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Author Topic: Book Club Discussion - "The Land of Decoration" by Grace McCleen  (Read 6441 times)

SilverCrown

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Since it sounds like most, if not all, interested members have finished reading the book I thought I'd start a topic for discussion of our first book.

Anyone is invited to kick off the discussion and if using the questions found by ILuvLucy would be helpful then I invite you to start there. The main thing is just to start! :)
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makinalist

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Re: Book Club Discussion - "The Land of Decoration" by Grace McCleen
« Reply #1 on: May 22, 2012, 12:25:24 AM »
I would like to start with the effect of having Judith narrate the story.  (For anyone who has not read the book yet, J. is a ten-year-old girl.)  I was enchanted with the way J. sees the world around her.  She so desperately wants to understand life in general and the people she knows, but she has little help with doing that.  Her misunderstandings are painful to see.

Of course, the second most important character is her father.  Their relationship is the key to the whole story, I think.  And I loved Mrs. Pierce -- the teacher who makes a difference in a child's life.
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ILuvLucy

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Re: Book Club Discussion - "The Land of Decoration" by Grace McCleen
« Reply #2 on: May 22, 2012, 07:43:59 AM »
Prefacing my comments by reminding everyone that's it's been awhile since I've read the book, so please bear with me!  :wink:

Thinking about it now, I can't imagine the story being told through the eyes of one of the other characters.  Judith's innocence is key, and allows us to wonder if everything that's going on is her childlike imagination or not.  Also brings to mind Matthew 18:3-4 "And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven". 

If the story was narrated by one of the adults in the book instead of Judith, it would've been completely different.  Not quite as "touching" too.  If an adult was "hearing voices", I'd still wonder if they were crazy, or really hearing a message from God.
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SusieQ

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Re: Book Club Discussion - "The Land of Decoration" by Grace McCleen
« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2012, 10:03:35 AM »
I agree that the impact of the story would not be so apparent if an adult was narrating the story. And, perhaps, there are lessons to learn that religions should not be pushed upon our children at the early stage but rather allow them to experience it in small quantities. As parents, we want to be able to watch our children every moment to make sure that the harsh reality does not taint them at this age but of course, that is will never be the case.   J’s life at home has made her social life a living hell and I think it’s one of the reasons she’s created the Land of Decoration. It’s her way to escaping the social life she cannot control. 

The Land of Decoration she can control. She creates life the way she sees thru the daily readings and preaching and yet, her reality is a far cry from her what she hears from her church and the Bible.
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makinalist

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Re: Book Club Discussion - "The Land of Decoration" by Grace McCleen
« Reply #4 on: May 22, 2012, 10:48:42 AM »
 :clap: Oh, bravo!  We agree on everything so far!  Absolutely - the story could only be told by Judith herself.

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Styyna

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Re: Book Club Discussion - "The Land of Decoration" by Grace McCleen
« Reply #5 on: May 22, 2012, 12:49:52 PM »
I agree with Judith being the narrator. On the other hand, drawing from one of the questions. . .

"What was it like to read the observations of a ten-year-old girl like Judith?"

Judith is so precocious that I had a hard time at first "buying in" to her story. It was her innocence that won me over finally.
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makinalist

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Re: Book Club Discussion - "The Land of Decoration" by Grace McCleen
« Reply #6 on: May 22, 2012, 08:20:12 PM »
I also think that Judith would have found something else to escape into if her religious faith had not been such a big part of her life.  With her intelligence and imagination, she was able to get away from her lonely life, and she would have done that one way or another.

Anybody think she needs/needed psychiatric help?
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SusieQ

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Re: Book Club Discussion - "The Land of Decoration" by Grace McCleen
« Reply #7 on: May 22, 2012, 08:42:40 PM »
I agree with Judith being the narrator. On the other hand, drawing from one of the questions. . .

"What was it like to read the observations of a ten-year-old girl like Judith?"

Judith is so precocious that I had a hard time at first "buying in" to her story. It was her innocence that won me over finally.
I didn't know what the premise of the story when I decided to read so I didn't have a hard time buying in because I didn't know what to expect.  I mean, at I thought it would be just about a little girl and her make believe world.

But, yes, Listy. I do believe that she could use some help in that department...specially, when "god" made an appearance.  What was your first thought when He was mentioned? What about the first miracle?  If you want to start there first.  I know it was about Neil, I meal all of them are about Neil.  I'm tryring to remember how she came up with that miracle.
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makinalist

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Re: Book Club Discussion - "The Land of Decoration" by Grace McCleen
« Reply #8 on: May 22, 2012, 10:24:50 PM »
She was desperate not to go to school on Monday, because Neil had threatened to stick her head in the toilet.  She thought she might die, if she couldn't hold her breath long enough.  Remember?  Then she came up with the idea of snow.

I didn't know what to think when she first heard God speak to her.  I didn't know if the author meant for us to believe it or not, but soon I knew that she was inventing it herself.  The voice sounds like what a child might think God would say.
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SusieQ

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Re: Book Club Discussion - "The Land of Decoration" by Grace McCleen
« Reply #9 on: May 22, 2012, 10:51:49 PM »
Ok -  I remember the toilet thing and Monday but I had forgotten that she came up with the snow.  When the voice started talking back, I thought, oh goodness, the devil! says the Catholic girl. Of course, my opinion changed as the "voice" continue to speak to her.  Then, Mrs. Pierce, I thought that she was an Angel and knew about the voice. My mind was going everywhere! :lol:
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makinalist

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Re: Book Club Discussion - "The Land of Decoration" by Grace McCleen
« Reply #10 on: May 23, 2012, 11:51:19 PM »
Why did some of you say that you didn't know what you thought about this book?  I have had it simmering in the back of my mind ever since I finished it, turning it over and over to examine my thoughts on it.  I have decided it is a brilliant debut novel, because I bought into Judith's world completely while I was reading it.  That scene towards the end when she shows us how far she is willing to go to save her father?  I could barely breathe for the tension I felt.

The fact that J. so desperately needs a mother made me want to reach in there and take care of her.  Anyway, that is my main criterion for a good book.  It must stay with me for a while after I finish reading it.
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Styyna

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Re: Book Club Discussion - "The Land of Decoration" by Grace McCleen
« Reply #11 on: May 25, 2012, 02:03:45 PM »
Just a short note to let everyone know that I'm not finished with this discussion. But I have lots of guests arriving tomorrow for the weekend and I'm in a frenzy of preparation. I'll be back to this topic after they leave on Monday.
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makinalist

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Re: Book Club Discussion - "The Land of Decoration" by Grace McCleen
« Reply #12 on: May 25, 2012, 02:30:15 PM »
I was thinking the same thing.  I imagine most of us have things going on this weekend, judging from the deafening silence around here! :grin:  We'll get back to this after the holiday.
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SusieQ

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Re: Book Club Discussion - "The Land of Decoration" by Grace McCleen
« Reply #13 on: May 25, 2012, 08:28:49 PM »
Ditto!  :grin:
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Styyna

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Re: Book Club Discussion - "The Land of Decoration" by Grace McCleen
« Reply #14 on: June 09, 2012, 09:49:05 AM »
Returning to this topic even though it seems most of us are out enjoying the early days of summer. . .

I think that the author was very effective at weaving together faith and imagination into a very telling tale of a young motherless girl who felt all alone. Her father, still grieving for her mother, was quite remote, she and her father were shunned when they went out to spread the Word, and even at school she was on the bad side of a school bully. She was remarkably outspoken at times - I thought it must have taken a lot of courage to continue to seek the address of the visiting Brother who gave her the mustard seeds.

I have a few questions:

1. Judith was precocious. Was her faith or her remarkable imagination stronger? Does it matter?

2. What was the meaning of the mustard seeds not growing? I don't understand that part of the story at all.

3. Throughout most of the book, did she know deep down that her father loved her?
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ILuvLucy

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Re: Book Club Discussion - "The Land of Decoration" by Grace McCleen
« Reply #15 on: June 10, 2012, 07:26:49 AM »
Well, Styyna, I've chosen your easiest (?) question to address. LOL

I have a couple of (undeveloped!) thoughts regarding the mustard seeds.
First off, I was thinking that maybe growing the seeds wasn't the point because here is what Jesus says in Matthew 17:20: He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."
It has been supposed by some, therefore, that he meant to say, If you have the smallest or feeblest faith that is genuine, you can do all things.  And this scripture was what Brother Michaels used in his sermon on the day he visited.  So, maybe it was only all about Judith's faith, (though she never seemed to have a problem there!)  and not about growing the seeds into actual plants??  (as I said, undeveloped thoughts LOL)

On the other hand......

The Parable of the Mustard Seed (also appears in the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Luke)
Matthew 12:31-32
He told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches."
 Now this is designed to express the small beginnings of the spread of the Gospel, of the ministry of the word, of the grace of God in the hearts of his people, and of the small number of them at first.
And then which expresses the very large growth and increase of the Gospel, and the ministry of it; of the grace of God in the heart, and of the church of Christ, and his interest in the world: of the Gospel, and the ministry of it, as to its large spread in the world;
So here, obviously the growth (or growing), is key.
 
 :puzzled:
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Styyna

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Re: Book Club Discussion - "The Land of Decoration" by Grace McCleen
« Reply #16 on: June 10, 2012, 09:08:04 PM »
Thanks, ILuvLucy, for explaining that. But. . .

In the context of your reply, both explanations about which I knew very little, I still don't understand why the seed's failure to grow was so important. It's seems to me that, one, she exhibited a lot of faith and, two, she did her part to "grow" her beliefs and bring them to other people.

Is there something else about mustard seeds I'm missing? Or am I missing some symbolism or something?
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ILuvLucy

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Re: Book Club Discussion - "The Land of Decoration" by Grace McCleen
« Reply #17 on: June 10, 2012, 09:30:31 PM »
Is there something else about mustard seeds I'm missing? Or am I missing some symbolism or something?
I was hoping you could tell me LOL! I feel like there must be something symbolic about Judith's mustard seed experiment, just don't know what.  :puzzled:
Maybe we need someone else to chime in.  ???
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makinalist

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Re: Book Club Discussion - "The Land of Decoration" by Grace McCleen
« Reply #18 on: June 16, 2012, 06:28:22 PM »
‘Nothing is happening to these mustard seeds,’ I said. ‘Do you think it’s because I don’t believe they will grow?’

‘No, Judith,’ Father said. ‘It’s probably because you don’t know how to grow mustard seeds.’"

This exchange strikes me as important.  Judith is attempting to relate everything in her world to her faith, while her father dismisses the issue as simple lack of know-how.  At the beginning of the book I thought he was the fanatic; later he seemed more pragmatic. 
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ILuvLucy

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Re: Book Club Discussion - "The Land of Decoration" by Grace McCleen
« Reply #19 on: June 17, 2012, 06:59:40 AM »
‘Nothing is happening to these mustard seeds,’ I said. ‘Do you think it’s because I don’t believe they will grow?’

‘No, Judith,’ Father said. ‘It’s probably because you don’t know how to grow mustard seeds.’"

This exchange strikes me as important.  Judith is attempting to relate everything in her world to her faith, while her father dismisses the issue as simple lack of know-how.  At the beginning of the book I thought he was the fanatic; later he seemed more pragmatic.

Ah! Thank you ML.  Good quote.  :thumbup:
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Styyna

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Re: Book Club Discussion - "The Land of Decoration" by Grace McCleen
« Reply #20 on: July 18, 2012, 09:24:50 PM »
It has been over 30 days since anyone has posted to this topic so I guess the discussion is over?

I had kind of hoped to continue our discussion a bit further but somewhere along the line my attention got totally diverted. I think perhaps the trail is running a little cold on this one. Anyone else feel that way? Or would someone like to jump in and discuss this further? I'm open to either option.
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ILuvLucy

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Re: Book Club Discussion - "The Land of Decoration" by Grace McCleen
« Reply #21 on: July 19, 2012, 08:25:48 AM »
It would've been nice to have the discussion of this book continue, but I was also happy for the comments from the few of us that elected to participate. 
Thank you to everyone who did!  I haven't gotten anyone IRL to read the book.  :rollseyes:
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Styyna

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Re: Book Club Discussion - "The Land of Decoration" by Grace McCleen
« Reply #22 on: July 19, 2012, 08:49:50 AM »
ILuvLucy - I'm game to continue discussing it. What would you like to talk about? :)
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makinalist

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Re: Book Club Discussion - "The Land of Decoration" by Grace McCleen
« Reply #23 on: July 19, 2012, 02:38:43 PM »
Is everyone aware of the writer's background and the similarities to Judith's life?   She was raised in a fundamentalist religion, little contact with the outside world, and also had a fascination with miniatures.  She almost didn't attend Oxford and felt guilty for doing so.  A teacher encouraged her to go.  It will be interesting to see how her next novel goes, whether or not her characters again relate to her own life.

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makinalist

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Re: Book Club Discussion - "The Land of Decoration" by Grace McCleen
« Reply #24 on: July 19, 2012, 06:50:54 PM »
Grace McCleen won the £10,000 Desmond Elliott prize for her first novel, The Land of Decoration.  I read that she has finished writing her fifth (!) novel already, and that she intends to stop writing and turn her focus to music instead.  What an interesting lady!
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Styyna

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Re: Book Club Discussion - "The Land of Decoration" by Grace McCleen
« Reply #25 on: July 20, 2012, 10:31:17 AM »
She is very interesting and, apparently, multi-talented! I wonder if characters in her earlier books relate to her own life as well.

About Judith - did everyone feel sympathetic toward her at once? And I'd ask the same question about her father.

Initially I found Judith to be a quirky character, one with whom I couldn't readily identify. And that's uncommon when I'm reading a book or watching a show. I usually sink right into the characters and find something with which I immediately identify. I think, though, that part of the reason was a very personal one. There is much of my (very normal) childhood that I have repressed and one of the reasons was because I was different from all my schoolmates. Still, I'm interested in how others felt toward both Judith and her father.
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makinalist

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Re: Book Club Discussion - "The Land of Decoration" by Grace McCleen
« Reply #26 on: July 24, 2012, 10:11:16 PM »
I loved Judith right away - her loneliness, imagination, and quirky ways just worked on my heart.  Her father, now - I had an awful time being sympathetic towards him, seeing how coldly he treated his little girl.  She needed him so much to show her some affection.  In the end, though, they did heal, so I forgave him.  He was lonely, too, and not handling it very well.  She baffled him, I think.
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SusieQ

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Re: Book Club Discussion - "The Land of Decoration" by Grace McCleen
« Reply #27 on: July 25, 2012, 09:30:10 AM »
I liked Judith a lot.  She's a lovely, lonely and uncertain girl that at the end, finally found her way.  I know that she brought out the mom in all of us. I wanted to protect her, not only from the bullies of the world but also from her father. Not that he would physically harm her.   It was the emotional ride that she was caught in and she just didn't know how to get off. Physical contact is as important as emotional contact. She was missing the woman's guidance that our own mom have provided us.

Her father... I can't even begin to  magine what it would be like to lose a spouse and be left with a new born child.  Most women are built with the maternal instinct.  Her mother would at least hug her and let her know she's loved- verbally and physically.  Her father loved her in is own way but he just doesn't know what he is supposed to do with a girl. I'm not saying that he would do any better with a boy - we saw a glimpse of that with Judith nemesis. I think he felt by building the fence around their house, it was his way of protecting his child. It was his way of saying, I love you and I don't want anyone to hurt you. But, Judith is child and she doesn't know how to interpret his father's behaviors. They both just didnt' know how to get the message across.  You know how often we hear that the mom is usually the glue that keeps the family together?  The glue wasn't there to begin with...
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Styyna

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Re: Book Club Discussion - "The Land of Decoration" by Grace McCleen
« Reply #28 on: July 25, 2012, 11:22:46 AM »
Very interesting comments!

My maternal instinct didn't kick right in for Judith. She was so good at coping that I remained somewhat detached at first and marveled at how she coped with everything. The more I think about it the more I think I identified with her rather than feeling motherly toward her, at least at first. As I mentioned before, and like Judith, I was different from my classmates though I wasn't bullied. I didn't know how I was different other than accepting by the age of 8 that I was physically weaker and slower than all of them. So I think Judith stirred up a lot of youthful stuff for me that I seldom give a thought to.

I thought that her father's story has been done, at least the part where he lost the love of his life at the same time he was left with the care of an infant daughter. I fully expected, based on the "formula," that Judith and her father would "find" one another before the story's end. I must say that the story took interesting twists and turns before arriving at that point.

I love hearing how the story affected others. It enriches the story for me because I see the characters differently and I think you have hit on some important things that I missed!
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Re: Book Club Discussion - "The Land of Decoration" by Grace McCleen
« Reply #29 on: July 25, 2012, 11:57:45 AM »
Agreed!  I think this is way I love book discussions. It reminds me of studying for a test.  You remember,  right?  You study and study and not everything sticks.  :reading1: There's just so much to take in and you catch certain things that you either identify with, have first hand experience or have a profound message.

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