Friday, 5 July 2013

Tea and book talk on a rainy Friday afternoon...

It’s a rainy, muggy day as I sit in my thankfully-air-conditioned living room in my reading chair, with my cup of tea and CBC Radio Two playing softly in the background, thinking about what I’ve read recently.  I’ve actually been reading a lot lately, devouring books as they come to hand, which is not a bad thing at all.

I finished Helen Humphreys’ memoir/homage to her brother, Martin, shortly after posting my last entry.  Nocturne: on the life and death of my brother continued to be all the things I described in my last post, haunting, beautifully written but also somewhat self-indulgent and too personal.  Having said that, while it may not have wide appeal for all readers, I am glad I read it, as some of the passages were incredible.  I’m not a big fan of Humphreys, having read only one of her novels, Wild Dogs, which I thought was brilliant and heartbreaking, like a poem in prose.  I think her most famous novel is The Lost Garden, which I have but have never read.  I believe her most recent title is The Reinvention of Love, which I also have not read.  While the imagery and use of language in Nocturne was often breathtaking and also heartbreaking, I also learned much about Humphreys as a writer, some of her experiences growing up, and the ways she undertakes the process of writing.  It was an interesting reading experience, and now that I’m one week and several additional books removed from the actual experience, I think my memories of the book are fonder than my initial response last week.

I also read Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok for my book group, which met this morning.  This semi-autobiographical novel tells the story of Ah-Kim, an 11-year old girl who moves to New York with her mother from Hong Kong, and is forced to make her way in a foreign country and face the many obstacles that stand in her way as she tries to both fit into the new culture and still keep the core values of her traditional upbringing.  This is Kwok’s debut novel, and we all agreed that it was a wonderful read.  It was an easy read, but one that was also well-written.  One of my book club members, who usually begins the book on the Monday before our Friday meeting since it regularly takes her the week to finish the selection said that she started it on Monday morning and finished Monday night before she went to bed, she enjoyed it that much.  I also plan my reading according to a similar schedule, and I finished this novel in 2 days.  We all agreed that the characters were interesting and well-drawn, and that the story was both complex and realistic.  Our least favourite character was Aunt Paula, our favourite was Ma.  Kim’s story explored cultural traditions, the realities of child labour and sweatshops in America, the immigrant experience, and the success that results from the perseverance of strong characters with family support even in the face of adversity.  Kim was simultaneously serious and funny, and the situations described in the novel were alternately humorous and heartbreaking.  Based on Kwok’s own experiences growing up as an immigrant in New York, this novel is at once accessible and enlightening, and I would highly recommend it to just about anyone.

I’m reading Always Watching by Chevy Stevens right now, and I’ll write about it when I’m finished, but I’ll just say that it, too, is un-put-down-able, but in a different way than The Silent Wife, more plot-driven, and less literary, but still compelling.  More later…

And speaking of The Silent Wife, since I finished reading it, I’ve been reading reviews by others who have called it “a literary Gone Girl” - I started reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn but it didn’t grab me.  I’m now even less inclined to read it than I was before, and that’s OK, since I’ve had a chance to read so many gripping, compelling novels, and written by Canadian authors to boot!  It’s been a good reading summer so far…

That’s all for now.  Have a great weekend!

Bye for now…
Julie

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