Sunday, 16 June 2013

Short post on Father's Day...

I suspect this will be a short post, as haven’t read much since my last post.  Coincidentally, though, since today is Father’s Day, I was thinking about books where the roles of fathers was explored and the book I just finished was about a father, along with other family dynamics, which is great, as it suits the theme of today’s post.

I read The Dinner by Herman Koch last week.  This book was originally published in Dutch in 2009, and the English translation became available in 2012.  I only heard about it about a month ago when I read a review in our local paper, but I had to wait for a copy to come in for me at the library (I guess many others also read the review!).  This short novel poses the question:  how far would you go to protect the ones you love?  The entire novel takes place over a dinner in an expensive restaurant where two couples, brothers and their wives, meet to discuss something which is revealed about midway through the meal.  The sense of family secrecy hangs heavily over every aspect of the evening, from the choice of restaurant to the lack of reservations to the choice of appetizer and dessert to the conversation.  It is a dark, dangerous look inside one family’s secret closet, and the reader is caught up in the drama and shifting dynamics of these two families as they are revealed, parceled out as each course of the dinner arrives.  It was a really fabulous novel, but a story I felt I’ve read before.  It was biting and sarcastic, critical and opinionated, and as the story unfolds, the reader is increasingly doubtful of the narrator’s reliability.  As one reviewer stated, “Koch has mastered the non-feel-good novel” (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/books-and-media/dutch-author-herman-koch-has-mastered-the-non-feel-good-novel/article9211457/)  I would definitely recommend it, but I would warn potential readers that it contains disturbing scenes and acts, not detailed explicitly, but with enough force to be unnerving.

And I started a novel from my “required reading” list, Mount Pleasant by Don Gillmor, about a man, Harry, who has always considered himself part of Toronto’s elite, but in reality is crippled by accumulating debt.  When his father passes away,  Harry, in his early 50s, believes that he will inherit a substantial chunk of his father’s wealth which will wipe out his financial burdens, and so is shocked and horrified when he learns that his father died in financial ruin.  He believes that there must be money hidden somewhere, or that his father had been swindled out of his fortune during the last months of his illness, and so he proceeds to investigate his father’s financial situation, albeit in a rather haphazard way.  I’m only a third of the way into this short novel, and I must say, it grabbed me right away.  The writing is superb, and it really describes Toronto, particularly the ritzy neighbourhoods north of Bloor Street, in a way that brings them to life for anyone familiar with the locations.  Having said that, I think I will pass on the rest of the book after reading a few reviews by my other committee members, as they point out almost unanimously that Harry’s obsession with debt and financial burden becomes tedious by the end.  If I hadn’t read those reviews, I would have probably stuck with it in the hopes that the focus of the book would shift to explore family relationships, mid-life crises, etc.  Alas, I have many other books on my “required reading” list that I must get to before they are due to be returned to the library, so I will have to move on to another title.

That’s all for now.  Happy Father’s Day!

Bye for now!
Julie

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