Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Four Ms. Bradwells by Meg Waite Clayton

I'll admit it: I'm a Ms. Bradwell wannabe.

But first, a little background from Meg Waite Clayton's new book, The Four Ms. Bradwells. In 1869, Myra Bradwell was denied admission to the Illinois Bar because she was a woman. She appealed her case all the way up to the nine white males on the United States Supreme Court - and lost by a vote of 8-1. The Supreme Court said, as quoted in the book's epigraph:

"The natural and proper timidity and delicacy which belongs to the female sex evidently unfits it for many of the occupations of civil life. … The paramount destiny and mission of woman are to fulfill the noble and benign offices of wife and mother. This is the law of the Creator.”

Yes, they really did say that.

Fast forward 110 years to a scene in the novel - a lecture hall at the University of Michigan Law School. It's 1979 and the student body is nearly half women. When a feisty female law student insists on being called "Ms." during a classroom discussion of Bradwell v. Illinois, several other female law students rise up in her defense, and a professor kiddingly names them the "Four Ms. Bradwells."

It's a name and a friendship to which the four young women become deeply devoted. They bond over casebooks, hot tubs and spring break road trips to a beautiful family compound on Chesapeake Bay. They remain friends for nearly 30 years, and are reunited when one of the Ms. Bradwells is nominated to the Supreme Court.

Yes, I'm jealous. I also went to law school during the Ms. Bradwells era, but unfortunately, I didn't know anybody with a hot tub, a fireplace in their dorm room or a "family compound." I spent most of my time in the law library drinking bad instant coffee, playing Pac-Man in the student lounge, and hanging out in dive bars with the Thursday Night Study Club. Makes me really wish I'd gotten into Michigan Law. But it's more than that. It's the four Ms. Bradwells. How many women truly have four lifelong friends who have been with them through nearly everything?

But enough about me and my Ms. Bradwell envy.

The Four Ms. Bradwells is a great read for any woman, no matter what your age or alma mater. There are three generations of women: mothers, daughters, mentors, friends. First, there is a first-wave trailblazing feminist lawyer with a boat named Row v. Wade. Then there are the four Ms. Bradwells, second-wave feminists who graduated from law school in the early 80's, when women first entered the legal profession in sizable numbers (with our floppy silk ties, male lawyer wannabes). Then there are their daughters, young women in college and law school, looking for their own path after so many decades of the women's movement.

There are meaty issues in this book that will keep your book club up late, like sexual harassment, fellow woman-envy, gay ex-husbands, Anita Hill v. Clarence Thomas, women's sexuality, and mothering daughters in the post-feminist era. You'll want to discuss whether you would encourage your own daughter to follow in your footsteps - and why or why not. You could discuss the mixed feelings we have when we abandon a successful career for motherhood or an alternative vocation (writing poetry for instance, like one of the Ms. Bradwells did -- writing novels, like Meg Waite Clayton did -- or bookselling, like I did).

See what I mean? This book is really discussable.

But don't be overwhelmed - this is no dark and depressing book. There's plenty of fun and frivolity too, the kind of skinny-dipping silliness us gals can have on a memorable girls' weekend. There's a mysterious death from the long-ago spring break on Chesapeake Bay that threatens to derail the Supreme Court nomination. There are secrets and suspicions and a surprise letter from the grave. There's a ridiculously nutty scene at the end of the book that might make you spit out your coffee. The Four Ms. Bradwells has got it all.

That's why I am so very pleased to announce that Glen Ellyn area readers will have the chance to meet Meg Waite Clayton at a reception and book signing at The Bookstore on Thursday, June 2, 2011 at 7:00 pm. In the meantime, you can find The Four Ms. Bradwells on our staff pick shelf. If you would like to place it on hold until the next time you pop in, just click here.

Monday, March 7, 2011

March Madness Strikes The Bookstore

Glen Ellyn pedestrians have been stopping dead in their tracks as they pass by on Main Street. They're checking out The Bookstore's new window display.

A giant red rooster, spinning orange basketballs? Of course! It's March Madness at The Bookstore!

The Bookstore's March window display is celebrating the The Morning News Tournament of Books, which starts Tuesday, March 8th and goes through April 1st. If you haven't heard of it before, it's an NCAA-style tournament for books, brackets and all. Every weekday, go to The Morning News for that day's match-up and commentary. It's lots of fun.

The good news for our customers: all books featured in the Tournament will receive a book club discount. Stop in and stock up on some of the best books from the past year.

Then, mark your calendars and join us on Friday, March 25th from 10am to Noon for a "Fourth Friday Coffee Talk" about the Tournament: the brackets, the judges, the upsets, but most of all, . . .


Let the games begin!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Book Club Night at The Bookstore

We had a great turnout of dedicated book club reps at our 11th Annual Book Club Night on Tuesday, March 1st. If you couldn't make it, below is a list of each bookseller's recommendations as well as the books that were chosen as the "Best Discussion Book of 2010" by local book clubs.

Here is a photo of Jenny discussing one of her faves, Paul Auster's Sunset Park. This was after the crowd gave her a big round of applause for being the Chicago Tribune's Indie Bookseller Cover Girl on February 26th!

Jane's Picks:

Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland
Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
The Sherlockian by Graham Moore
The Passage by Justin Cronin
A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cosse
Global Soccer Mom by Shayne Moore*

*Jane was totally inspired by Shayne's book launch last week, and wants us all to join Shayne's mission to go out and get things done!

Jenny's Picks:

Sunset Park by Paul Aster
The Fates Will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard*
Caribou Island by David Vann
Father of the Rain by Lily King
Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett
A Friend of the Family by Lauren Grodstein
The Surrendered by Chang Rae Lee

*Jenny freely admits she totally stole this one from Margie, but Jenny gave it such a great blurb ("this could be set in Glen Ellyn") all Margie had to do was give her the thumb's up from the back of the room.

Sue's Picks:

Illumination by Kevin Brockmeier*
All Is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost by Lan Samantha Chang
Let's Take The Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Memory Wall: Stories by Anthony Doerr
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
Elegies for the Brokenhearted by Christie Hodgen
The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O'Farrell

*Sue's already announcing this might be her favorite book of 2011. And it's only March!

Margie's Picks:

Wingshooters by Nina Revoyr
You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon
The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht
The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran
A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka*

*We are very excited to announce that Brigid Pasulka will be appearing at the Second Annual Downtown Glen Ellyn Bookfest on June 18, 2011. We're encouraging our book clubs to read this terrific book in advance and come to our Featured Author Luncheon ready to chat.

Book Clubs' Own Best Discussion Books of 2010:

Still Alice by Lisa Genova (3 book clubs agreed)
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
Cutting for Stone by Adam Verghese
Look Me In The Eye by John Robison
Brooklyn by Colm Toibin
Acts of Faith by Philip Caputo
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Shafer & Burrows
Beneath the Marble Sky by John Shorts
Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle
This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper