Amor Towles…It’s All in the Details

On March 15, member Wilda D. continued our theme of authors of the 21st century with her presentation on the works of American author Amor Towles. Mr. Towles is best known for his three novels: The Rules of Civility; A Gentleman in Moscow; and The Lincoln Highway.

In Wilda’s words “I chose to present on this author because I just love his writing”. There is no better reason.

Wilda emphasized that Amor Towles uses excellent descriptive details to make character and place come alive to the reader. Each of his three novels are set in the early to middle 20th century, however the author does not allow historical detail to overcome the stories about people and their choices that he tells.

The role of rules in the lives of his protagonists is a key part of his three novels in Wilda’s opinion. In The Rules of Civility, the protagonist tries to govern her behavior using an actual list of rules written by George Washington. In next novel, A Gentleman in Moscow the main character is a man who overcomes Soviet tyranny using the unwritten code of the Old World gentleman. The Lincoln Highway is the story of young men who are discovering what the rules of adult life will be.

Photo by Dmytro Tolokonov on Unsplash

A Gentleman in Moscow is Wilda’s favourite. It was clear from member discussion after Wilda spoke that many share her love of this book, and I share it as well. The book uses very constrained setting, which is presented in language that allows the reader to enter the character’s world. What stood out to Wilda is that the protagonist masters his circumstances, he is not mastered by them.

Wilda ended with “I highly recommend the work of this author”.

Shawna M.

Next week, the work of Esi Edugyan will be presented. Interested in joining us? Click here:

“I Feel a Tug…”

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

On March 10th, member Janet H. shared the work of Michael Crummey, with emphasis on his historical novels. She used the phrase “I feel a tug” to describe the longing we get to know the emotional and practical lives of those who came before us. Many of us are thus drawn to historical fiction- stories that make our sense of place come alive.

Michael Crummey is a Canadian poet and historical fiction author whose work brings to life the unique culture and history of Newfoundland and Labrador. Janet read from his early book, The River Thieves which looks at cultural loss as European fisherman and colonists encounter the last of the Indigenous Beothuk. Life in early Newfoundland is shown as an unequal struggle over minimal resources in a harsh land.

Next, Janet read from The Innocents, a story of two children who are orphaned and take on the adult world of subsistence fishing and agriculture in a remote settlement. The reading illustrated how even the harshest of circumstances can be faced with determination, love and occasionally humour.

Finally, Janet discussed Galore, Mr. Crummey’s novel using magical realism to blend NFL folklore and history. Janet recommends the following link to hear Mr. Crummey discuss Galore in person:

I have yet to read the work of Michael Crummey, but Janet’s presentation has put him on my must read list.

To see the beauty of Newfoundland and Labrador, Janet presented this link:

Shawna M.

Next week, the work of Amor Towles will be presented. Interested in joining us? Click here:

In honour of Ukraine

In honour of the people of Ukraine, member Cecilia K. started our meeting today with a brief reading from the poem The Caucasus by the great Ukrainian poet, Taras Shevchenko. A link to the full text from the website of his museum can be found here:

Although written long ago, the words have great meaning today.

Shawna M.

Gritty, Provocative, Unsettling

Photo by Louie Castro-Garcia on Unsplash

What a dynamic start to our new program theme: “New Writers of the 21st Century” !

On March 1, 2022 the Calgary Women’s Literary Society held our first meeting of 2022 via Zoom, with member Doloris D. showcasing the work of Canadian author Heather O’Neill.

“Gritty, provocative and unsettling…sticks with you.” These are the words Doloris D. used to describe the fiction of Heather O’Neill. Doloris came to the works of Ms. O’Neill “cold”, starting to read her work in order to present on this year’s theme. She did not regret her choice.

Doloris noted that Ms. O’Neill’s fiction is set in an urban world of petty crime, addiction and violence. While it can be difficult to work through the painful stories, Heather O’Neill offers her readers resolutions with positive possibilities. Her protagonists can win “a place at the table” even when they start out in the most dismal of circumstances.

While her work is not autobiographical, it reflects the author’s unconventional and difficult childhood and youth. More on Ms. O’Neill’s life and work can be found in this interview with the author: Writers Trust [ youtube video] ECHEh8WstSA Nov 14, 2019 .

Thanks to Doloris for helping us get to know this fascinating author. I hope to fasten my seatbelt and discover Heather O’Neill’s fiction in the near future. More information can be found in Doloris’s summary here:

Our next meeting is on March 8, 2022, with member Janet H. presenting on author Michael Crummey.

If you are interested in joining our club, follow this link:

2022 – New Writers of the 21st Century

photo of thunderstorm
Photo by Rodrigo Souza on

Join us as we celebrate the literature of the New Millenium. In 2022, members will be presenting on authors of the the 21st century.

The new program starts March 1st, with a presentation on the works of Heather O’Neill by member Doloris D. For more details, follow this link:

Spilling the Beans

I was lucky to get the yummiest book at our Christmas book exchange! It’s by Calgarian cookbook author Julie Van Rosendaal and her friend, former Calgarian Sue Duncan. My Secret Santa chose a cookbook full of tempting recipes for my newly-vegan son and his rather bewildered Mom. Secret Santa has amazing powers of intuition and wisdom!

Here’s my Aloo (Potatoes) Gobi (Cauliflower) with Chickpeas!

Thanks to my Secret Santa, from Janet H.

In Praise of Canadian Women…

Photo by Kathy M.

Thanks to member Kathy M. for this review of Painting Friends: The Beaver Hall Women Painters by Barbara Meadowcroft (1999)

This is SUCH an important book, as even in the introduction we learn that:

“Despite these achievements, the place of the Beaver Hall women in Canadian art history is uncertain. Robert Hubbard ignored them completely in his influential book, The Development of Canadian Art (1964). J. Russell Harper’s Painting in Canada: A History (1977) draws attention to the “Many outstanding women painters in the Montreal Group”, and then dismissed them in three sentences. …

“Most Canadians could name the Group of Seven. But few outside of Montreal have heard of Prudence Heward or Anne Savage. Why the discrepancy? Why is the Group of Seven so widely known and so well represented? To find out about them and their work you have to hunt in out-of-print catalogues and the storerooms of museums?

“…Women were associated with nature and domesticity, men with culture and professionalism. The qualities attributed to the artist – genius, originality and unconventionality – were considered incompatible with “femininity”. According to a 19th-century writer: “so long as a woman refrains from unsexing herself by acquiring genius let her dabble in anything. The woman of genius does not exist but when she does she is a man.” (The Modern Parisienne, 1912)

As the book explores the works of this ‘Group of Ten’ artists, one learns of the friendships these women shared. As so many women do, in so many varying fields of expertise, “the women of Beaver Hall drew strength and confidence from their painting friends.”

The various photographs (even artistic renderings) of the women scattered throughout the book, help the reader feel a greater sense of connection to each woman. (The eyes are the windows to your soul.” – William Shakespeare)

The abundance of artwork from each of these 10 friends, is thoughtfully displayed, showing the styles and favoured colour palettes, and if one looks closely enough, one can see a similarity in their work, all the while admiring the uniqueness of each piece. Its quite remarkable!

The short and easy to read book takes us all the way from the last few decades of the 1800’s – the births of some of the women, through the 1970’s when the last of the friends passes away.

We are introduced to some influences on each artist’s work as well as sweet anecdotes of their life experiences.

As one will see as they progress through each intertwined story, these women were advocates for each others’ work and leaned on each other as friends often do.

These women add a new dimension to the word ‘genius’ and certainly prove that femininity and genius are more than capable of co-existing – as these ten bright, strong, talented women found in “Painting friends” are evidence of exactly that!

Kathy M.

Book Exchange Reviews –

Photo by Shawna M.

As a follow-up to the Second Annual Winter Party Book Exchange, members are encouraged to write a blog post about the book they received. I will kick it off…

I received the graphic novel, Cyclopedia Exotica by Aminder Dhaliwal. I was intrigued by the title and sat down on Tuesday evening after the Winter Party and began reading. I read until it was Wednesday and then finished the book the next day. So, it is fair to say it was instantly engaging. Cyclopedia Exotica imagines a world where the cyclops and the human are parallel subspecies that now live together.

My husband was watching a “Mad About You” marathon on TV while I was reading this book. The situations the fictional characters of that 90’s sitcom find themselves in are not so different from the situations that the average cyclops experiences, so why can’t we all just get along? Unfortunately, being a visible one-eyed minority is not so easy.

Because Cyclopedia Exotica is graphic novel about a subspecies that doesn’t exist (that we know of…) the challenges minorities face are shown with humor. Still, I think most readers will put this book down and ask themselves “have I made someone feel that way?”

I really enjoyed this book and will be seeking out other titles by Aminder Dhaliwal. Thank-you to my Winter Party Exchange counterpart for giving me the chance to read this fun yet challenging slice of life.

Shawna M.

Our History & More…

Photo by Jeremy Bezanger on Unsplash

On November 16th, 2021 CWLC Archivist Sandra E. gave a presentation on the history of the club, with emphasis on the presentation topics of the past. Sandra reminded us that since 1906, CWLC members have shared a love of reading and a knowledge of the world outside Calgary.

In the early years, Shakespeare and Browning were common topics. Then, other authors and topics began to appear. Authors such as Galsworthy were contemporary, not historical, when they were first discussed by members.

In the current era of our club, we discuss the works of a single author. In the past, members’ presentations were not always limited to specific authors or books, but included social and cultural events. In a time when travel outside of Canada, topics such as “Mrs. Palmer’s trip to the Old Country” are also found in the archives.

For more information on our club history, click here:

In addition, selected records of the CWLC can be found in the Glenbow Archives.

After Sandra’s presentation, Shawna M. (your blogger) gave a brief presentation on the CWLC website.

Shawna M.