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Islington Branch Book Club - Past Titles: "Caleb's Crossing" by Geraldine Brooks

Take a look through previous titles we've discussed at our Islington Branch Book Club

"Caleb's Crossing" by Geraldine Brooks

  1. Historical Context:

    • How does Geraldine Brooks portray the historical setting of Martha's Vineyard and colonial America in the 17th century? What aspects of the time period are highlighted in the novel, and how do they influence the characters and events?
  2. Cultural Clash and Identity:

    • Discuss the clash of cultures depicted in the novel, particularly between the Wampanoag people and the English settlers. How do characters like Bethia and Caleb navigate their dual identities as they straddle two very different worlds?
  3. Character Development:

    • Analyze the character arcs of Bethia, Caleb, and other key characters in the novel. How do they evolve throughout the story, and what motivates their growth and change?
  4. Faith and Religion:

    • Explore the role of faith and religion in "Caleb's Crossing." How do characters grapple with their beliefs in the face of adversity, cultural differences, and personal challenges?
  5. Education and Knowledge:

    • Discuss the theme of education and the pursuit of knowledge in the novel. How do characters like Bethia and Caleb strive for intellectual growth and academic success despite societal and cultural barriers?
  6. Gender Roles and Expectations:

    • Reflect on the gender roles and expectations depicted in the novel, particularly in colonial America. How do characters like Bethia challenge or conform to these expectations, and what impact do they have on their lives?
  7. Friendship and Connection:

    • Examine the friendships and connections formed between characters from different backgrounds. How do these relationships shape their understanding of themselves and the world around them?
  8. Narrative Structure and Style:

    • Reflect on Brooks' narrative structure and writing style. How does she use language, imagery, and storytelling techniques to immerse readers in the world of Martha's Vineyard and bring the characters to life?
  9. Historical Accuracy vs. Fictionalization:

    • Consider the balance between historical accuracy and fictionalization in "Caleb's Crossing." How does Brooks incorporate real historical figures and events into the narrative while also weaving in her own imaginative storytelling?
  10. Themes of Resilience and Perseverance:

    • Discuss the themes of resilience and perseverance in the novel. How do characters overcome challenges and adversity, and what lessons can be drawn from their experiences?
  11. The Legacy of Caleb's Crossing:

    • Reflect on the significance of Caleb's crossing, both literally and metaphorically, in the novel. How does it symbolize the crossing of boundaries, cultures, and knowledge?
  12. Relevance to Contemporary Issues:

    • Consider the relevance of the themes and issues explored in "Caleb's Crossing" to contemporary society. How do topics such as cultural diversity, education, and the pursuit of knowledge resonate with current events and societal debates?

Geraldine Brooks is an Australian-American author and journalist known for her historical fiction novels that often explore themes of identity, faith, and resilience. She was born on September 14, 1955, in Sydney, Australia.

Brooks began her career in journalism, working as a reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald. In 1982, she won the Greg Shackleton Memorial Scholarship, which allowed her to study at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism in New York City.

After completing her studies, Brooks worked as a correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, covering conflicts in the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans. Her experiences as a journalist deeply influenced her writing and provided inspiration for her later novels.

Brooks transitioned to writing fiction in the late 1990s, drawing on her journalistic background and historical research to create compelling narratives set in various historical periods. She gained widespread acclaim with her debut novel, "Year of Wonders" (2001), which tells the story of a small English village grappling with the bubonic plague in the 17th century.

In 2005, Brooks published "March," which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The novel reimagines the life of the absent father in Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women" and explores his experiences as a chaplain during the American Civil War.

Brooks continued to write historical fiction with novels such as "People of the Book" (2008), which follows the journey of a rare illuminated manuscript through various historical periods, and "Caleb's Crossing" (2011), which explores the friendship between a young Puritan woman and a Native American boy in colonial America.

In addition to her novels, Brooks has also written non-fiction books, including "Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women" (1995), which examines the lives of Muslim women in various countries.

Geraldine Brooks' writing is characterized by meticulous research, vivid storytelling, and a deep empathy for her characters. Her novels often shed light on lesser-known historical events and marginalized voices, inviting readers to explore the complexities of the human experience across different time periods and cultures.


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