|Andre and Georgeann, my new friends through Simon Fraser University's graduate liberal studies program..|
|Me and Georgeann. She can inject humour into every possible topic.|
|Me and Andre. A tutor and Virginia Woolf scholar, he is our go-to teacher.|
Finding new friends -- real friends -- can be difficult, especially as you get older. But I found Andre and Georgeann in the best way possible -- through the magic of common interests. We were all drawn to Simon Fraser University's graduate liberal studies program, which promised us a chance to study and discuss our favourite things -- literature, ideas and the "big" questions of life.
All of us had grey hair and were of a similar age, which was older than our classmates. It seemed natural to team up, and through our introductory "boot camp" year beginning in the fall of 2014, we saw each other through essays, impenetrable (to me) philosophers, and a tsunami of books that never seemed to stop.
Andre is a Virginia Woolf scholar with a master's in English literature, and as a tutor, he's a natural teacher and go-to person for all questions about literature. Georgeann has the sharp analytical mind of the lawyer she is, plus a love of literature, philosophy -- and a good laugh. For me, with my bachelor of journalism degree, which included no philosophy and not much by way of English literature, this was all new ground. But they were kind, and the three of us -- plus a younger member whose busy life means she can only come sporadically -- vowed to keep meeting for discussions even when we aren't taking classes.
Last summer's readings included Homer's Odyssey, Flaubert's Madame Bovary and Dickens' Great Expectations. This summer we are on a Bronte kick, with Jane Eyre, Villette, Wuthering Heights and Mrs. Gaskell's biography of Charlotte Bronte on the agenda.
On Monday, we pondered Mrs. Gaskell's treatment of Charlotte and her father; the degree to which Charlotte based her writing on her own experiences, and the amazing independent and feminist attitudes of the Brontes at a time when Victorian women were supposed to be subservient, quiet and married. As always, we segued into personal matters as well. Because we've found that our common interests go well beyond the books we share, and have turned into friendships that have flourished ever since we hurled ourselves into SFU's boot camp two years ago.