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Posts posted by shirleyz

  1. 4-5. I think this is something that Gaiman does, turning things around, at least in this book. A graveyard as a safe place when in most books graveyards are scary, a werewolf as a benevolent creature, and a vampire as a protector. And then the "nice and reasonable" men Jack at a conference, donating money to charities. A benevolent werewolf and a vampire protector work in this book.


    I like your line of thought Sara - Gaiman seems to have made the scary places and people into safehavens and protectors, while the man Jack disguises himself as a meek friendly person

  2. 6. Why do you think Liza Hempstock is shunned by the other 'inmates'? Do you think it is just because she was a witch?


    I think Bod, as an “outsider” could feel the loneliness experienced by Liza. He too was one of a kind, and although he had a sort of family and was well accepted by the other ghosts, he still felt lonely... in fact he mentions at one point that he outgrows the other boys he used to play with as a child. Liza proves to be a good friend, and he in turn wants to grant her something that she has always wanted, a headstone to mark her grave. Even if it’s not as grand as he had planned it, I think the glass paperweight is even more significant than a stone marker.

    I like Maureen’s take on prejudice, I hadn’t quite thought of it that way


    7. Do you think Neil Gaiman means Jack as in Jack the ripper? Why?


    Yes, I think he could be implying Jack the Ripper (the knife, the killings...) however, this never really crossed my mind while I was reading the story!

  3. 1.Is fantasy a genre that you feel comfortable reading?


    I am not a fantasy reader – I’ve only started reading this genre over the past couple of years and I only read books which have been “tried and tested” by friends. I am always very wary of reading this genre, as I hate starting books which “turn wrong” so I have to quit mid-way, but this has really surprised me :D


    2. Is this the first Neil Gaiman book you are reading?


    Yes this is the first Gaiman book I have ever read, and I have really liked his style, which is to the point, however quite descriptive. I have Coraline and Neverwhere on my wishlist – they’ll probably move up the waiting list now!


    3. What made you read this book? What did you think of this story?


    I read it for the Reading Circle. At first I thought “young boy in a graveyard... sounds weird!” But when I started reading I was pleasantly surprised, as Gaiman manages to turn the book into a sort of adventure. Another thing which I noticed is that you can feel yourself in the graveyard surrounded by ghosts, however you don’t feel afraid, but rather protected and look forward to meeting them as friends.


    4. Miss Lupescu is a Hound of God in the novel - in other words - she is a werewolf. What do you think of having a werewolf as a benevolent creature rather than a monster?


    The ony other book I’ve read with werewolves nvolved was Harry Potter, so I must say that I’m used to these creatures being benevolent.


    5. I have always thought of vampires as scary beings, certainly not creatures that I would imagine as protectors - Twilight notwithstanding however here an important character in Bod's life is Silas, the Vampire protector. What do you think of this grumpy, but charismatic being?


    I really liked Silas, even though he appears to be so detatched from his protegee... however he proves himself a worthy protector, he watched out for the child and makes sure ther is a reliable substitute when he needs to leave. I got the impression that Silas always knoew that one day he and Bod would part ways, so possibly his grumpy exterior was meant to help prepare Bod (and himself?) for this event...


    Any good?



    Hi Kylie - yes I enjoyed this book. It was a very fast read and I think the author found a very original way of linking past events with the present story, helping the reader to better understand the reasons behind some of the characters' actions/points of view.

    Besides that, the present day story is actually quite funny (nothing to do with tractors), and it made me look at family duty, ageing parents and growing siblings in a different light...

  5. Today I have to rearrange my bookcases and shelves to fit in ~50 books in the already close quarters, it's going to take a lot of squeezing. I already had to customize one more cardboard box for the books but I don't think that'll fit in everything. It's a very relaxing, joyful task but I'm a bit anxious because I have no idea how to arrange the books and which books to put in the cardboard box. I think I have to to arrange them according to the 1001 Books list, but I don't know where to put those. And should I create a certain nook for the books that have been recommended by the members of BCF (which I probably will do), and where to put them, and where to put the books that don't fall into any of my currently existing categories.


    what a delightful chore! enjoy your sorting :smile2:

  6. 10. Discuss the significance of the title A Home at the End of the World. Does it suggest hope, despair, or both? Explain


    I think the title conveys peace – after their turbulent life, everyone has managed to find a base where they feel they belong. Bobby knows he will always be the family’s point of reference, Jonathan is learning to accept himself (and the possibility that he could be ill), Erich is close to the end of his life, finally in a place where he is accepted and well taken care of. Even though Clare leaves the household, I think she does so with a changed mindset – she is part of something bigger, a family, and not a loner trying to fit into life on her own. Ned’s ashes are finally laid to rest close to the house, the boys have a thriving business where another gay couple works (more acceptance, the family becoming larger?) – they have definitely started to set some roots...


    Surprisingly even Jonathan’s mother is finally at peace – she is doing a job she enjoys, and is sharing her life with an “unsuitable” younger man, so probably her old rebellious trait is coming out again in her old age!

  7. ^I got that impression too Maureen, that he had no sexual interest at all in Clare, he was like a sister to her, Clare knew that they would never sleep together, but she still secretly hoped that Rebecca would be his daughter because she wanted all of his qualities to be part of her but I think if given the chance, Jonathan would have been a influence on Rebecca's life. :)


    that's a good point Weave, Clare tried to get the best of both worlds - a daughter with Bobby, with Jonathan as a father figure. Someone also mentioned that Bobby hardly has any relationship with his daughter, while Jonathan cares for her as well as (if not better than) Clare... However, he thinks of the legacy he leaves her - a home at the end of the world where she can retire to be safe away from the world and find peace, just like her parents before her

  8. Hi all, I’ve been following your discussion with interest, even if I haven’t been very active over the past week, due to an assignment. Now that is thankfully out of the way, so I can participate more actively!

    I’m doing this on Word, as it’s going to be a long answer, so the quotes will be in red...


    Frankie says:

    A thought that came to my mind at some point: I had problems with the names Clare and Alice, I sometimes thought of Jonathan's Mum when I was reading Clare's thoughts and vice versa. I came to realise that the two names have so many alphabets in common that it might be the reason behind my confusion. Then I started to think if this was intentional on Cunningham's part, and I went even further than that: I began to think maybe Clare is the mother figure Jonathan left behind when he left for college. The one he grew annoyed with, partly because she was interrupting his and Bobby's alone time and partly because Bobby didn't seem to mind, he actually welcomed her company. Maybe on some subconscious level Jonathan needed a new mom figure in his life and Clare offered him that


    That’s a really interesting point. Actually, if you think about it, both these women are quite hateful in their own way. They are both selfish, want to “possess” Jonathan, and are quite unhappy with their own lives. They have both rebelled against their parents, with very different outcomes – while Alice is holed into an unhappy marriage in a small backwater, Clare has had different lovers and has moved to a buzzing city. I’m not sure I agree with the fact that Clare served as a mother figure; I think she was more of a counterbalance to him – she was full of life and colour, while he was very bland and cautious...


    Frankie says:

    In my opinion, one could say there are two families, sometimes separate, sometimes overlapping, in one's life. First there is the family one grows up in, whether it be a 'normal' family, a foster home, some kind of institution. The second family is the one you make for yourself when you move out and start your own life. It's not only your partner and the possible children, but your friends who you go to and who come to you when in need. It's the people you WANT to spend your holidays with.

    I think the book is basically saying families come in all different shapes and sizes, and it's not only about blood lineage. It is saying that a family life is not always continual, it's a complicated, ever-growing, ever-evolving mixture of people who touch your life daily. In the end, a family is something one can define for themselves.


    I completely agree with your take on this Frankie – I find this is very true to life. While you are inevitably linked to the family you are born into, you move on to have your own family and circle of friends, who sometimes get to know you much more than your own parents / siblings. Jonathan, Bobby and Clare made their own family which worked well for them; actually much much better than any of their own families.


    Frankie says:

    Did anyone get the sense that Jonathan felt already during his childhood that his mother was suffocating him? Not that I'm questioning the suffocating, I'm just wondering when Jonathan made this discovery.


    I don’t believe that Jonathan ever expressed that he feels suffocated by his mother... he is definitely annoyed when she tries to impose her presence on his friendship with Bobby; I get the feeling he consciously chooses to go to a college far away, and he doesn’t go back to his home town, his visits to his parents’ house are few and far between... I get the feeling he tries to live his life away from his mother; I never get the impression he is trying to put distance between himself and his father...


    This is the first time I have participated actively in a reading circle, and I’ve really, really enjoyed it! I’ll stop here for now as otherwise it will be a never-ending post... more to follow :D

  9. I'll give credit to Clare for one thing: she could give Alice an outlet for her built up emotions when Jonathan and Bobby weren't around. Even then she was hesitant and reluctant but she did it.



    well said! I've been trying to put this scene into words... Clare helps Alice in her time of grief, even tho the older woman tries to push her away, Clare can feel she needs a shoulder to cry on, and she even keeps the boys away while Alice grieves.


    You've got some really great points Frankie - it shows that you really like this book! I hope to be able to comment about some of your answers soon :rolleyes:

  10. for me Clare is "redeemed" with the birth of Rebecca. Her motherly instincts shine out and make her a person with a misson in life; she is no longer riding on life's bandwagon, but rather has a purpose and feels responsible for her child. Her job is to protect her daughter - I think she (Rebecca) anchors her into life, making her face her responsibilities...

  11. What role does Erich play in the character’s lives? In what ways do you think he is a catlyst for change? Discuss the significance of death in the novel.


    while very peripheral, I think Erich had an important role in the other characters' lives... he makes Jon look at himself and question himself - why cannot he love Erich? what if he's got Erich's illness? what if he got ill when he was having unprotected sex with other men? It was Erich who made Jonathan stand back and look at his life (I think neither Clare nor Bobby had the strength to challenge him into action)


    Jonathan's closeness to illness also makes him look at his father differently - during their talk when he visits his parents in Arizona, many times he floats away from the conversation and looks at the shadow of his father who is racked by his illness (his lovely father who he holds in such high esteem), and wonders whether he will be like him should he be ill too. I really feel this scene is pivotal in the book, as it helps Jonathan accept himself, and subtly shows us his father’s acceptance of his son’s sexuality. Jonathan also sets out to fulfill his father’s wishes – he will scatter his father’s ashes in a place which he considers as his home.

    Death pervades the novel – from the very first chapters when we experience the loss of Jonathan’s sister, Carlton’s untimely death, the disintegration of Bobby’s family and the death of his parents, the death of Jonathan’s father and also Erich’s impending passing away, which I feel is omnipresent in the last few chapters, and is instrumental of driving Clare away from the house. However Bobby also belongs to the other side, he has followed his brother into a separate bubble, which keeps him distant from real life. Jonathan also has to come to terms with death – his father’s (whose ashes he keeps for a long while on the mantlepiece), Erich’s (he sees him fading away daily) and also (possibly) his own.

  12. from Weave (sorry but I seem to have botched up the "quote" function :blush: )


    I disliked the part where Clare leaves, I could understand her reasons but I did not particularly like them, yet again, striving to be different, this time as the bohemian single mother but this would change again because Jonathan and Bobby both knew she would come back.


    Really? To me it felt more like they made peace with the fact that it would be just them from now on, just like the beginning... Clare seemed very determined about making it on her own - she would rather face being a single mother than part of a strange household

  13. 4. Do you think any events/circumstances played a major part in shaping the boys' lives?


    This story is full of major events which shape the characters’ lives.

    Carlton’s short life and violent death definitely helped to form Bobby’s outlook on life, his permanent lightweight feeling, as well as the eventual breakdown and disintegration of his family.


    Jon’s sexuality was another major factor which shaped the boys’ lives – their relationship together, Alice’s reaction when she finds them together in the car, her lack of acceptance of her son’s lifestyle choice, Bobby’s attitude to love/relationships.


    Jonathan’s move to New York helped to push Bobby more firmly into his shoes with Alice – Bobby shared Alice’s passion for cooking, which Jonathan was completely disinterested.


    Erich’s illness – which helped Jon understand his own mortality and his father’s life; the purchase of the house – which gave them a common purpose; Rebecca’s arrival – which anchored them as a family; and finally Clare’s and Rebecca’s departure, which helped them accept their reality…


    I think this book is full of different instances which effect and shape the boys’ lives – they (especially Bobby) allow themselves to be carried along through life, rather then being proactive about their lives, they react to the different situations as they arise.

  14. 3. What do you think of the different friendships going on?


    Bobby’s and Jon’s friendship developed when they were still in their teens. Both had a different childhood. Jon lost his sister at birth, and Bobby lost his brother who he looked up to and adored. Had Jon’s sister lived, he would not have been the only outlet for his mother, she would have had two people to keep her company and her influence would have been somewhat diluted. Bobby’s family life - and by default his life - changed drastically from the moment his brother died, his parents stopped living as well, and just plodded along until they gave up the struggle. So Jon and Bobby, both different to other kids, both having a dysfunctional family life, found each other and gave each other a family. I also think that during their teenage years, Bobby was somewhat the leader, and Jon used to ‘follow’, but when they grew up and Jon moved to New York and Bobby followed, they reversed roles, with Jon being the leader and Bobby the follower.


    Jon’s and Claire’s friendship is more complex. I think he finds in her a replacement of his mother to a certain extent - so he exchanged his relationship with his mother with a relationship with Claire, with the added bonus that he was now on a more equal footing in this relationship. Bobby describes Claire’s relationship with Jon as wife-like. However it was even more than that - they could discuss clothes and gossip, and men. They had a great relationship, they were each others’ confidants and soul mates - with out the tension of a sexual relationship. For Claire, Jon was also a potential father for her child….her biological clock was ticking and she wanted a baby. In her opinion, having a baby with Jon was ideal - she was not in love with him, but they were good friends.


    Bobby’s and Alice’s friendship is perhaps the strangest of all. Alice once said that Bobby made sense to her sometimes. They had both found themselves in a place that was foreign to their nature, and wanted to fit in. At first, Alice’s friendship with Bobby was more of an effort to please Jon than real pleasure in Bobby’s company, however their relationship endured even when Jon left for New York. In the earlier days, Alice was the student - with Bobby and Jon teaching her about music and drugs, and later she was the teacher - teaching Bobby all he needed to know to run his own business. She was concerned about his friendship with Jon, as she thought of him as a person with little intellect and no ambition although sweet and kind.


    Bobby’s and Claire’s friendship started as Claire took Bobby under her wing. She thought that he had that lost puppy appeal, and made her feel protective of him. She began by re-doing Bobby - his hair, his clothes, different music, new friends. For Bobby, when they started having a sexual relationship as well, he had a real family. For Claire, he filled the post of father to her child, without too much interference on his part.




    some good points here mau :D I hadn't thought of the parallel sibling death, and the reversed role between Jon/Bobby is also very interesting. However, I feel that the family relationship between Bobby and Clare started before their sexual one - Clare soon took Bobby under her wing, "remodelled" him to her tastes...


    some more thoughts coming soon - this is a tough one Mau!!

  15. So his brother's pull was greater than Rebecca's and Claire's? He could not find it in himself to join the world of the living?

    He was never quite a part of their life - we hardly see any interaction between him and Clare following the first time they sleep together; there are only undertones which refer to the fact that they are still a "couple". He seems to be more preoccupied with the manual work required with the house and their new restaurant - it's like he has abdicated his fatherly responsibility to Jon, who even Clare admits is better at calming their daughter. It is Jon who keeps refering to Rebecca as "our child" when Clare says "my".

    I feel Bobby is always on the sidelines watching on. I was very touched and surprised when towards the end he can see his daughter standing in front of their house which is now her inheritance, in 20 years' time. why is he not there with her? If he's about 32-35 when they leave, he would still be in his 50s by then...

    I'm not sure if I'm extrapolating the story, but is it that there is a chance that he is ill too?

  16. I cannot understand why Bobby did not want to go with Claire and Rebecca...they could have been a family together....Bobby was not in love with Jon or Erich - so why not leave and go with Claire and Rebecca?.


    While I understand how hard it must have been to let go, I completely understand his reasoning. He wanted to set them free, in fact he says "Clare has taken Rebecca to the world of the living - its noise and surprises, its risk of disappointment. ... It's where Rebecca should be. ... I've followed my brother into this world and I've never left it..."

    He wanted his daughter to live her life independenty from what held him back, he didn't want her life to be prejudiced by her parents' strange household arrangements.

  17. 5. Each chapter is narrated by a different 'main' character. Did that work in your opinion?


    While I usually find this disturbs the flow of a novel, I think that the characters in this book follow each other very seamlessly. I think the story gained perspective through the different narrations – it is such a dynamic story that it needs the different points of view as outlined by the different characters.


    6. What do you think of the descriptions by the author?


    The story is full of very detailed descriptions, especially of the setting – I could vividly picture Jon’s and Clare’s flat in NY; and also the alpha alpha field where Jon finally scatters this father’s ashes.

    What I found strange is that hardly any female character is described physically, while the males (Ned, Bobby) are given very detailed descriptions (is this always done by Jon?)


    7. Did you enjoy the book? Will you be reading any more books by Michael Cunningham?


    As I have already said, it is not a book I would have chosen in a book store, however, I found that the story intrigued me, and I was looking forward to see how the story would develop. While it’s sad that the “family” had to break up, I find it a very apt ending – both the parents want a better future for their child, while Jonathan seems to finally accept his past and future.

    I'd like to read The Hours - I'm curious to see how this author will treat a female point of view...

  18. 1. What do you think of the main characters? How would you describe them?


    Bobby, I feel, is the most selfless of the group, the most ready/willing to adapt. He is constantly seeking a family – after the loss of his brother, his family unit breaks down – his mother kills herself and his father turns to drink. So he “attaches” himself to Jonathan’s family. When his family home is completely destroyed in the fire, he moves in with Jon’s family permanently. When he returns to the site of the burnt house (towards the end of the book), he tries to remember the location of the rooms. He loves playing the Hendersons, and he is the one to suggest that they settle down in the country, which he thinks of leaving as a legacy to his daughter. Bobby lives in “another” world – very often he seems detached from what is going on, however, he gels the group, he is most in tune with what the others are feeling. His previous losses help him cherish what he has.


    Jonathan is constantly seeking happiness. His mother suffocates him as a child, however, we hardly learn anything about his feelings for her; it was his father he adored. He has fond memories of his father (remembers how he used to carry him on his shoulders, the feeling of his skin, etc) I think Ned was more accpeting of Jon’s sexuality than Alice, who never quite accepted that her son is gay. When Ned and Jon speak in Arizona, it is Ned who sets him thinking about settling down, inviting him to find a “place” where he is comfortable with himself. I’m not sure how to term his relationship with Erich – they see each other for a number of years but they don’t commit to each other. He is terrified of catching his illness, and only at the very end (the pond scene) does he fully accept him. He is quite mean when he first speaks to him (Erich) about his appearance due to his illness.


    Clare does not want to grow old. Thanks to her inheritance, she can be free to “flow” through life - she doesn’t hold a “solid” job, she floats through relationships... I think she is a very fickle person who wants to have the cake and eat it. She remodels Bobby to her liking, and uses him to get the thing she wants – having a baby before she gets too old. To say her relationship with Alice is stiff is an understatement. Only when she has her child do I manage to associate with her and understand her actions. As a mother she feels her love and sense of protection for her daughter overwhelm her (which she describes as a “monster”). While she cares for Erich, she is only really interested in her daughter’s wellbeing. I understand her decision to move away, even if I don’t completely agree with it.


    Alice is a bitter lady – she marries in haste to spite her parents, and then she repents at leisure. I cannot understand how she can tell her son that she doesn’t want her baby, the daughter she then looses. She resents any friendship Jon has outside of their own – as a child she keeps him home with her; as an adult she dislikes his friends, in fact she has no good word to say either about Bobby or Clare. I kept expecting her to do something weird (like Maureen I thought she would sleep with Bobby), though I must say the fact that she helps Bobby in his first catering venture “redeems” her in a way...