies, but I also think we should keep in mind that Ms. Adams's has come close to but avoided using the butterfly].



Peppermill wrote:
I am reaching the point of asking if modern writing lends itself as well to this step-by-step analysis as earlier works. E.g., is today's author writing for readers that have different expectations about the pace of a book than earlier authors could assume? Do more people speed read at least parts of a book? Does that impact the pacing the author provides? Does a book have a rhythm of its own and, if it does, what happens when that rhythm is disturbed? Or, what are the other questions we might ask about the impact of this very interesting step-by-step approach to reading to the reading experience itself?

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BookWoman718
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Re: Chapters 10 through 13

[ Edited ]
Sorry for these comments being a bit out of order, but the first thing I'd like to say is that comparisons of killing (even 25,000) insects to Nazi atrocities is really inappropriate, to say nothing of unthinking.  There are literally millions of insects in any backyard.  Did you never treat a vegetable garden with insecticides, or how about spraying your roses?  Any idea of the number of aphids you probably killed ?   Must I say a prayer for treating my foundation against termites?   Let's be clear:  killing insects - even if you have to do it one by one, and by hand, is so far from mass murder and/or genocide that the topics should hardly appear on the same bookshelf, much less in the same sentence. 
 
Beyond that, in these chapters we get a few insights into the different versions of the family which the two sisters hold.  Clive, I think, is shown clearly to be a person who turns a blind eye to that which he might find difficult to deal with.   He must know Maud is a drunk - he lives in the same house - but he doesn't step up to take any of the burden off his young daughter, just as he didn't watch out for her in a roomful of men to be sure no one was making unwanted advances.   Maud, I think, has no great tragedy at this point.  She's beyond her youthful prime, her children are grown, her husband is disinterested, the money is dwindling.  She's bored and lonely and for whatever reason hasn't figured out a way to create a life she would like better.  (There are LOTS of people like her.)  A drink is an easy companion.  Two, three, or six more are even easier.   Then you can get sleepy, or you can get slutty, or you can get junk yard mean.   If it's your daughter who is left to be seeing you at your worst instead of up there on that pedestal where you always thought you'd be,  you're probably going to get mean.  All that I found pretty believable. 
 
Vivi's request of Ginny was entirely selfish.  She is asking her unmarried sister to have sexual relations with her brother-in-law on a regular basis until such time as she might get impregnated, and then go through the physical and emotional burdens of unmarried pregnancy, and then turn the child over to be raised by her sister, during which time Ginny's own child would be calling her 'aunt.'   How is that not selfish?   But for me, apart from the breathtaking selfishness of the request, I found it unbelievable that Vivi, who has been showing all these signs of thinking something's 'wrong' with Ginny, would ask her to bear a child for her.  Why on earth, wanting a child, would she choose a surrogate mother with emotional/ behavioral / and or mental problems?  Would Vivi be dreaming of a little girl with Ginny's unattractive lower lip, her lack of social graces?   No, she wouldn't.    
 
I don't find that Ginny's falling into the role of enabler for her mother somehow suggests that she oddly 'thrives' on the problems of others.   The children of alcoholics often respond to their parent's growing weakness with their own growing strength;  they shop for necessities, they lie to the school about why mom can't come to her parent-teacher appointment;  they cover up their own bruises;  they protect younger siblings, sometimes by getting the parent too drunk to be violent.   And of course there's the whole thing of, for the first time, there actually being a bond between mother and daughter, albeit a twisted one.  The feeling of being 'needed' is a very seductive one.  "Mother's little helper"  starts early;  love songs are replete with 'someone who needs me'  'you needed me, you needed me';  teachers want to help children learn; nurses want to help people heal; doctors, social workers, psychologists - it's not just the money, it's the feeling of being able to make others' lives better, being needed.   Nearly every grandparent I know loves to be able to say, " gosh, I just can't make it, the kids need me to babysit that night."   Or 'need me to cook my specialty for the holiday' or 'need me to help Johnny with his term paper.'    Does that satisfaction make us weird?  I don't think so.  I know a guy who has spent 20 years in Ethiopia providing medical care to poor children.  He love his work and is excited and gratified to be able to help.  He's not weird, he's a hero. 


Message Edited by BookWoman718 on 03-09-2008 05:10 AM
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DSaff
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Re: Chapters 10 through 13



BookWoman718 wrote:
Sorry for these comments being a bit out of order, but the first thing I'd like to say is that comparisons of killing (even 25,000) insects to Nazi atrocities is really inappropriate, to say nothing of unthinking.  There are literally millions of insects in any backyard.  Did you never treat a vegetable garden with insecticides, or how about spraying your roses?  Any idea of the number of aphids you probably killed ?   Must I say a prayer for treating my foundation against termites?   Let's be clear:  killing insects - even if you have to do it one by one, and by hand, is so far from mass murder and/or genocide that the topics should hardly appear on the same bookshelf, much less in the same sentence. 
 
Beyond that, in these chapters we get a few insights into the different versions of the family which the two sisters hold.  Clive, I think, is shown clearly to be a person who turns a blind eye to that which he might find difficult to deal with.   He must know Maud is a drunk - he lives in the same house - but he doesn't step up to take any of the burden off his young daughter, just as he didn't watch out for her in a roomful of men to be sure no one was making unwanted advances.   Maud, I think, has no great tragedy at this point.  She's beyond her youthful prime, her children are grown, her husband is disinterested, the money is dwindling.  She's bored and lonely and for whatever reason hasn't figured out a way to create a life she would like better.  (There are LOTS of people like her.)  A drink is an easy companion.  Two, three, or six more are even easier.   Then you can get sleepy, or you can get slutty, or you can get junk yard mean.   If it's your daughter who is left to be seeing you at your worst instead of up there on that pedestal where you always thought you'd be,  you're probably going to get mean.  All that I found pretty believable. 
 
Vivi's request of Ginny was entirely selfish.  She is asking her unmarried sister to have sexual relations with her brother-in-law on a regular basis until such time as she might get impregnated, and then go through the physical and emotional burdens of unmarried pregnancy, and then turn the child over to be raised by her sister, during which time Ginny's own child would be calling her 'aunt.'   How is that not selfish?   But for me, apart from the breathtaking selfishness of the request, I found it unbelievable that Vivi, who has been showing all these signs of thinking something's 'wrong' with Ginny, would ask her to bear a child for her.  Why on earth, wanting a child, would she choose a surrogate mother with emotional/ behavioral / and or mental problems?  Would Vivi be dreaming of a little girl with Ginny's unattractive lower lip, her lack of social graces?   No, she wouldn't.    
 
I don't find that Ginny's falling into the role of enabler for her mother somehow suggests that she oddly 'thrives' on the problems of others.   The children of alcoholics often respond to their parent's growing weakness with their own growing strength;  they shop for necessities, they lie to the school about why mom can't come to her parent-teacher appointment;  they cover up their own bruises;  they protect younger siblings, sometimes by getting the parent too drunk to be violent.   And of course there's the whole thing of, for the first time, there actually being a bond between mother and daughter, albeit a twisted one.  The feeling of being 'needed' is a very seductive one.  "Mother's little helper"  starts early;  love songs are replete with 'someone who needs me'  'you needed me, you needed me';  teachers want to help children learn; nurses want to help people heal; doctors, social workers, psychologists - it's not just the money, it's the feeling of being able to make others' lives better, being needed.   Nearly every grandparent I know loves to be able to say, " gosh, I just can't make it, the kids need me to babysit that night."   Or 'need me to cook my specialty for the holiday' or 'need me to help Johnny with his term paper.'    Does that satisfaction make us weird?  I don't think so.  I know a guy who has spent 20 years in Ethiopia providing medical care to poor children.  He love his work and is excited and gratified to be able to help.  He's not weird, he's a hero. 


Message Edited by BookWoman718 on 03-09-2008 05:10 AM

Your points are well made. It is so interesting that we all tend to think of Ginny as the one with the problem, but Vivi is showing more self-centeredness all the time. I think she asked Ginny to have the baby because she didn't think Ginny would get in the way as the child was raised. Ginny wants to be home and tends to keep emotions inside. Her life has been wrapped up in making others happy - Clive (working with moths), Maud (covering up the drinking), and Vivi (letting her take the lead). I don't think Vivi thought Ginny's physical appearance would be passed down at all - she just wanted a baby. A baby that looked as if she was the mother. A surrogate who would keep her mouth shut.
DonnaS =) " Reading is a means of thinking with another person's mind; it forces you to stretch your own." Charles Scribner
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maryfrancesa
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Re: Chapters 10 through 13

Yes, I agree tha one always feels that their parent home is their own, but I can see that  Ginny feels that Vivi has her  own place. Ginny is stuck at home worjing with her father and has the reponsibility of caring for her mother and the house.  You do not know if this is what she really wanted to do with her life.  That she would follow in her father's footsteps was decided for her by her mother wheras Vivi was allowed to leave and do what she wanted.
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maryfrancesa
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Re: Chapters 10 through 13

I spy
    
i feel that it is too late to discuss maud's behavior.  I find it hard to believe that Vi did not notice her mother was different.  If it was my mother I would question what was occurring. Not sure if this is thechapter but why would Ginny lock Maud in the room and Maud's yelling would make me wonder what was going on. 
At this point in time(present) maybe Ginny herself does not know what really happened to maud.  was she really trying to protect Maud or Clive and herself.
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MSaff
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Re: Chapters 10 through 13



bookhunter wrote:
This book does not have the beautiful language of some other books, nor many passages that are especially quotable.  But I do love the description of winter on page 132:  "I like its contradictions:  cold but cozy, sparse but beautiful, lifeless but not soulless."
 
Do you all think this is a good description of Ginny as well--full of contradictions?
 
Ann, bookhunter


Good question. We do seem to be finding that Ginny may be different than the person we first met, but I'm not sure she is the one full of contradictions. The whole family seems to present one face to some people and another to members of the family. It will be interesting to see what the rest of the book brings out.
 
Mike
Mike
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind." Dr. Seuss
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Jaelin
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Re: Chapters 10 through 13



KxBurns wrote:

Chapter 10: Bernard’s Challenge

-Bernard's challenge sets Clive up for either great success (finally making a big discovery) or great failure… How telling that he participates "against all rational judgment and time pressures" (p. 107).

-Ginny's characterization of the "mass execution of the local Brimstone population" is a bit frightening. Does her use of war terminology have any greater meaning beyond the fact that she and Clive are engaged in battle with Bernard?

-I feel such sympathy for Maud here and yet I don't feel that Ginny's guilt or Maud's treatment of her are warranted. Ginny describes Maud's descent in terms of "real Maud" losing sight of herself and "this Maud" taking over. What does this reveal about Ginny's perception of self?

Chapter 11: Arthur and the Cannibals

-how different Ginny's preparations for Vivi's arrival are in this chapter!…

-it is worth noting that Ginny views loyalty as centered around the house rather than around "the external bonds of love and friendship" (p. 115).

-what is your take on Vivi and Arthur's relationship? How do you think the rest of the family feels? Are they going to eat him alive, as the chapter's title suggests? :smileyhappy:

-Ginny has entered into a partnership with Maud, supposedly to spare her dignity – and yet we know that Maud died an undignified death. Ginny's methods are faulty here; but can you equate her role with the idea of parasitism or cannibalism brought up by the chapter's title?

Chapter 12: I Spy

-yikes! Ginny talks about her surveillance of Ginny throughout the house like it's a mousetrap (or a moth trap?...)! She also equates herself with Vera, in being part of the house.

-Ginny and Vivi finally discuss Maud's death and it comes as no surprise that Vivi seems to question Ginny's account. Is Vivi's skepticism really because she doesn't know about Maud's drinking and therefore doesn't grasp the likelihood of her falling down the stairs?

Ginny decides that it is "wouldn’t be fair to destroy her perceptions of the past" (p. 131) and I believe this sentiment will become central, regardless of which sister is deluded about what. As Vivi says, it comes down to "who is able to see things as they really are..." (p. 130). Is it right to hide the truth? Does it depend on one's assessment of whether the person is able to handle being disabused of their delusion?

Specifically, do we feel differently if it ends up being Vivi who has been deluded about her family, rather than Ginny being deluded about her family and herself?

Chapter 13: The Ridge Walk

-how does Clive not know about Maud???

-please discuss this statement by Ginny (it caps off the entire Fox Moth passage on pages 134-135, which I found fascinating!): "If you were born unaware, at least you'd be blissfully ignorant. It's not as if you're going to wake up one day and suddenly discover yourself."

-is Vivi's request a selfish one? I think it depends on what she knows about Ginny. Maybe we have magnified Ginny's oddness and how obvious it is to the world. One thing that is clear to me from this chapter is that Ginny thrives on the suffering of those around her. Feel free to disagree with this, but she feels "invigorated, revitalised and valuable" in the face of her sister's suffering! I know she's specifically talking about the expulsion when she uses those words, but she recalls it now.



Chapter 10
To many people a challenge is something that they can't walk away from.  This is what appears to happen to Clive.  They go out and try to prove a point and don't see that by doing so they are ruining that which they are studying.  This can also be attributed to Maud.  They see her yet they don't realize that what they are doing is what is hurting her the most.  They only think of themselves and not her.  It is very easy to assume that Maud has many things to keep her occupied and they don't need to "see" to her needs.  This brings Maud to drink more and to lose herself.
Chapter 11
As in chapter 10 we see that they don't "see" Maud and this is as bad as always taking care of someone.  Most people see cannibalism as bad yet Clive and Ginny are actually doing the same thing.  They are "eating" Maud since she can't seem to get into there club.  Vivi in many ways has seen what they can be like and instead of staying and being "eaten" leave to make a new life for herself.  Arthur is one that has no real way of knowing the situation when he gets there though from what Ginny tends to tell us it is almost as if he knows and tries to bring them all back together.  He asks many question of both Clive, Ginny, Maud and Vivi and even begins to "see"  how things are in the house.  Vivi also seems to be trying to do the same thing or at least intervene though Ginny does not see it that way. Since Vivi seems to take the explanation and walks away.
 
Chapter 12
Ginny seems to be protecting Vivi.  I can see where Ginny was now nervous of Vivi coming home.  She tried to keep the family together and functioning since she thought she was the only one who could see what was going on in the house.  Vivi had become an outsider and was to be protected from what was happening.  Ginny more and more seems to think of herself as the protector of the family and less as apart of it.  More and more I see the intelligence of this thinking though the logic is flawed.  She thinks that only she can "save" the situation and ends up contributing to it by not being honest.
 
Chapter 13
Clive may have been aware of what was going on and didn't want it getting out.  This may or may not have to do with his credibility in his field.  If it got out that he couldn't take care of his own business how could he be taken seriously in his field.  He may have buried his head in the sand since he didn't know what to do as he was not really connected to the world.
 
This is an interesting quote.  I get the impression that she wishes that she had been born this way and that she did not have to become aware of herself.   She watches nature and I think in turn she forgets herself and when someone mentions or draws her back to the real world that she has to look at herself as well.  This is not something that a lot of us like to do.  It can be uplifting or it can depress us and this is what Ginny does not want to have to deal with.
 
Ginny seems to want to help her sister.  It is almost as if she knows that she will never have children since her "prospects" are very limited or nonexistent.  She is in a profession that does not like females and this would lead her to be ostrasiced by most people. 
 
Jessee
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bookhunter
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Re: Chapters 10 through 13

BookWoman718 wrote:
(edited some)
"I don't find that Ginny's falling into the role of enabler for her mother somehow suggests that she oddly 'thrives' on the problems of others.   ...   And of course there's the whole thing of, for the first time, there actually being a bond between mother and daughter, albeit a twisted one.  The feeling of being 'needed' is a very seductive one.  "Mother's little helper"  starts early;  love songs are replete with 'someone who needs me'  'you needed me, you needed me';  teachers want to help children learn; nurses want to help people heal; doctors, social workers, psychologists - it's not just the money, it's the feeling of being able to make others' lives better, being needed.   Nearly every grandparent I know loves to be able to say, " gosh, I just can't make it, the kids need me to babysit that night."   Or 'need me to cook my specialty for the holiday' or 'need me to help Johnny with his term paper.'    Does that satisfaction make us weird?  I don't think so.  I know a guy who has spent 20 years in Ethiopia providing medical care to poor children.  He love his work and is excited and gratified to be able to help.  He's not weird, he's a hero."
 
BookWoman, I agree with what you are saying about the desire to be "needed." 
 
The character of Ginny does not seem to understand the emotions of others (like Vivi's desire to have a child when she physically can't).  She has always felt on the outside--even within her own family.  She remembers from childhood that Maud and Vivi laughed, but never laughed with HER.  She apparently never made any friends at school.  The only other person mentioned in the book is Michael, and he just seems to leave groceries at the door.  I think part of the appeal of her and Clive's work with moths is that it is very dry and easily understood in rational, scientific terms.
 
Being complicit in a plan to keep Maud's drinking secret gives her a closeness and intimacy with Maud that she can't seem to get otherwise.  She may not fully understand the emotional attachment of a parent/child relationship, but keeping a secret is something she can do.
 
Ann, bookhunter
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Everyman
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Re: Chapters 10 through 13

>Sorry for these comments being a bit out of order, but the first thing I'd like to say is that comparisons of killing (even 25,000) insects to Nazi atrocities is really inappropriate, to say nothing of unthinking. There are literally millions of insects in any backyard. Did you never treat a vegetable garden with insecticides, or how about spraying your roses? Any idea of the number of aphids you probably killed ? Must I say a prayer for treating my foundation against termites? Let's be clear: killing insects - even if you have to do it one by one, and by hand, is so far from mass murder and/or genocide that the topics should hardly appear on the same bookshelf, much less in the same sentence.

There is certainly several orders of magnitude difference between the Holocaust and the moth killing in The Sister. I don't think anybody who posted about that would disagree.

But I think there is also reason to sense what similarities there are. Western thought is generally very dismissive of insect life and thinks little of, as you say, slaughtering insects by the thousands, but Eastern, particularly Buddhist, thought is more sensitive to the web of life and the need for respect for all life; they were perhaps the earliest environmentalists who recognized the interdependence of all life.

When you spray for aphids, you are indeed killing many hundreds or thousands of insects who happen to have chosen your garden to live in. But this is perhaps significantly different from going out deliberately and capturing tens of thousands of living tings for the specific purpose of slaughtering them in the name of science. This is, I think, where comparisons to the Holocaust are not inapt. These are not moths that blundered into the house and were killed because of the destruction they might do. This was a deliberate, coldly calculated, carefully designed program of luring and capturing as many as possible of a particular species of life and gassing them to death, wiping out a whole population. It takes, I think, a particular kind of person to be able to do this, whether to humans or to moths.
_______________
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bookhunter
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Re: Chapters 10 through 13

BookWoman said:
Sorry for these comments being a bit out of order, but the first thing I'd like to say is that comparisons of killing (even 25,000) insects to Nazi atrocities is really inappropriate, to say nothing of unthinking. There are literally millions of insects in any backyard. Did you never treat a vegetable garden with insecticides, or how about spraying your roses? Any idea of the number of aphids you probably killed ? Must I say a prayer for treating my foundation against termites? Let's be clear: killing insects - even if you have to do it one by one, and by hand, is so far from mass murder and/or genocide that the topics should hardly appear on the same bookshelf, much less in the same sentence.
And Everyman said:
There is certainly several orders of magnitude difference between the Holocaust and the moth killing in The Sister. I don't think anybody who posted about that would disagree...[edit]...When you spray for aphids, you are indeed killing many hundreds or thousands of insects who happen to have chosen your garden to live in. But this is perhaps significantly different from going out deliberately and capturing tens of thousands of living things for the specific purpose of slaughtering them in the name of science. This is, I think, where comparisons to the Holocaust are not inapt. These are not moths that blundered into the house and were killed because of the destruction they might do. This was a deliberate, coldly calculated, carefully designed program of luring and capturing as many as possible of a particular species of life and gassing them to death, wiping out a whole population. It takes, I think, a particular kind of person to be able to do this, whether to humans or to moths.  [my emphasis added]
 
We recognize today that cruelty to animals in the behavior of children and adolescents can be an indicator of trouble ahead.
 
I think Clive and Ginny would rationalize that what they are doing is for the advancement of science.  And, besides, they do not see moths (or any other animals, including, perhaps in their minds, humans) as having self-awareness.  Moths are only a mixture of chemical compounds to be identified, classified, and manipulated.  In their in-depth analysis of hormones and pheremones and enzymes they have lost an appreciation for the larger picture--the beauty of the moths and their place in the balance of nature.  (kinda like we do to this book! :smileywink: )
 
Do you think the same attitude is reflected in their relationships with other people?  Namely Maud, Vivi, Arthur, each other? 
 
The comparison to the Holocaust becomes particularly disturbing to me when you reverse the idea--there were (and are) people in this world who treat other humans as Clive and Ginny do the moths:  no reverence for life, creatures to be manipulated and destroyed to suit their purpose. 
 
Ann, bookhunter
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kiakar
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Re: Chapters 10 through 13



bookhunter wrote:
This book does not have the beautiful language of some other books, nor many passages that are especially quotable.  But I do love the description of winter on page 132:  "I like its contradictions:  cold but cozy, sparse but beautiful, lifeless but not soulless."
 
Do you all think this is a good description of Ginny as well--full of contradictions?
 
Ann, bookhunter


It sounds about right, Ann.
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boo27
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Re: Chapters 10 through 13

These chapters solved some questions I had, but brought up so many more.  For example, I think that is firmly established that Vivien is a fairly selfish person.  In the earlier chapters, she had the nerve to cricticize Ginny for the way Ginny had sold all the furniture and not kept any of Maud's things.  If Vivi was truly concerned about all this, then she should have gotten her behind back to the house years ago.  It certainly does seem true to me that Vivi only comes home when she wants something,  She is truly very self involved to come home and ask Ginny to have a baby for her, when it is clear to me that Ginny is not emtionally up to all the reprecussions of being a surrogate.  But Vivi wants a child and doesn't appear to care about anyone else's needs but her own. Chapter 13 was a bit confusing to me.  In this chapter Ginny portrays herself to be the sensible, practical stable sister and Vivi is the one incapable of dealing with life.  Up to this point, I would have said it was mostly the other way around.  Granted, this is entirely from Ginny's point of view, which does seem to be a bit smug to say the least.
 
I'm beginning to get a sneaking suspicion that not all my questions will be answered.  Like what was the deal with Dr. Moyse?  Will we ever know the truth about Bernard?  Or the real reason the Vivi has stayed away for 50 years?  I certainly hope so. 
CAG
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CAG
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Re: Chapters 10 through 13

Responding to bookhunter - I think I feel even stronger that Ginny has Aspergers syndrom as someone mentioned in earlier chapters. I don't think Ginny can fully understand what is being asked of her to have the baby. I think she is being taken advantage of once again. I think Clive does know what is going on but surrounds himself with his study of moths to avoid dealing with the reality of his family. Sharing a secret with any of the family members does make Ginny feel close and an important part of the family because most of the time she feels cut off, or very different.
CAG
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SandyS
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Re: Chapters 10 through 13

I think you two have summed up what I've been feeling throughout this book.  I'm enjoying parts of the story but have been feeling so disjointed.  I thought when we started grouping chapters this would help.  But I realize the characters and story are hopping around so much with a multitude of problems that the core of the story has been lost to me.
 
SandyS

Everyman wrote:
Excellent post. I agree.

It's like meal that is all strong spices and no base food to balanced the spices against. We need some normal characters to balance the weirdness against; pure weirdness quickly palls. But we don't have any. There doesn't seem to be a single normal, healthy person in the whole story.


Oldesq wrote:
The problem with The Sister is that there is too much weirdness here. Every single encounter is fraught with weirdness and all of a different type. Ms. Adams seems to be setting us up for a grand climactic event, a denouement which the reader already fears is unlikely to satisfactorily resolve this world.
 
 
 All these betrayals are more than this slim story can carry.

Oldesq







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Sisters3
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Re: Chapters 10 through 13

What do you think of the constant rehashing by Maud of "Ginny ruining her life?"  I haven't found anything that has answered that for me.
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