Author Miriam Toews has enjoyed modest success in her home country of Canada. Of Mennonite tradition (see sidebar) and hailing from rural Manitoba, ma...moreAuthor Miriam Toews has enjoyed modest success in her home country of Canada. Of Mennonite tradition (see sidebar) and hailing from rural Manitoba, many of Toews's novels explore this way of life. She won the 2004 Governor General's Award for Fiction for A Complicated Kindness, and she was awarded the 2008 Writer's Trust Fiction Prize for her novel, The Flying Troutmans. All this to say, Toews has writerly chops.
Irma Voth came about when, in 2006, she was approached to star in a film by Mexican director Carlos Reygadas. He was taken with her photograph - seen on the jacket of her novel, A Complicated Kindness - and felt she would be perfect to play the role of a Mennonite wife living in northern Mexico, trapped in a troubled marriage. Toews studied film at university but had never acted and, initially, thought Reygadas was a bit nuts. She ignored his emails for a long time but relented when he posited that being in his film "...will give [her] something to write about." (Silent Light, the resulting movie was an independent darling in 2008 and won the Jury Prize at the Cannes International Film Festival that same year.)
And write about it she did. Miriam Toews has a wonderful and minimalist style, and in Irma Voth she explores some familiar themes - a young woman's longing for freedom, getting by on wits alone, and a road trip. She has a great ability to take readers into amazing places that are a little bit strange but a whole lot inviting, and because of her incredible skills, I was very eager to dive into her new novel.
Irma Voth revolves around a simple question posed by our protagonist: "How do I behave in this world without following the directions of my father, my husband, or God?" For a young woman raised within strict, old-order Mennonite beliefs, it is a disturbing question - one that unmoors Irma but also helps to ground her. At the beginning of the story, Irma has been disowned by her very strict and rigid father for secretly marrying a man who is outside of the Mennonite faith. While still residing in a separate house on her father's property, Irma and her husband, Jorge, struggle to communicate and make a go of their new marriage. This attempt is made all the more difficult as Jorge frequently absents himself from home for long periods of time.
Metaphorically, Irma is a widow and orphan at the age of nineteen, even though her family and husband exist. Her mother is portrayed as having two main functions - making babies and being subservient to her husband. Her sister Aggie, at only thirteen-years-old, is strong-willed, and more vocal and rebellious than Irma, though Irma does take her opportunities where she can find them. It is this relationship, the one between sisters, that Toews really explores. The level of maturity and capability of both girls is astounding. There is a resilience and hopefulness in Irma and Aggie that will make you cheer for them as they try to improve their lot in life.
Toews writes honestly and with humour, and her balanced style makes her work accessible to readers. We are given a beautiful literary story that becomes much more real with her interjections of observational wit. Her narrative never seems forced, instead it feels as though you are listening to a friend relay a tale.(less)
Jo Nesbø is excellent in this genre. The novel was great escapist reading and was not predictable until very late in the story. Nesbø knows how to kee...moreJo Nesbø is excellent in this genre. The novel was great escapist reading and was not predictable until very late in the story. Nesbø knows how to keep readers guessing with intricate storytelling and interesting characters.(less)
i read this book in conjunction with a course i am currently taking with paul bloom, 'moralities of everyday life'. it's a really interesting book. my...morei read this book in conjunction with a course i am currently taking with paul bloom, 'moralities of everyday life'. it's a really interesting book. my only quibble, i guess, is that this may be the pinnacle of self-promotion, in having bloom's book be the text for his own course. (ha!!) so, for me, a lot of the information was repeated between lectures and the book. i would have preferred a bit more detail - whether in the book or from the lectures. we still have 3 more weeks of class left...so it may happen, but based on the course already, i suspect the trend of repetition will continue.
in any case, bloom is a fantastic professor, and the course is fascinating - definitely a crap-ton of ideas to think about and ponder. i have enjoyed it a lot!(less)
stacy schiff did a great job with this biography of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry the man most well-know for writing The Little Prince. it was clear to me...morestacy schiff did a great job with this biography of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry the man most well-know for writing The Little Prince. it was clear to me that extreme care was taken with the research for the book, which is always great when reading nonfiction. saint-exupéry was born and lived during quickly changing times - both because of two world wars, as well as because of the advancements in technology. much of the history of the times are framed during this book as well. the book was a slow read for me because it is quite dense with information. i mostly appreciated all of the details, but at times it did seem a bit excessive or over-written, which is why this wasn't quite a 5-star read for me.
saint-exupéry was an interesting and odd fellow. he was emotionally needy and immature in many, many ways. but he was also, it seems, quite intelligent. he was a daring (perhaps foolish?) pilot - the need to fly as great as his need to write. this balance was sometimes tricky to maintain as his flying friends/colleagues would rib him (not always good-naturedly) about his other job as a writer. (this type of behaviour, and some hostilities peaked after he was awarded the prix femina in 1931.) he was also an inventor - filing many patents for devices to improve/aid flight. his brain, like many people's, never stopped whirring.
much of the book is dedicated to his flying - which was such a huge part of his life. when he was a young boy, he witnessed a wright brother testing flight in france...something that became a huge, life-changingn inspiration to him.
saint-exupéry was liked by the ladies...what a guy! but he did eventually marry consuelo, and this was a rocky and difficult marriage. each of them had affairs, and tormented one another with childish mind games and behaviours. i wanted to smack them a lot while reading about their interactions.
the ending of the story, exupéry's life was a slight surprise to me - i really did not know that much about him before reading this book. but his ending certainly was curious, and seemed well-planned. hmmmm......(less)
This is the first novel by Dillard I have read. It made me want to read more of her works. I liked the flow of her writing a...moreI rate this novel 4 Stars.
This is the first novel by Dillard I have read. It made me want to read more of her works. I liked the flow of her writing and the premise of the story. She manages to make the implausible seem reasonable.(less)
i really enjoyed this collection. i read the stories out of order, jumping around to titles that grabbed my attention. i don't know if this was a mist...morei really enjoyed this collection. i read the stories out of order, jumping around to titles that grabbed my attention. i don't know if this was a mistake or not?? but i did really appreciate munro's talent and her ability to make the everyday so alive and vivid.(less)
oh, man. i wanted to love this books so much more than i did. i am pretty disappointed. it was okay. fine-ish, even. but it wasn't very good. the seco...moreoh, man. i wanted to love this books so much more than i did. i am pretty disappointed. it was okay. fine-ish, even. but it wasn't very good. the second half of the book, post-in cold blood time, was better going for me and seemed less inclined towards something i have recently discovered i really don't like in biographies: reliance upon supposition and inference in times or situations where such information couldn't possibly be known.
it's clear shields is a huge fan of miss lee and that the book was undertaken with good intentions. i guess i am just a bit confused over what that intention really was though? at moments, it all felt a bit...dirty. quotes were used from correspondence obtained between shields and people who had been in miss lee's life, even if just marginally. i never felt confident that these people really knew miss lee or were adding value to her story.
i realize truman capote was a large presence in miss lee's life. i knew that prior to reading this biography. but it seemed to me an awful lot of page space was given over to the funny little man. i am also aware that miss lee has not given interviews or answered requests for appearances for many years. she's not reclusive - in her hometown she is familiar and social. i was aware of this. but her friends and neighbours are protective. (which is so awesome!) so i suppose i am left feeling that there is only so much information here to build a story upon and that the capote stuff is some sort of padding to give heft to the biography. i don't know?
i loved learning that miss lee was a bit of an eccentric on her university campus - preferring to dress in men's striped pyjama bottoms and shocking other student by smoking a pipe! (HA!!)
the one bit of information i did learn that surprised me was that miss lee "wanted to be the jane austen of alabama." thanks to a wonderful high school english teacher, miss lee fell in love with the novels of jane austen. once 'to kill a mockingbird' brought so much financial success to miss lee, she thanked her teacher (who had also helped proofread TKaM) by taking her on a trip to england, to have an austen experience together. awww!!!