This is an early post as I think it’s going to be a busy weekend and this seems like a good time to write, with a steaming cup of tea in front of me and the first snow on the ground outside this morning, which I think is pretty exciting.
I read a book for my committee this past week, Accusation, by Catherine Bush. She is a Toronto author who has been nominated for the Ontario Trillium Award for her novel, Claire’s Head. This is her fourth novel, but the first that I’ve read by her. Set in 1996, this novel opens with a short news item about the defection in Australia of nine members of an Ethiopian circus, claiming that the head of the circus, a Canadian man, Raymond Renaud, consistently abused them. Told from the point of view of a reporter, Sara, the story then recounts her first experience with the children's circus, Cirkus Mirak, while she was in Copenhagen at a conference. This circus, led by Montreal-born Renaud, impresses Sara so much that when she returns to Toronto, she contacts her friend and filmmaker Juliet to tell her about it, in case she would like to make a documentary about them. Sara and Juliet have a long history together, as they encountered one another as students in Montreal nearly 20 years before, where Juliet supported Sara through a difficult time. When the circus comes to Toronto, Sara meets and forms a bond with Renaud as they share an intimate experience together, during which time Renaud shares his mission and vision about the potential social benefits the circus movement could have on street children around the world, an encounter over which Sara will experience guilt in the coming months as the accusation of abuse is made public. She goes on a search for the truth behind the accusation, and the novel explores the concept of truth in the world today, and the damage an accusation can cause, whether true or false. It sounds like a great story, but I have to say, I was really disappointed in the novel. Call me a traditionalist, but I generally like my novels to follow a standard pattern, beginning, middle, and end. If an author deviates from this pattern, they need to do so with more skill than Bush exhibited. I also prefer my authors to use full sentences most of the time, employing sentence fragments only for emphasis. This story was told using mainly sentence fragments, which made it really difficult for me to read, despite my keen interest in getting to end and finding out what happened. I was sorely disappointed in the style of writing and the total vagueness of the overall story, although the issues behind the story are ones that need to be explored by writers. The only other book I could think of offhand that explores the consequences of false accusations is Atonement by Ian McEwan, which was also vague and slow, but in my opinion, a much better novel. Not that Bush didn’t have some fabulous ideas and phrases (usually phrases, not full sentences!). I almost hate to criticize, as I’m sure this novel would appeal to others, but the style was too jarring for me. I don’t know if this is a style she uses in other books, but this novel did not make me want to read her earlier novels. It would be a great book club discussion book, and maybe some would find it enjoyable, so take my criticism with a grain of salt.
And I listened to a very different type of book from the above, Open and Shut by David Rosenfelt, an early novel in the “Andy Carpenter” series. Because I download from the library website, I listen to these books as they are available, not necessarily in order. So this book gave me the background on the Willie Miller case, a case to which he refers in a later book. In this novel, Willie Miller is on death row and awaiting execution for the murder of a girl in a bar 7 years earlier. Andy’s recently deceased father was the prosecuting lawyer for the original case, and shortly before he dies, he asks Andy to try to appeal the case, just months before Willie faces death. It seems like an impossible appeal to win, but Andy’s persistence shines through as he leaves nothing uncovered in his quest for the truth. It also gave me the backstory to his relationship with his ex-wife Nicole, and his current relationship with police investigator Laurie. It was, as always, an enjoyable listening experience.
I need to go to the library today to pick up my reserves. Not sure what is in for me, but I hope there will be something I really want to read – I’ve had a few books recently that have been just so-so, and I’m longing to really sink my teeth into a good book (not literally, of course!)
Bye for now…