This is a tender and deeply moving book. Frances Itani tells the story of a deaf woman (loosely inspired on her own deaf grandmother), waiting for herThis is a tender and deeply moving book. Frances Itani tells the story of a deaf woman (loosely inspired on her own deaf grandmother), waiting for her young husband’s return from WWI with superb prose. The complexity of what is or isn’t communicate in every relationship, the loneliness of disconnect, and ultimately the healing power of love, family and friendship is weaved through the plot with mastery.
I am looking forward to Itani’s next book. ...more
I loved this book. Margaret Atwood’s prose is very poetic. The stories work as a mural or picture book of the main character’s life, from childhood unI loved this book. Margaret Atwood’s prose is very poetic. The stories work as a mural or picture book of the main character’s life, from childhood until middle age, following a refined plot line. This is Margaret Atwood at her best. ...more
I love this book. It is definitely in the pack of books I would carry with me from a burning building. I read it 2 years ago or so, and recently browsI love this book. It is definitely in the pack of books I would carry with me from a burning building. I read it 2 years ago or so, and recently browsed through it again for a book club discussion. I feel surprised with myself that a book with so many graphic descriptions of battles and death does not however make me put it on the list of books never to reread. For all the sadness and destruction it describes, still it does not leave me downhearted. I guess I see the characters' struggles as an illustration of the strength of the human spirit, and specifically the strength of the aboriginal community. There are so many layers in this book - aboriginal integration - or not - and its sad consequences; friendship; war; madness - and each one is handled by the author with extreme skill. The language is beautiful, the characters well developed, the research into WWII remarkable. I look forward to reading more books by Boyden and cannot recommend this book enough. ...more
I really enjoyed The Other Side of the Bridge. There is maybe something predictable in a love triangle between brothers - one shy and caring, the otheI really enjoyed The Other Side of the Bridge. There is maybe something predictable in a love triangle between brothers - one shy and caring, the other a selfish charmer - and the pretty sad girl just arrived in town, but the characters are portrait with such depth and the story told with such a great voice that I could not avoid being hooked to this book. Also, the story of a fourth character - maybe the principal story after all - adds another layer to the narrative. I am also from a small Canadian community, albeit in the prairies not the Canadian shield, and the descriptions of the small community, with its prejudices and non-written social rules, hang true to my ears. This is my first book by Mary Lawson, but I intend to read more of her writing. ...more
Someone in my bookclub suggested this book, and as far as books for bookclubs, this one should generate very interesting discussions when we do meet.Someone in my bookclub suggested this book, and as far as books for bookclubs, this one should generate very interesting discussions when we do meet. To be fair to Robert J. Sawyer, it already has created an array of discussions around the kitchen table with my husband and kids. But, in many ways I feel it was not executed with the mastery it deserved. The author utilizes dialogue as a form of explaining ideas to no end, making the reading a bit tiring. The ending is too nice and the characters too naïve.
Would I recommend it? I already have. I recommended to a friend that enjoys discussions on ethics, morality and the plausibility of God. The caveat: Don’t expect a great literary work. ...more
I seldom read non-fiction, but this was a book club choice and I am very glad I read it. John Vaillant's prose is rich and quite poetic at times. ButI seldom read non-fiction, but this was a book club choice and I am very glad I read it. John Vaillant's prose is rich and quite poetic at times. But the engrossing writing does not overshadow the tale Vaillant set himself to tell. The main thread of the book is the story of how a centuries old golden spruce, that was sacred to the Haida, was cut down by Grant Hadwin, a logger gone environmentalist gone mad. In a more in-depth journalistic style and skillfully researched, Vaillant also tells us the historical factors behind the logging industry in the West Coast, and the difficult relationship between loggers and the indigenous people of the area. This is a multi-layered book, partially mystery, partially historical account, definitely haunting in the environmental questions it poses. ...more
This is a choice from a member of my bookclub, otherwise I doubt that I would ever had read it. And, had I been in a different mood, I probably wouldThis is a choice from a member of my bookclub, otherwise I doubt that I would ever had read it. And, had I been in a different mood, I probably would not have liked at all. But, there is something as “the right book at the right time”, and I did laugh lots in a moment when I needed to find a book that would make me laugh.
The characters are quite stereotypical, but humour is by nature stereotypical characterization. And Quarrington’s humour is fresh, non-cliché. It lacks a certain depth in plot and characters, but there is great originality in its humour, so 3 stars it is. ...more
I feel I owe an apology to the person on my bookclub that chose this book. I don’t know from where exactly come by negative bias, but I was under theI feel I owe an apology to the person on my bookclub that chose this book. I don’t know from where exactly come by negative bias, but I was under the impression that this would be yet another romantic melodrama. Yes, it is a romantic book as the main theme is love, unrequited love actually, but Elizabeth Hay never let us down into commonplace. The prose is poetic, and the background of the Canadian North is suggestive. Here is what the Canadian magazine Walrus has to say about it, as they say so much better than I could:
Late Nights On Air is set in a small Yellowknife radio station in 1975, where two young women are learning on the job as novice broadcasters reading the news during the slow hours of the night. A radio station is a perfect setting for writing about the isolation and the community of the North.
One of them, the alluring Dido Paris, is a natural, with a voice “like a tarnished silver spoon.” The other is a shy but unswerving easterner, Gwen Symon. It was a cbc radio drama about the English explorer John Hornby and his fatal journey into the Barrens that compelled Gwen to get in her car and drive over 3,000 miles to see the tundra for herself. Hornby, in fact, is the ghostly central character of Hay’s story.
People pull up stakes abruptly in the North, and so do the multiple characters in this book, which is a bit unnerving. Once several affairs are set in motion among the staff, the story abandons the radio station and moves out into the landscape. Two couples embark on a six-week canoe trip where the evocation of the tundra — its emptiness, silence, and delicate beauty — is stunning, almost a new species of erotica. Hay portrays the tender bonds that are forged (and broken) in such wild places.
The novel brims with curious data, too. In the course of her story, Hay swoops down like a raven on odd, shiny bits of information about the North. The tufts of soft muskox hair that snag on branches in the bush are called qiviut; the violet shades of the northern lights are due to nitrogen; the sound of someone crawling into a tent pitched on dry lichen in the tundra is a dry crackling, like wrapping paper. Nothing seems to escape her. This is Hay’s best novel yet. ...more
I finished reading Blindness a few days ago, and have not until now tried to write a review just because I am still musing about it. As the 5 stars atI finished reading Blindness a few days ago, and have not until now tried to write a review just because I am still musing about it. As the 5 stars attest, I am among those that did like the book very much, but I can see why it is a book that is not attractive to many. Saramago leaves the reader meandering about the possible “message” of this story, to the point of it seeming almost meaningless. If some authors are guilty of proselytizing, Saramago – in the opposite spectrum - lets us alone make our own conclusions about it. This way, and only in this way, it reminded me of Suttree by Comarc McCarthy, or better yet, The Road, which like Blindness has a claustrophobic effect on the reader.
I read it in Portuguese, and I don’t have in me now to read it again translated into English, as I previously meant to do. I found it so emotionally exhausting to follow these individuals trapped in a Kafka like universe that this book is going to stay among those that I loved but never intent to re-read.
Saramago’s prose is not poetic or beautiful. The imaginary he paints is bleak, and his narration is dense and deep. He writes strenuous long sentences, broken only by comas. This is especially hard while reading dialogues, because often it is impossible to recognize who said what. But as literary devices, these all add to the impact of the story being told.
As for the story itself, it made me reflect on the meaning of “humanity”. What is it, and how fragile is it? Can we retain our humanity if the basic structures of civilization crumble? And can we find it in something as simple as a cup of clean water? I don’t know if those were the philosophical questionings intended by the author, but I don’t think it maters. At the end, I believe the author is just there to make us wonder, and wonder I did. ...more
I found this book extremely disturbing. Ian Banks’ narrator so candidly tells about murdering 3 children and killing animals that as a reader one is aI found this book extremely disturbing. Ian Banks’ narrator so candidly tells about murdering 3 children and killing animals that as a reader one is almost drawn into feeling sorry for him in a Humbert Humbert kind of way. But Ian Banks is not Nabokov and even if this book successfully got under my skin – it contains some of the most disturbing scenes I have ever read - I never quite believed in the characters. Can a 5 year old commit murder? For most of the book I kept wondering that I was reading an unreliable narrator – the third murder, for instance, is so surreal - but Ian Banks never explores this possibility. What a pity!
Then the finale: I was very disappointed with it. It was too brusque and too tidy. Not that in such a dysfunctional family the events revealed at the end of the book were not plausible, but that the reaction of the main character was so accepting of it all.
I cannot quite pinpoint it, but this book misses a certain ingredient to make it a true masterpiece. As it is, it is a good attempt though. ...more
I am maybe being too harsh giving this book only 3 stars. Overall it was an enjoyable book, and a great sneak pick at the lives of medical students anI am maybe being too harsh giving this book only 3 stars. Overall it was an enjoyable book, and a great sneak pick at the lives of medical students and new doctors. And this is also where I found fault with this book. At the end it felt a bit contrived. That the book has autobiographical tinges is obvious (or I assume it anyway). And certainly this does not take away from its merits, but I do feel curious to read Vincent Lam writings about something other than his own immediate experiences. I will pay attention for any follow up books anyway. ...more
Holden Caulfield says: "What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific frHolden Caulfield says: "What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it."
I say that I don’t know if Salinger and I would have much to talk about, however, I really wish I could sit down and have a conversation with Holden. I think it would go something like this: “Hey Holden, I just wanted to say hi. Mind if I have a cigarette? You know, I haven’t smoked in 20 years, but your story really, really made me crave a cigarette. I don’t remember ever reading another story that made me feel like having a cigarette. But, your story, you know, it killed me.
But, I wanted to tell you that that stuff you said about Jesus, well, it killed me. Yeah, you are just so right about that.
Well, you don’t know me and all, but I also wanted to say to you, about that girl, Jane, well, I think you should phone her some time. Yeah, none of my business, I know, but think about it anyway.
I hope you will be well. I think you will. But take care, all right? I will be thinking of you. If you don’t mind, I may come around some other time just to say hi. Bye for now, then. And thanks for the cigarette, it saved my life.” ...more
I love my book club. The people in it are smart and funny, and I get to read and discuss books that I would not read otherwise. But, wow, this one wasI love my book club. The people in it are smart and funny, and I get to read and discuss books that I would not read otherwise. But, wow, this one was a waste of time. It is predictable, annoying, the characters are all one dimensional, stereotyped, heck, the characters are interchangeable – one sounds just like the other.
This is one of those books that it so bad, it get me thinking that I should attempt to write one too. If someone can get published and become a bestseller with books like this, why can’t I?
I am just back from my book club discussion on this book. I have to say that I am still completely surprised by the fact that I was the only one there that did not like it – and I felt like a pariah because of it too. Some of the people in the club at times have been very critical of poor writing, but tonight they all seemed to have forgiven the author of this awful book on the merits of the story being told.
So, as I sit here thinking about their reaction and mine, I came up with a couple of truths: first, I am becoming adamant about the literary quality of a book, so much so that I may have to rethink even my membership to this group, or at least plan to avoid the discussion if and when another similar book is chosen. Second, that – and this is the epiphany of the night – that people, even very intelligent and well read people, are willing to forgive implausible plots and stereotyped characters if a book speaks enough to their heart. I loathed the book, but still have to give it to the authors that many have been touched by it.
Apparently, what it says about me is that I am a heartless human being, and hard-nosed about a certain literary quality too.