4 stars Lawson’s one of my favorites, she nails the typical Canadian novel – unsentimental, bit bleak, full of soul searching dysfunctional people c 4 ½ stars Lawson’s one of my favorites, she nails the typical Canadian novel – unsentimental, bit bleak, full of soul searching dysfunctional people coping as best they can, a rural setting taking centre stage. Her third novel and they’re all pretty great, a Lawson quote "I am in love with that landscape" - it shows... "Everything monochrome, shades of white and grey. Snake fences tacking their way down the edges of the fields, every rung neatly capped with snow. Dark, snow-laden trees beyond the fields. Sky a flat and endless grey. All around him snow stretched pure and clean and untouched apart from the path of the snowplough, a scar across a perfect face." With a spare style and complex characters she weaves a story that grips, love it for the same reason I love Southern lit. - snowbillies instead of hillbillies, the isolation of Canada's frozen north in lieu of steamy bayous. "The thermometer read 30 below zero. It was so still out there, so silent, it was as if the air itself was frozen. You felt it might crack at any moment and shower down around you in infinitesimal slivers of ice." Told through 3 voices, Edward the father, eldest son Tom & only daughter Megan – guilt is the binding theme. Tom’s over his best friend’s suicide, Edward’s over marrying the wrong woman, Megan’s over leaving home and abandoning her little brothers to a mother who loses interest in them once they’ve outgrown the cuddly baby stage and a father locked away with his books and his regrets. A love / hate relationship with The Great White North, eloquently expressed by Tom’s experiences driving that snow-plough - a job he chooses to maintain a distance from people and pain. Other than Megan who’s great and Adam, a stoic little soul who’s a heartbreaker they’re an unlikable bunch. Still, suspect you’ll warm up to them by books end. Cons: The ending is abrupt and a tad too neat. The relief of some humour wouldn’t have hurt. Some might find it overly melodramatic – Fair enough, but I didn’t. Megan on The Catcher in the Rye“Holden Caulfield the hero’s name was. She didn’t like him very much. He went on and on about everyone being phony, a wallower, she decided.” ...more
Minute I saw Jim Kay’s cover illustration I knew I’d read this. Edgy, his use of rapid, almost angry slashing strokes and a palette of grey capturingMinute I saw Jim Kay’s cover illustration I knew I’d read this. Edgy, his use of rapid, almost angry slashing strokes and a palette of grey capturing the tone that permeates this novel to perfection. Young adult but read it anyway, only takes a few hours and does what the best fables do, speaks to all ages. It never lets up from this hook of an opening line “The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.” In the category of contemporary fairy tales I’m putting this right up there with Coraline– and I’m nuts about Neil Gaimen. I envied Conor his monsters; how useful it would be to distill your fears into something palatable that you could then face head on. While this story deals with bullying and Conor’s terror of losing his mother, just insert your own personal demons. We all wrestle with accepting things beyond our control, maybe Conor’s monsters can teach you a few tricks. It’s dark but it’s also hopeful - he comes out the other side. I’ll never outgrow fairytales, especially those with a lesson or a moral. “There is not always a good guy. Nor is there always a bad one. Most people are somewhere in between.” Admire their clarity – sometimes need the obvious spelt out. In this one the monster tells three tales, each is ponder worthy:) Good twist that the fourth is left for Conor to tell. Cons: I dislike having my guts wrenched, thought the author went a little overboard pulling the old heartstrings. Unfair I know considering the tough subjects it tackles. So I’m knocking off a 1/2 a star and rounding it to 5. It's worthy.
“You do not write your life with words” the monster said. “You write it with actions. What you think is not important. It is only important what you do.” ...more
This defines the term character-driven novel, multi-faceted and deeply defined Steigner hones each with a surgeon’s precision. A story of two couplesThis defines the term character-driven novel, multi-faceted and deeply defined Steigner hones each with a surgeon’s precision. A story of two couples, the joys and challenges of their marriages and enduring friendship and a life cocooned within Ivy League’s walls. • Larry Morgan (narrator): workaholic, driven, rags-to-riches college professor & author extraordinaire “I was a cork held under, my impulse was always up” • Sally Morgan: ah Saint Sally…“I had to live, out of pure gratitude” • Sid Lang: repressed poet; handsome, wealthy & weak. • Charity Lang: generous & passionate, also a ball-breaking control freak. Without her this would’ve been painfully dull.
I had a hard time seeing past their smugness “Their intelligence and their civilized tradition protect them from most of the temptations, indiscretions, vulgarities, and passionate errors that pester and perturb most of us" and sense of superiority, they kinda drove me nuts. “Consider your birthright,” we told each other when fatigue or laziness threatened to slow our hungry slurping of culture. “Think who you are. You were not made to live like brutes, but to pursue virtue and knowledge.”
Undereducated brute that I am those passages made me want to huck this book at a wall.
“They have been able to buy quiet, and distance themselves from industrial ugliness.” Fair enough and admirably honest. While I shared their reverence for literature and art they lost me with their DISINTEREST in anything outside their cozy little world. Cons: Pretty obvious I had a problem with the tone:) Add to that the pacing; I love character-driven novels but a bit more action wouldn’t have hurt. An argument over if the teabags had been packed or not (view spoiler)[they were… (hide spoiler)] a highlight. Meanderings: I’m not having much luck picking classics this year, blame it on my Glasgow working-class roots but the trials & tribulations of the privileged just aren’t working for me, no matter how elegantly written and thought provoking. Guess I’m jealous, should just stick with ‘Dickens’. So consider the source and read other reviews, most are glowing. Undecided on Stegner With an autobiographical flavor this is his final novel. Like Morgan, Stegner also grew up dirt poor & went on to become a great writer (view spoiler)[ and like the character Charity Lang, his adored mother also died of cancer (hide spoiler)] Similarly he still managed 3 degrees despite the timing of the Great Depression, amazing. Learned this after finishing the book, maybe I’d have gotten more out of it had I known this going in. Anyway, will definitely be reading Angle of Repose["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
It’s typically British, beautifully written, and it’s dark… we’re tackling the human condition here... It’s about the imperfections of memory, unforesIt’s typically British, beautifully written, and it’s dark… we’re tackling the human condition here... It’s about the imperfections of memory, unforeseen consequences, rejection, yes even remorse. More a study in human nature, not a lot actually happens but it’s definitely not a slog! You will be entertained; any bleakness is balanced by the injection of clever and biting humour, mixed in with all the angst threads a mystery. Add to that a few very twisted relationships, love interests play a big part including the most scathing drop-dead scorned lover letter I've ever read. Only 150 pages I still took a few days to read it, a little novella I wanted to take my time with, worthy of mulling over. I didn’t mind that the characters weren’t particularly likeable, more important they came across as real. It’s one of those novels about your ‘average’ man; peel away the layers and ordinary people can be extraordinary. Take Tony Webster’s character, told from his university days to middle age 'I settled for the realities of life, and submitted to its necessities' contrasted by that of his best friend Adrian, a brilliant non-conformist. 'Adrain had a better mind and a more rigorous temperament than me; he thought logically, and then acted on the conclusion of logical thought. Whereas most of us do the opposite; we make an instinctive decision, then build up an infrastructure of reasoning to justify it.'
Negative: The female characters came across flat. Token effort if any to explain their thought processes or motivations. I’m thinking Barnes finds women in general too much an enigma to bother trying to decipher:)
Favorite quote:"But time…how time first grounds us and then confounds us. We thought we were being mature when we were only being safe." ...more
Yes this reads like a soap opera, how else could you hope to portray life in a small New England mill town? It’s pretty typical, everyone knows everyoYes this reads like a soap opera, how else could you hope to portray life in a small New England mill town? It’s pretty typical, everyone knows everyone’s business, social hierarchies are rigid and all ‘outsiders’ are suspect. Timeline is the 70’s but it could just as easily be taking place today.
In her debut novel Strout shows herself a master at building multi-layered characters, warts and all. Amy is a shy, insecure and socially inept teen - the perfect target for a sexual predator. Enter the math teacher, the account of his seduction methods are really chilling; this is one manipulative SOB you’ll want to kill - slowly and painfully. Isabelle’s character is probably the most interesting. Personal secretary to the boss, she’s disdainful of her fellow mill workers, but being a single mom is herself excluded from the town’s white collar elite. And she has her own demons to contend with, self induced loneliness compounded by the realization that her own youth is slipping away. Granted she’s bitter and controlling, but doing her best to raise her daughter well, a daughter whose sexual awakening pushes her over the edge. (view spoiler)[ Terrified the story will leak and upset their fragile standing in the community she reacts in anger rather than with sympathy. Communication breakdown - resentful silence - stalemate. There are lots of layers – Isabelle has a crush on her married boss, Amy on her teacher, looking for a father figure anyone? (hide spoiler)] Add to this a host of fascinating minor characters each dealing with their own baggage; Dottie and Fat Bev are adorable.
Absorbing, entertaining & believable, this came close to a 5 star rating for me. Dropped a star for 2 reasons 1: the predictability of the ending 2: her decision not to introduce a single likeable / sympathetic male character. Let’s be real Ms. Strout, they do exist:) ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more