Massey College Book Club

The Massey College Book Club was founded by Quadrangler Sandra Martin at the Society’s first meeting in 1998. Now called “Massey College Book Club”, meetings are held in the Upper Library, three times each term, usually following a Quadrangle dine in hall evening.

Programming for the Massey College book club is done by a committee of Quadrangle Society Members, Junior Fellows and Senior Fellows who work together to provide a list of books and presenters that represent the community as a whole.

Monday, October 7, 2019

“Washington Black” by Esi Edugyan
Presented by Smaro Kamboureli

Washington Black is an eleven-year-old field slave who knows no other life than the Barbados sugar plantation where he was born.
When his master’s eccentric brother chooses him to be his manservant, Wash is terrified of the cruelties he is certain await him. But Christopher Wilde, or “Titch,” is a naturalist, explorer, scientist, inventor, and abolitionist.
He initiates Wash into a world where a flying machine can carry a man across the sky; where two people, separated by an impossible divide, might begin to see each other as human; and where a boy born in chains can embrace a life of dignity and meaning. But when a man is killed and a bounty is placed on Wash’s head, Titch abandons everything to save him.
What follows is their flight along the eastern coast of America, and, finally, to a remote outpost in the Arctic, where Wash, left on his own, must invent another new life, one which will propel him further across the globe.
From the sultry cane fields of the Caribbean to the frozen Far North, Washington Black tells a story of friendship and betrayal, love and redemption, of a world destroyed and made whole again–and asks the question, what is true freedom?

Monday, November 4, 2019

“The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a Global World” by Maya Jasanoff
Presented by Gilbert Reid

A visionary exploration of the life and times of Joseph Conrad, his turbulent age of globalization and our own, from one of the most exciting young historians writing today. Migration, terrorism, the tensions between global capitalism and nationalism, and a communications revolution: these forces shaped Joseph Conrad’s destiny at the dawn of the twentieth century. In this brilliant new interpretation of one of the great voices in modern literature, Maya Jasanoff reveals Conrad as a prophet of globalization. As an immigrant from Poland to England, and in travels from Malaya to Congo to the Caribbean, Conrad navigated an interconnected world, and captured it in a literary oeuvre of extraordinary depth. His life story delivers a history of globalization from the inside out, and reflects powerfully on the aspirations and challenges of the modern world. Joseph Conrad was born Jozef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski in 1857, to Polish parents in the Russian Empire. At sixteen he left the landlocked heart of Europe to become a sailor, and for the next twenty years travelled the world’s oceans before settling permanently in England as an author. He saw the surging, competitive “new imperialism” that planted a flag in almost every populated part of the globe. He got a close look, too, at the places “beyond the end of telegraph cables and mail-boat lines,” and the hypocrisy of the west’s most cherished ideals. In a compelling blend of history, biography, and travelogue, Maya Jasanoff follows Conrad’s routes and the stories of his four greatest works — The Secret Agent, Lord Jim, Heart of Darkness, and Nostromo. Genre-bending, intellectually thrilling, and deeply humane, The Dawn Watch embarks on a spell-binding expedition into the dark heart of Conrad’s world–and through it to our own.

December date TBD, 2019

“Brother” by David Chariandy
Presented by Niyosha Keyzad

An intensely beautiful, searingly powerful, tightly constructed novel, Brother explores questions of masculinity, family, race, and identity as they are played out in a Scarborough housing complex during the sweltering heat and simmering violence of the summer of 1991.
With shimmering prose and mesmerizing precision, David Chariandy takes us inside the lives of Michael and Francis. They are the sons of Trinidadian immigrants, their father has disappeared and their mother works double, sometimes triple shifts so her boys might fulfill the elusive promise of their adopted home.
Coming of age in The Park, a cluster of town houses and leaning concrete towers in the disparaged outskirts of a sprawling city, Michael and Francis battle against the careless prejudices and low expectations that confront them as young men of black and brown ancestry — teachers stream them into general classes; shopkeepers see them only as thieves; and strangers quicken their pace when the brothers are behind them. Always Michael and Francis escape into the cool air of the Rouge Valley, a scar of green wilderness that cuts through their neighbourhood, where they are free to imagine better lives for themselves.
Propelled by the pulsing beats and styles of hip hop, Francis, the older of the two brothers, dreams of a future in music. Michael’s dreams are of Aisha, the smartest girl in their high school whose own eyes are firmly set on a life elsewhere. But the bright hopes of all three are violently, irrevocably thwarted by a tragic shooting, and the police crackdown and suffocating suspicion that follow.
With devastating emotional force David Chariandy, a unique and exciting voice in Canadian literature, crafts a heartbreaking and timely story about the profound love that exists between brothers and the senseless loss of lives cut short with the shot of a gun.

Monday, January 6, 2020

“Warlight” by Michael Ondaatje – 2018
Presented by Sandra Martin

From the internationally acclaimed, bestselling author of The English Patient: a mesmerizing new novel that tells a dramatic story set in the decade after World War II through the lives of a small group of unexpected characters and two teenagers whose lives are indelibly shaped by their unwitting involvement. In a narrative as beguiling and mysterious as memory itself–shadowed and luminous at once–we read the story of fourteen-year-old Nathaniel, and his older sister, Rachel. In 1945, just after World War II, they stay behind in London when their parents move to Singapore, leaving them in the care of a mysterious figure named The Moth. They suspect he might be a criminal, and they grow both more convinced and less concerned as they come to know his eccentric crew of friends: men and women joined by a shared history of unspecified service during the war, all of whom seem, in some way, determined now to protect, and educate (in rather unusual ways) Rachel and Nathaniel. But are they really what and who they claim to be? And what does it mean when the siblings’ mother returns after months of silence without their father, explaining nothing, excusing nothing? A dozen years later, Nathaniel begins to uncover all that he didn’t know and understand in that time, and it is this journey–through facts, recollection, and imagination–that he narrates in this masterwork from one of the great writers of our time.

Monday, February 3, 2020

“Women Talking” by Miriam Toews – 2018

Presented by Robin Roger 

A major work by one of our most beloved and esteemed writers, the novel is based on real events that happened between 2005 and 2009 in a remote Mennonite community where more than 100 girls and women were drugged unconscious and raped in the night by what they were told were “ghosts” or “demons.” Women Talking is an imagined response to these real events. It takes place over 48 hours, as eight women hide in a hayloft while the men are in a nearby town posting bail for the perpetrators. They have come together to debate, on behalf of all the women and children in the community, whether to stay or leave before the men return. Taking minutes is the one man invited by the women to witness the conversation–a former outcast whose own surprising story is revealed as the women talk. By turns poignant, furious, witty, acerbic, tender, devastating, and heartbreaking, the voices in this extraordinary novel are unforgettable.

Monday, March 2, 2020

“Educated” by Tara Westover – 2018

Presented by John Godfrey and Alexander Sarra-Davies

Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag.” In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father’s junkyard. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. As a way out, Tara began to educate herself, learning enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University. Her quest for knowledge would transform her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Tara Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes, and the will to change it.

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