Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Vacay reading

The Very Thought of You by Rosie Alison
A young girl is evacuated from London and sent off to the country (a family manor in York, specifically) during WW2. She soon discovers that the childless couple who have turned their family manor into a school have some secrets; while her mother finds her path alone in London, she becomes implicated in events that change everyone's lives in York. Unfortunately, this book started off strong but took a nosedive somewhere around 3/4 of the way through, wrapping up a novel of introspection with a few abrupt action-packed scenes and a final section of super-fast-forward. What began as a thinker ended up as a trite romance.

Half Life by Roopa Farooki
A young woman who abruptly fled her lover and her life in Singapore two years ago returns, leaving behind a bewildered husband in London, to confront the shocking circumstances of her original departure. I loved Bitter Sweets and The Way Things Look to Me; Sadly, this one had a predictable plot. This was not her best, although it had its moments.

Histories by Andrew Steinmetz (poetry)
A mix of patient histories (Steinmetz is a medical doctor oops, I mean, he worked as an ICU clerk, and a librarian!) and personal stories.

Black Alley by Mauricio Segura
...Kind of a darker West Side Story (without the music) set in Côte-des-Neiges. Well-written, but the 2nd person tense was kind of annoying. I kept expecting the narrator to be revealed in some weird way, since he/she kept intruding on the action, but he/she wasn't. All the "you"-ing was giving me the creeps after awhile. Nonetheless, an interesting book: a fairly accurate look at gangs, high school and Montreal.

The Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst
Novelist mum re-unites with rock star son after son is accused of murdering his girlfriend. I enjoyed that the novel was interspersed with exerpts from the final chapters of the mum's novels, which she was in the process of re-writing when her son is arrested (although the Independent review says "her revised endings congest the flow of Parkhurst's drama with contrived counterpoint," I read their oversimplification as a fault of the character's, not of Pankhurst's. A readable suspense/family novel, with sub-layers of guilt and nostalgia, with two central questions: who killed the girlfriend, and what alienated mum and son in the first place?

Time Meddlers: Undercover by Deborah Jackson
By the daughter of some of my mom's parishoners. An engaging time-travel book for 7-10 year olds involving WW2 Holland and (intriguingly) an alternate ending for the life of Anne Frank.

The Heart Does Break: Canadian Writers on Grief and Mourning co-edited by George Bowering and Jean Baird
This book nearly tore me apart. I was intrigued by the Globe review, and the idea of commissioning essays by well-known Canadian writers about grief (the editors's daughter died suddenly, and Baird found herself unmoved by traditional "grief" books, with the notable exceptions of Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking and Allende's Paula - books I also loved). I had already read Jill Frayne's memories of her mother, June Callwood, and wept; in fact, I wept through the first few essays in this book, until I managed through careful reading and frequent breaks to pace myself. Particularly moving were Joan Givner's memories of her daughter (a would-have-been librarian), Linda McNutt's interweaving stories of the deaths of her father and several of her unborn children, and Paul Quarrington's light touch when writing about his mother's death when he was a teenager.

Gwethalyn Graham: A Liberated Woman in a Conventional Age by Barbara Meadowcroft (More here, but you knew that, of course).

8 books, 9 days, 4cities, 2 beach visits. I packed it in, baby!


  1. Minor correction: Andrew is not a doctor, but he worked as a clerk in the ICU of the RVH for a while. Also, his brother and dad are doctors.

  2. thanks Lorie! Corrected via strikethrough.....