Monthly Archives: June 2014

The table is packed full of reviews: Warren’s “Cool Water,” Laurence’s “The Stone Angel,” Jonasson “The 100-Year-Old Man,” Hemingway “A Moveable Feast,” Simsion’s “The Rosie Project”

So I have not been blogging…..but I have been reading! In an effort to get in a June post, I am putting five reviews in one post (because if I did them one-by-one then I might not catch up). So, they’re going to be shorter reviews but I’m still going to do my best to get my opinion across. Let’s dig in!

coolwatereditI have been wanting to read Dianne Warren’s “Cool Water” since it won the Governor General’s Award in 2010 because I like the title and the author is from Saskatchewan. So I was excited to see this book in my stocking at Christmas (it is great having a husband who supports my literary addiction). The book was not what I was expecting, but not in a bad way. I found it read more like a collection of short stories than a novel with a singular plot. At first, I thought the town of Juliet was the centre point and I kept waiting for the storylines to all collide. But they never really did. I realized that the connection between the characters was their theme. Each person goes through the routines of their life trying to fix the wrongs they sense lurking beneath the surface, yet never making the changes stick. Lee rides a hundred miles on a lost horse in an attempt to find his own way after the death of his aunt and uncle. Vicki struggles to be a good wife and mother but gum and blanching pots get in her way of completing tasks. The only thing I didn’t enjoy about this book was it had no resolution to these stories and I wanted to feel some hope for these characters I connected with. The big shock ending encapsulates what I think is the main point of the book: The need to recognize love, life, and the moments of beauty amidst all the misunderstandings, petty arguments, and thwarted expectations before it is too late.

4/5 bacon strips

stoneangeleditMargaret Laurence’s “The Stone Angel” keeps popping up on Must-Read Canadian Books lists. (I’m a sucker for Must-Read Lists.) Now I understand why. Laurence writes the voice of her 90-something narrator with such sharp detail and layered emotion that it is hard to believe that Laurence was only 38 when this book was published. The book is from the perspective of Hagar,  a 90-year-old woman who is rebelling at the idea of being sent to a seniors home and recollecting the major events in her life. Through the present and the past, Hagar lives life on her terms. However, her pride and stubbornness prevents her from connecting with the people around her and from truly expressing how she feels. She realizes the consequences of her pride on her life in one moment that is heartbreaking especially as we, the reader, realize the unsaid: it is too late for her to change. “The Stone Angel” is an amazing portrayal of old age, but left me feeling slightly depressed.

4/5 bacon strips

jonaseditAfter two slightly depressing books, I was ready for some humour and I found that unexpectedly in Jonas Jonasson’s “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared.” On his 100th birthday, Allan Karlson climbs out the window of the seniors home and begins an unexpected adventure filled with gangsters, a suitcase, and an elephant. Meanwhile, he recounts his unbelievable life story of  fighting in the Spanish Civil War, working on the American Atomic Bomb team,  and meeting many presidents and communist leaders along the way. The story is creative, absurd and hilarious. However, I found myself rolling my eyes when in Chapter 22 when Allan somehow met another world leader. (This time it is because he is a translator for the Indonesian ambassador in Paris who has a lunch meeting with President de Gaulle and President Lyndon B. Johnson.) All in all though, a very fun read.

4/5 bacon strips

hemingwayeditI saw Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast,” a memoir of his life in Paris in the 1930s, while exploring the Shakespeare & Co. bookstore. I figured this was the perfect Paris souvenir and a chance to finally read something written by Hemingway. Although Hemingway died before his memoir could be fully completed, his grandson and editor did an excellent job of putting together this uncompleted manuscript. I found the stories fascinating. Each chapter succinctly tells a story from a scene in Hemingway’s life. I appreciated how there was no excessive wordiness or descriptors (a fact I recognized even more because of Hemingway’s reflection on his writing) yet he still had a brilliant way of describing the scene. For example, in describing the nasty impression caused by his first meeting with Wyndham Lewis, Hemingway reflects on Lewis that “the eyes had been those of an unsuccessful rapist.” (p.89) Although Sean Hemingway did a good job with what he had, I could sense that the manuscript was not complete. I felt Hemingway would have had a more carefully constructed ending but these memoirs just ended where Hemingway had stopped writing complete chapters. I definitely plan on picking up another Hemingway book to see his writing as he fully intended it to be.

4/5 bacon strips

rosieeditI loved this book! Don Tillman is an intelligent, scientific, organized man who has trouble with social interactions and emotional attachments. He decides to use his analytical abilities to re-approach dating, which up to now has been a total failure for him. He creates the Wife Project. Shortly after, Rosie enters his life and although she fails his Wife Questionnaire, Don finds himself drawn to her. As he helps her locate her biological father and experiences a flurry of activities far outside his standardized plan, his idea of life and love is slowly altered. This is an easy read with a cheesy ending, but the story is heart-warming and Don’s Asperger’s Disorder provides a unique perspective on life. It’s a great summer read!

5/5 bacon strips