Monthly Archives: June 2016

Disappointing 2nd helpings

I am sitting in a Starbucks since I needed a break from the house. I’ve been at home far too much over the past week taking care of my sick baby. And what better way to tap into my non-mom entity than to write a blog post. Because although the posts have been few, my book reading has amped up in recent weeks so I have books to review and literary things to discuss! Books are a beautiful thing; their ability to make me laugh, to take me into another world, to transform language. After loving one book in an author’s oeuvre, I am piqued to pick up another when I encounter it on a bookshelf. But all books, even by the same author, are not created equal. And so it is with the books in this blog post.

IMG_2136 [553027]“The High Road” by Terry Fallis

For those of you who have been reading my blog for a while, the name Terry Fallis may strike you as familiar. That is because I have written 2 blog posts praising his previous works (Up and Down and The Best Laid Plans). I was excited to read “The High Road” and to laugh at the Parliament Hill adventures of Angus McLintock and Daniel Addison once again. There were some good moments in the book and I still enjoyed Fallis’ portrayal of Canadian politics (and perhaps subtle suggestions on how to better the system). However, I found, contrary to his other works, that the balance between antics and reality went sour in this book. The events were overboard instead of being funny especially the incident with the boozy President’s wife. Daniel’s clumsiness was overkill to the point of becoming an annoyance instead of an endearing, comical characteristic. The plot also went too far in creating a happy ending. It wasn’t believable that McLintock’s admirable character and public speaking changed the mind of half of the country and the important political figures to alter the federal budget according to his report. The last straw in the believability was the heartless “Flamethrower” Fox questioning his well-established negative campaigning after encountering McLintock. This book tried too hard to tie up all of the loose ends to make a dish as pleasing as its predecessor, and ended up flavourless in comparison. One disappointing book in a bunch is not enough from trying more by this author; that is how much I enjoyed his previous offerings!

2/5 bacon strips

“Sweetland” by Michael Crummey

Crummey’s book Galore was one of my favourite books from 2015, so I recommended to Tori that we read “Sweetland” for our first shared book discussion. Crummey maintained his high level of writing in “Sweetland”, but the tone was even darker than “Galore”, which had given its darkness a mystical quality that detached it from reality. “Sweetland” has no redemption to the darkness and one event was so heart-wrenching that it caused the book to be added to the small list of books that made me cry. I had to dive into multiple light-hearted novels to pull me out of the sad slump this book put me in. But that also shows how amazing Crummey is at attaching your heart to his characters and pulling you into their stories.  If you like a dark read that explores survival in a solitary environment, lost love, old man stubbornness, death and the Newfoundland landscape than this is the book for you. As for me, I’m not convinced I want to try another Crummey book as it sat too heavily in my stomach.

2/5 bacon strips

“The Remains of the Day” by Kazuo Ishiguro

I was engrossed by the first person narrative and unique plot of “Never Let Me Go”. The front of “The Remains of the Day” had a quote from The New York Times Book Review calling it “A dream of a book.” This book did remind me of dreams…because it was so boring I almost fell asleep. The tale is told from the perspective of an aging British butler reviewing his life while taking a road trip through the English countryside. I thought that there would be something deeper to that concept or a shocking revelation like in “Never Let Me Go”, which is what kept me reading to the end (although I did skip over some of the passages when he began talking yet again about the indescribable quality that makes a good butler). But the end was as boring as the middle and the beginning. Bland and barely palatable, I do not foresee going up for more servings of Kazuo Ishiguro.

1/5 bacon strips

I’d like to hear from you! (especially as I’m always looking for a good book recommendation)! What book disappointed but whose author still remains beloved to you?

 

Sweetness in the Belly

No need to come up with a creative post name when the title of the book fits perfectly! Camilla Gibb’s “Sweetness in the Belly” was one of my favourite reads in April, and definitely left me with a satisfied taste for Gibb’s writing. I have been wanting to read something by this iconic Canadian author for awhile, and I’m so glad that I finally did. This book tells the story of Lilly, an orphaned white woman raised in Ethiopia in a devout Muslim community. When Ethiopia undergoes a political upheaval, Lilly is forced to return to Britain, her country of birth that hold no memories for her. She leaves behind the ones she loves in Ethiopia and spends years searching for knowledge of their whereabouts like many other refugees in Britain.

I found this story interesting in light of the current refugee crisis that the world is facing. I couldn’t help but see reflected in Lilly’s narrative the stories of the thousands of refugees; the struggle to gain a balance of fitting into their new countries while retaining their cultural roots. Lilly’s story also highlighted how even the religious practices can be challenging to navigate. Lilly grew up with Muslim practices that involved saints, incense and ceremonies of significance. The Islam taught in the Mosque she attends in Britain rejects the traditions that Lilly holds dear. It made me sad that even in her religious institution she could not feel truly at home, yet I was impressed with her determination in maintaining her ceremonies even when she saw fellow Ethiopians discarding them for more European-sanctioned beliefs.

Lilly’s story also highlighted that even while she adjusted to life in Britain, her real desire was to return to her life back in Ethiopia; a place she views as her true home. Yet as she learns more about the current state of Ethiopia from the flood of refugees, she realizes that she can never return because the Ethiopia of her youth doesn’t exist anymore. This made me reflect on stories I’ve heard on the radio featuring refugees, who are grateful for their new lives in Canada but wish that they could have stayed in their country as it was during the time of peace. How hard it must be to be forced out of the place you love and watch the destruction of the home you knew.

Within the captivating fictional narrative of “Sweetness in the Belly” is a deep reflection on home, country, religion and identity that left me mulling over long after I’d chewed through the last page of this book.

5/5 bacon strips

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