Almost every summer a cool Canadian novel finds it way into my hands and heart. This year, Lawrence Hill offers the sleeper hit with his Someone Knows...moreAlmost every summer a cool Canadian novel finds it way into my hands and heart. This year, Lawrence Hill offers the sleeper hit with his Someone Knows My Name.
This epic novel follows the (fictional) autobiography of an enslaved African girl through her journey to American, work on an indigo plantation, career as an (enslaved) midwife, emancipation by the British military and her British owner, flight to Canada, return to Africa, and work in Britain for abolitionist groups.
The narrator is lively and determined and her incredible energy carried me through the book's sprawling history and geography.(less)
When I sought out The Whirlpool, I was unable to find a US edition. That made me uneasy, so I shelved the book for years until a night of insomnia left me roaming the bookshelf for distraction.
The Whirlpool is definitely a first novel. Despite its relatively short length the book seems much longer than its fatter siblings (The Underpainter 368pp., Away 368 pp., The Stone Carvers 400pp.). The ending's eventual arrival came as a relief from tedious detail and an assumption that the readers be deeply invested in the poetry of Robert Browning.
If you're new to Jane Urquhart's writing, please don't judge her solely on this first work. The Underpainter is a much better introduction to her complex and deeply geographic fiction.(less)
**spoiler alert** Every summer I pick up some cool Canadian fiction to counter the rising mercury. This practice has introduced me to some of my favor...more**spoiler alert** Every summer I pick up some cool Canadian fiction to counter the rising mercury. This practice has introduced me to some of my favorite books (Latitudes of Melt) and authors (Jane Urquhart).
This summer's selection just didn't stand up to the shimmering brilliance of previous Canadian authors.
The Ladies' Lending Library had too many dangling narratives and blind alleys to be satisfying. The rich atmosphere I anticipated was bland to the point of drab. The characters were (unintentionally) too similar to differentiate and wandered in and off stage randomly.
The story wanted to contain a coming of age story a la To Kill a Mockingbird, a Gatsby reprise in which a defeated Jay eventually wins the girl, a Ibsen-drawn wife fighting the oppression of her social role, and two different Holocaust narratives plus a bit of Sister Carrie. The book's multitude of directions and voices turned quickly to noise.
With some editorial guidance and careful decision-making, Kulyk Keefer might become an author to follow, but this book is simply to muddled to know.(less)