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Nonfiction: Claudia Brownstein and More Female Musician Memoirs

Female Musician Memoirs Header
Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys book cover
Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys
by Viv Albertine
Viv Albertine, songwriter and lead guitarist for the The Slits, candidly gives her readers a window into her all-girl punk rock band that influenced musicians such as Carrie Brownstein and Kurt Cobain, and life after.
Girl in a Band book cover
Girl in a Band
by Kim Gordon
Founding member of Sonic Youth Kim Gordon embraces nostalgia to share being in the height of alternative rock in 1980s New York.


Hunger Makes me a Modern Girl book cover
Hunger Makes me a Modern Girl
by Carrie Brownstein
An emotionally revealing exploration, as Sleater-Kinney band member Carrie Brownstein describes life in the male-dominated music industry.
Reckless book cover
by Chrissie Hynde
Considered rock royalty, Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders recounts her childhood in the Midwest and the stardom that followed.

Book Discussion Questions: Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Madame Bovary book coverTitle:  Madame Bovary: Patterns of Provincial Life
Author:  Gustave Flaubert
Page Count: 430 pages
Genre: Literary, Classic
Tone:  Dramatic, Richly Detailed, Conflicted

When Emma Rouault marries dull, provincial doctor Charles Bovary, her dreams of an elegant and passionate life crumble. She escapes into sentimental novels but finds her fantasies dashed by the tedium of her days. Soon heartbroken and crippled by debts, Emma takes drastic action with tragic consequences for her husband and daughter.

These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

Questions composed by MPPL Staff

1. In what ways is Emma Bovary the quintessential “desperate housewife”?

2. Is Emma believable as a real woman, rather than only as a literary character? How well does Flaubert portray the emotions of a woman?

3. What did you like about Emma? Did you need to like her? Did you understand her?

4. What paths did Emma try to find escape? In your opinion, is there anything that may have brought her lasting satisfaction or happiness?

5. What is Emma’s attitude toward motherhood? How do her attentions to Berthe change throughout the story?

6. Who is to blame for what happens to Madame Bovary?

7. What role does fate — or the mention thereof — play at significant points of Madame Bovary?

8. Was Emma victimized by Rodolphe?  How did her affair with Rodolphe differ from that with Leon? What do these differences reveal about Emma?

9. At which point(s) could Emma have turned back or changed course?

10. What did you think of Emma’s funeral arrangements? What would Emma have thought? Why did Charles make the choices he did?

11. Is Charles so bad? Couldn’t the very things that frustrate Emma about him be considered desirable in a steady partner?

12. Do you think Charles would have been as enamored of Emma had it not been for his first wife? How do they contrast?

13. Is the story claiming that Emma’s ruin was due to her reading of books?

14. The time between the onset of the French Revolution (1789) and WWI is often described as the era of the middle class. How is this central to the commentary of Madame Bovary?

15. Would you characterize this novel as a satire?

16. What does the character of Homais contribute to the narrative? What might he represent? What is the significance to the very end of the book?

17. This work has been noted for its ushering in a new age of realism in literature. Can you think of any examples of startlingly realistic events or descriptions?

18. Did it surprise you that a book entitled Madame Bovary actually begins and ends with others? Why do you think Flaubert makes those choices?

19. Madame Bovary is known for its controversial content, but it “is as heavily financial as it is erotic. It’s full of scenes of buying and selling, borrowing and lending. It’s not Emma’s adultery, but the financial debts she incurs, that disgraces her.” Does this characterization make it more timeless, more universal?

20. Do you consider this novel a work of feminist literature?  Could Emma have survived as a single woman?

21. “A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.” (Italo Calvino) What does Madame Bovary have to say?

22. How essential is the setting to the story? Could the story have taken place anywhere else?

23. Flaubert once famously declared, “Madame Bovary, c’est moi”. Given that their respective biographies have nothing in common, what do you think he meant by this?

24. Many point to the precision of Flaubert’s language choices, how the prose plods during descriptions of the townspeople or daily routine but then becomes more flowing and urgent during romantic interludes. Did you notice this at all? Do you think we lose some of the power of language in translation?

25. Does this read like a first novel?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!


Knee-Deep in Bovary with Lydia Davis, author of 2010 translation (pictured above)
author A.S. Byatt examines how Madame Bovary resonates today
Australian Broadcasting Network video book club
Slate’s DoubleX Audio Book Club discussion of Madame Bovary
Top Ten Works by French Authors
Encyclopaedia Brittanica biography of Gustave Flaubert
critique of two recent film adaptations
read, listen, or watch via hoopla


Madame Bovarys Daughter book coverThe Awakening book coverVanity Fair book cover






Madame Bovary’s Daughter  by Linda Urbach
The Awakening  by Kate Chopin
Vanity Fair: A Novel Without a Hero  by William Makepeace Thackeray

Staff Pick: The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero

Disaster Artist Book CoverGreg Sestero’s memoir The Disaster Artist details his time as a reluctant star of the modern cult classic movie The Room, exploring his awkward friendship with the film’s bizarre writer-director-star Tommy Wiseau.  Sestero’s narration of the audiobook allows him to show off his uncanny Wiseau impression across a series of hilarious anecdotes.

Asked at the Desk: I Read Devil in the White City by Erik Larson… Now What?

Picture of Fiction/AV/Teen deskA question we’ve received recently:

I read Devil in the White City by Erik Larson and loved it. I want to read something similar, but I want it to be fiction, rather than non-fiction.

In a similar place? Good news! We had suggestions for this patron, and we are here to share them:

Picture of Devil in the White City, The Gods of Goth, and I, Ripper

If you liked the history of an American city intertwining with a murder mystery, try The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye. Set in New York during the 19th century, Timothy Wilde investigates the death of a 12-year-old as a new member of the newly formed New York police force in this twisty first of a series.

However, if you liked the multiple perspectives as a detective investigates serial murders, try I, Ripper by Stephen Hunter. Hunter does not hold back in this gritty horrific suspense, as readers get taken to 19th century London during the Whitechapel murders, attributed to Jack the Ripper and even get into the horrific mind of the serial killer.

Want more readalikes? Or maybe you liked something different about Devil in the White City that we didn’t touch on? Ask for more suggestions online or stop by the Fiction/AV/Teen desk on the second floor!

Eclectic Books by Europa Editions

europa collage

Known for its distinctive bold covers, Europa Editions is an Italian press that has been taking America by storm. From its website: “The Europa catalog is eclectic, reflecting the founders’ belief that dialogue between nations and cultures is of vital importance and that this exchange is facilitated by literature chosen not only for its ability to entertain and fascinate but also to inform and enlighten.”

Find a book that interests you!

The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price
Cooking with Fernet Branca


The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price Purveyor of Superior Funerals by Wendy Jones

Wilfred Price, overcome with emotion on a sunny spring day, proposes to a girl he barely knows at a picnic. The girl, Grace, joyfully accepts and rushes to tell her family of Wilfred’s intentions. But by this time Wilfred has realized his mistake. He does not love Grace. On the verge of extricating himself, Wilfred’s situation suddenly becomes more serious when Grace’s father steps in. As Wilfred struggles in an increasingly tangled web of expectation and duty, love and lies, Grace reveals a long-held secret that changes everything.

Cooking with Fernet Branca by James Hamilton-Paterson

Gerald Samper, an effete English snob, has his own private hilltop in Tuscany, where he wiles away his time working as a ghostwriter for celebrities and inventing wholly original culinary concoctions. Gerald’s idyll is shattered by the arrival of Marta, on the run from a crime-riddled former soviet republic. A series of hilarious misunderstandings brings this odd couple into ever closer and more disastrous proximity.

Replay by Marc Levy
On the morning of July 9, 2012, New York Times investigative reporter Andrew Stilman is jogging alongside the Hudson River when he feels a sudden, sharp pain in his lower back. He collapses in a pool of blood. When he regains consciousness, it’s May 7–two months earlier. Stilman now has only sixty days to find out who wants him dead and why until his killer finds him again.

 The Days of Abandonment book cover
A Novel Bookstore book cover
The Life of Elves book cover


The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante

Once an aspiring writer, Olga traded literary ambition for marriage and motherhood; when Mario dumps her after 15 years, she is utterly unprepared. Though she tells herself that she is a competent woman, nothing like the poverella (poor abandoned wife) that mothers whispered about in her childhood, Olga falls completely apart.

A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cosse

A mysterious death, unusual car accident, and anonymous threats have one thing in common– the victims are all members of the Good Novel bookstore’s secret selection committee. Set in Paris, this tale combines mystery, romance, and French theology and literature.

The Life of Elves by Muriel Barbery

The Life of Elves by Muriel Barbery tells the story of two children whose extraordinary talents will bring them into contact with magical worlds and malevolent forces. If, against all odds, they can be brought together, their meeting may shape the course of history.

See more titles on our Pinterest board!

New Book Spotlight: Tin Stars by Jeff Lemire

Descender_Tin StarsA boy named Tim wakes from a ten-year sleep on a moon mining colony. He is a companion android designed to entertain and protect an assigned human child, but he finds himself alone and under attack. Tin Stars, the first collected volume of the Descender series by Jeff Lemire, begins with shocking galactic catastrophe, but it’s when we meet the earnest young Tim-21 that it truly launches.

A grown-up story of both wonder and action, real fears of technology-run-amok are balanced with complex character and heart. In addition to a plot that excites the mind, the gorgeous watercolor illustrations by Dustin Nguyen evoke a nuanced future both beautiful and terrible. The end result is a fully-realized shared vision, one that transports, provokes, and captivates.


Staff Picks: Duets II by Tony Bennett

Picture of DonnaListen to the sound recording Duets II by Tony Bennett for an auditory treat. This talented artist has joined with 17 popular vocalists and musicians for a wonderful album. Hear Norah Jones, Andrea Bocelli, Josh Groban, Willie Nelson and several others. Try Duets, also, by Tony Bennett for more great listening pleasure.

Three to Try: Meet Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison author photo

The lushly talented Toni Morrison does not lack for award recognition.  Among her many honors are the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (1988), the Nobel Prize for Literature (1993), and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2012). This month she adds one more, the PEN/Saul Bellow for Achievement in American Fiction, for work which the panel calls “revelatory, intelligent, bold.” If you haven’t yet been introduced, attempting to begin with the well-recognized but difficult Beloved or Song of Solomon might be challenging. Allow us to suggest three alternate pathways to make her acquaintance.

God Help the Child book coverGod Help the Child

A searing tale about the way childhood trauma shapes and misshapes the life of the adult. At the center: a woman who calls herself Bride, whose stunning blue-black skin is only one element of her beauty, her boldness and confidence, her success in life; but which caused her light-skinned mother to deny her even the simplest forms of love.

Why start here? Morrison’s most recent work, and her first set in current time, underscores many of her trademark themes in a concise but powerful 178 pages.

Sula book coverSula

Two girls who grow up to become women. Two friends who become something worse than enemies. Nel and Sula meet as children in the small town of Medallion, Ohio. Their devotion is fierce enough to withstand bullies and the burden of a dreadful secret, but will it withstand a betrayal?

Why start here? Another short work (174 p.), this is a deceptively simple narrative about a character who overcomes tragedies to reinvent herself as a bold, sensual, unapologetic individual at a time when women were expected to know their places.

Jazz book coverJazz

Set in 1926, at the height of the Harlem Renaissance, Jazz follows the lives of Joe and Violet Vace, who have moved from the South to escape the hardships of segregation. They find a city throbbing with the music that represents both artistic freedom and moral decline, an environment that sets the backdrop for Joe’s murder of his teenage lover as well as the shocking events that follow.

Why start here? Slightly longer (229 p.), but still a richly compact sampling of Morrison’s skill in depicting complicated characters and emotions in few, expertly chosen words.  The influence of jazz music suffuses both setting and structure, and the themes reverberate long after the final note.

Fiction: A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev

A Bollywood Affair cover Mili was married when she was four, and now twenty years later she has not seen or heard from her husband since. Now, she is determined to make herself a better wife in hopes of winning over her husband. How will she do it? By moving away from India to America for 8 months to improve her skills through study. Enter Samir, the brother of her husband and technically her brother-in-law. Fiercely loyal, Samir is determined to protect his brother, but is quick to learn Mili may not be who he thought she was. A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev mixes clever characters with a friendship that turns steamy to create a funny and romantic romp of a tale.