To protect familial honour, the truth can be buried—but one must know that secrets never die. When a demolitiOriginally posted on Across the Litoverse
To protect familial honour, the truth can be buried—but one must know that secrets never die. When a demolition crew unearths Vito Santoro's remains at an Italian seaside villa, his sister Piera locks her door against the accusations and anger of her extended family. Following Vito's disappearance fifty years earlier, Piera insisted she received regular correspondence from her eldest brother after he settled in Argentina. His former wife, Teresa, was left to raise their infant son, Marco, under Piera's iron rule without knowing that Vito was, in fact, dead. As forensics teams investigate Vito's mysterious death, the five remaining Santoro siblings and Teresa demand answers from Piera; however, the self-proclaimed matriarch will only open her door to her Canadian-born nephew, David, who she entrusts with a scrapbook detailing her youth and the circumstances leading up to Vito's disappearance.
But the Santoros are rife with their own resentments, conflicting desires, and bitter feuds—at times, her siblings' stories undercut and complicate Piera's narrative to the point where no one can be trusted. David, as an outsider and an academic, possesses the tools needed to uncover the unnamed familial shame strangling his family, but the cost proves higher than anticipated…
Genni Gunn's Solitaria marked an excellent addition to the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize Longlist for its complex tussling over family honour and personal sacrifice, its staggering portrayals of guilt/shame shared between siblings, and its poetic exploration of a multigenerational mystery within a gorgeous Italian landscape. I do love it when narrators are unreliable and, in the case of Piera and her siblings, the reader learns that each tale contains mere shards of the truth, and that a storyteller does little more than reflect their own biases concerning the past.
Gunn offers a well-crafted literary mystery populated with deceptive, complex characters circling around an explosive revelation that will keep readers riveted until the last page.
Ideal for: Mystery readers who like a clean shot of the literary in their fiction; Folks looking for a captivating, poetic Canadian novel; Readers who love a gorgeous Italian backdrop; Kids keen on cruising through the 2011 Giller Prize Longlist. ...more
a garage sale detour in a small Saskatchewan town, RCMP Constable Arabella Dryvynsydes discovers a duplicateOriginally posted on Across the Litoverse
a garage sale detour in a small Saskatchewan town, RCMP Constable Arabella Dryvynsydes discovers a duplicate photograph of her paternal grandmother, Sara, and her late twin sister among the stacks of old tokens for sale. After losing her mother one year earlier, and after the recent dissolution of a long-term relationship, Arabella craves a new project to focus on in a bid to forget the stinging wounds of recent months. How did a photograph taken in the mining town of Extension, B.C., wind up in a stranger's possession one hundred years later? And what implications does this hold for Arabella's present life?
As she sifts through a packet of long-forgotten letters and traces her roots back through the oral testimonies of her aunt and father, Arabella revives the memory of her great-grandmother, Jane Owens, and uncovers the dark secrets Jane took to her grave. One part detective novel and one part CanLit historical narrative, Extensions explores one woman's quest to understand her origins while resolving a century-old murder case. All in a day's work for the RCMP, n'est-ce pas?
Sadly, Extensions was rife with numerous issues for me: Jane Owens' narrative (by far the most compelling part of the book) was often hijacked by the mundane doings of Arabella's life; characters' names and relationships were convoluted and difficult to follow without a visualized family tree (i.e. try sorting out a Jane, Janet, and Janetta or a Lewyllyn and Llewellyn); and Myrna Dey's representations of minority groups were often limiting and distressing—I wasn't clear if this was meant to show a small mindedness in Arabella, or if the comments were…uh, serious.
I would advocate skipping Extensions unless you're aiming to read through the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist like me....more
Jonathan Safran Foer (the fictitious character, not the author) is a young American Jew who travels to UkrOriginally published on Across the Litoverse
Jonathan Safran Foer (the fictitious character, not the author) is a young American Jew who travels to Ukraine in search of Augustine, a woman who may have saved his grandfather during the Nazi liquidation of the small family shtetl of Trachimbrod. Armed with an old map, several packs of Marlboro cigarettes, and endless reproductions of his grandfather's photo of Augustine, Jonathan sets out across Ukraine's countryside with a motley crew of Heritage Tour guides—his translator and soon-to-be comrade, Alexander ("Alex" or "Sasha") Perchov, Alex's "blind" Grandfather (who is also the driver on their trek), and the Grandfather's "seeing-eye bitch" (Sammy Davis Junior, Junior)—to uncover Jonathan's lost roots and to discover his own grandfather's salvation from the Holocaust.
I admit, any attempt to recap the general plot of Everything is Illuminated is almost impossible to write—Jonathan Safran Foer creates a narrative timeline that flows both forward and backward in time, and even quickens or slows in pace depending on the events of a given scene. He references and cross-references small moments or details throughout the text, all of which could easily be missed on a first reading of the book. In addition, Foer balances his text between deeply humorous scenes (i.e. the infamous vegetarian confrontation, Trachimbrod's town records, LIFE, AND THE LIFE OF LIFE), meditations on the difference between actual love and the misguided love of love, reflections on writing and the active construction of memory, and descriptions of those heartbreaking, sob-inducing moments (i.e. Yankel's protection of the young orphan, Brod, and his efforts to remember her in his old age; the creeping revelations regarding the abuse in Alex's family; and the Grandfather's tragic decision during the war that brought both evil and good into his world, etc.)—and while it seems like a broad spectrum of topics to tussle with, Foer does so with great care and an obsessive eye for telling details. I can only imagine how an undergraduate seminar might tease out the meaning of this novel, especially in the cases where a class would dedicate an entire semester to studying a single book. I would have loved to explore these pages in those excitable undergrad years, and I feel a reader could spend countless hours navigating this text with highlighter in tow, all in the hopes of uncovering new insights and missed layers of meaning…
Ideal for: Book club members who need to shake up their same ol' picks; Readers who are not afraid to weep in public (because you most certainly will, folks); Fans of experimental fiction, magic realism, and nonlinear narratives; Readers who gravitate toward historical fiction, especially relating to the Second World War....more
Jane Urquhart constructs a beautiful, heartbreaking tale spanning more than one hundred years of the Butler family's livelihood. In Sanctuary Line, thJane Urquhart constructs a beautiful, heartbreaking tale spanning more than one hundred years of the Butler family's livelihood. In Sanctuary Line, the entomologist Liz Crane returns to the now-deserted Butler farm where she spent her summers as a child. As she studies the migratory patterns of the Monarch butterflies native to the Lake Erie region, Liz must renegotiate her place among the tragedies still haunting the abandoned home. Old wounds are scoured open in the wake of her cousin's death overseas in Afghanistan, and Liz must learn to face the failures of her long-lost uncle, Stan, and the mysterious boy, Teo, who once migrated from Mexico each summer to work the orchards in Ontario.
Sanctuary Line proves Urquhart's position as a national literary treasure for her abilities to weave together huge swathes of history, and for her talents with extended metaphor. A new appreciation for the Monarch butterfly is bound to arise, and readers will be left wanting to explore their own family's roots further.
Ideal for: Lake Erie enthusiasts; online junkies who recently signed up at Ancestry.ca; entomologists and other friends of the Monarch butterflies; readers who want to consider themselves true Can. lit. freaks....more
Ray Bradbury returns with another exploration of his beloved October Country and the hidden lives of the undead. From The Dust Returned chronicles theRay Bradbury returns with another exploration of his beloved October Country and the hidden lives of the undead. From The Dust Returned chronicles the varied adventures of familial eternal beings ranging from the mummified Grandmere and Grandpere to the disembodied sister, Cecy, from the winged Uncle Einar to the all-too-human younger brother, Timothy. It is pure magic mixed with nostalgia, shot through with an ample sense of wonder and other-worldliness.
Once again, Bradbury proves his deft skills with language and his remarkable depiction of the mythic qualities of the day-to-day.
Ideal for: Halloween-obsessed readers; fans of lore, ghost tales, and the otherwise supernatural; Poets with an eye for novels; kids who need a good scare in those luscious autumn months....more