Pooker's Reviews > This All Happened

This All Happened by Michael  Winter
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really liked it
bookshelves: canada, fiction
BCID: 10229116


Why oh why have I not read Michael Winter before now? I've got no excuse. Before I read this book, I'd had five, yes five, unread Michael Winter books languishing on my shelves. In fact, I denied myself the purchase of Donna Whalen for that reason. No sense in having six unread books.

I'm not sure why I picked this book over his previously published short story collections, or for that matter why I chose to read Michael Winter at all just now. You'd think I'd have had enough of Newfoundland after just finishing 830 pages of Kenneth Harvey's Blackstrap Hawco. I suspect it was the cover picture that did it. The guy spying on the world through his binoculars. I do that everyday, ostensibly to look for birds in or around my backyard. But when there are no birds, I spy on everything else: the couple that walks along the other side of the river most days, stopping to sit on a bench, surveying the river, seldom talking - I like to imagine what's going on in their heads; the ice forming on the river now; the muddy lines on the trees that mark the height of the river at this past spring's flood; and bark, I love to look at bark.

Gabriel English, the "author" of this fictional memoir, spies on his surroundings through his binoculars too. They let you focus on what you want to see and block out, like blinders, what you don't. So I felt a bit of kinship with him in that.

Gabriel English is supposed to be writing a novel. Maybe he is but he seems unable to get down to the actual writing of it. He did manage to write a short story for the CBC short story contest during the course of this "one year in the life of" memoir only to be rejected. And again I felt a little kinship. Not that I have ever sent in a short story, but if I did, it would most certainly be rejected and I could relate to the rejection. But mostly he is writing little vignettes on a daily basis, a journal or diary of his daily life and ruminations. Most of those ruminations have to do with the disintegration of his relationship with Lydia Murphy. He's in love with her, or rather, he's in love with being in love with her. From page one, the reader has a pretty good idea that this relationship is not the true-love-once-in-a-lifetime-til-death-do-us-part sort. Even Gabriel knows. Here it is page 1, January 1 and Gabriel is already resentful that Lydia is laughing with another man, paying attention to someone other than him. He wants to punch the guy and he questions whether he can love a woman like that. But he wants to. Oh how he wants to.

The book is deceptively easy to read. Words flow unfaltering despite the absence of quotation marks in dialogue and apostrophes in contractions. They flow like a song, the particular song reflective of the mood and events reported. I'm sure if Gabriel was waltzing the words would flow in 3/4 time. I love writing like that.

I also liked the format of the book, 365 days, like those page-a-day calendars with inspirational thoughts, quotations, words of wisdom for each day of your life. I read with interest the entries for those days of significance to me: my birthday, wedding day, Christmas, kids' birthdays to see whether Gabriel had any significant words of wisdom for me. Admittedly, there were days that were less interesting and one wondered why bother with an entry at all, but those were rare. Some days were so filled with human frailty, especially toward the end when you've come to know Gabriel, Lydia, Maisie, Max, Alex and Oliver and the rest of his cronies well, that even though you knew how things would be, your heart aches anyway.

Funny as all hell to me was the day they all play badminton and Gabriel ends up in "emerge" after lurching for a birdie. I still cruelly snicker.

Like someone else on the Goodreads site, I too have written out whole passages from the book. Words that resonated with me, like Max's comment in November: "Some people never become themselves because they're afraid to be fools." Gabriel's in October: "We spend the afternoon gardening and it is easy and sad. We are kind to each other, but our hearts are heavy with rain." Sigh.

This will not be the last Michael Winter book I'll read.
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Reading Progress

November 29, 2011 – Started Reading
November 29, 2011 – Shelved
November 29, 2011 – Shelved as: canada
November 29, 2011 – Shelved as: fiction
December 4, 2011 – Finished Reading

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