Thursday, August 20, 2009

Asylum - Andre Alexis

Having lived most of my life in Ottawa and having worked during my university years on Parliament Hill, Alexis's local references to familiar places and situations frequently evoked personal memories. I found that the absurd idealism which led to an absurd prison project at an absurd price at the taxpayer's expense while somewhat exaggerated was nonetheless authentically founded on a grain of truth.

Miss Elva - Stephens Gerard Malone

I really enjoyed this novel as it combined great characters and an intriguing plot. Set in Nova Scotia, Miss Elva tells the story of two brothers and two sisters whose lives intertwine in tragic ways. I loved Miss Elva's subtle observations and intricacy of the story. Malone faithfully and unflinchingly paints and accurate portrait of small towns and small minded people.

The Naked Island - Bryna Wasserman

I chose this book because I am a traveller and I had been to many of the places mentioned in the blurb: Indonesia, India, Nepal, Singapore. It is described as a "Gothic travelogue--one woman's journey through a tortured dreamscape of love, possession and ecstatic release." (Sarah Sheard)
Unfortunately, I found this novel to be as self indulgent as the protagonist. I would not recommend this novel to anyone unless they needed kindling.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Winter Vault - Anne Michaels

With one of my favourite novels, Fugitive Pieces, in mind, I expected to immediately fall in love again with Anne Michael's new novel, The Winter Vault. It was not to be. There were times while reading this book, I actually contemplated not finishing -- I think in my entire life I have only "not finished" a book once -- Cloud Atlas -- which received rave reviews and which I just couldn't get into...oops, I digress.... Anne Michaels's The Winter Vault was a difficult and disturbing read. I liked the images she uses and the idea of the protagonist being a winter vault but this time I found her style very dense and and disjointed (maybe it is deliberate but I found it distracting). Nonetheless, I suspect that if I made a greater effort while reading this novel, I would unearth a richness that I have missed the first time around.

Gargoyle - Andrew Davidson

I quite enjoyed this book as I came to it without any expectations. It tells the story of a creep whose life is transformed following a car crash and his encounter with a mentally ill woman. I liked the way the author encourages us to believe in the possibility of rehabilitation and challenges us to rethink our preconceived notions.

Come, Thou Tortoise - Jessica Grant

Jessica Grant's narrator touches both our funny bone and our heart from her opening words. She reminds us unequivocally and daringly of our collective naive credulity in the "grown-ups" who guided us through childhood. Grant's audacious transparency and honesty challenges us to acknowledge a kindred ingenuousness that we would, for the most part, prefer to deny even to ourselves. This is a delightfully uncomfortable read which draws us laughingly out of our smug protective adult shell.