Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Read recently: One-minute reviews

  • Paul au parc by Michel Rabagliati - Like all the Paul books, filled with nostalgia and a love of the simple things in life (in this case, camp friends, sleeping outdoors, family bickering, and first love). This one, about Paul's experience in Boy Scouts in Montreal during the FLQ crisis, has some unexpected trauma three-quarters of the way through. Dear Drawn and Quarterly, Hurry up with translations!
  • Our Lady of Alice Bhatti by Mohammed Hanif - Speaking of trauma.... I almost had to put this down (the trauma is right at the end, but the characters were beginning to drive me a bit around the bend mid-way through). Nonetheless, this is an interesting exploration of contemorary Pakistani culture, albeit through the lens of the Christian minority.
  • The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen - Family mourns the death of a baby; secrets hiding all over the place. Older half-sister shows up and shakes the boat. For readers who enjoy Joyce Carol Oates, Kim Edwards (ha! See below), or Julia Glass.
  • Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch - I am just going to plain stop referring to this book by its North American title, Midnight Riot, which is not descriptive at all and panders to allegedly simple-minded Americans. So there. Imagine an adult Harry Potter: young Peter, of a mixed background and raised on the mean streets of London by a lovingly normal family, joins the Filth and is assigned to a secret department charged with magic law enforcement.
  • The Stranger's Child by Alan Hollinghurst - Yes, I am late to the game reading this. I somehow thought I wouldn't like it, but I LOVED it. It made me yearn to sit my uncle down and ask him about his school days. It also totally made me collect all of these pics into an album. Anyway, this multi-generational saga loosely follows the middle-class Sawles and upper-class Valence families throughout the 20th century, starting with a love triangle between George Sawles, his sister Daphne, and the fictional WW1 poet Cecil Valence. Very Brideshead, but also has similarities to The Children's Book by Byatt.
  • The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes - Unreliable memory, 101: The school days edition. Tony Webster looks back on his schoolfriends, including the enigmatic Adrian Finn, who became involved with Tony's girlfriend and then killed himself. Does Tony have the full story? Is he capable of seeing beyond his own perspective? Sort of atmospheric like The Portrait by Iain Pears, only with less tension - in a good way.
  • The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards - Alex is late to the game, part 2. Woman's husband, a doctor, delivers his own twins in a snowstorm in mid-century America. When one of the babies is discovered to have Downs Syndrome, the husband tells his wife the child has died and sends it away. The repurcutions of this secret are felt throughout the family's life, and the lives of those complicit in the act. Dramatic, character-driven.
  • A World Elsewhere by Wayne Johnston - Oddly likeable story of university friends separated by geography (America / Newfoundland) and social status (filthy rich / destitute and estranged from family) who re-connect over their two children, neither father being the biological parent of the one in their care. This sounds like a backwards way to describe this book, for those who have read it, but it's oddly what sticked with me. That, and the theme of control: control over others, and control over an environment.
  • Touch by Alexi Zentner - Weird. That is all. If you like your magic realism set in freezing cold Northern Ontario, go for it!
  • Currently reading: The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood - so far, also a latter-day Brideshead Revisited. Delish.

1 comment:

  1. i have loved michel rabagliati for some time. great pick!