As I sip my chai tea and enjoy a slice of freshly baked Date Bread, I just realized that this is the last week of October! Fall is my favourite season, and on this windy Sunday morning, I’m looking forward to writing this post, then meeting a friend for a delicious chai latte at a wonderful bakery up the street from me, then maybe taking a refreshing walk in the park. There’s something about November, though, that is a bit… I don’t want to say “depressing”… maybe “bland” is a better word for it. There is nothing about November that is awesome: in September you’ve got Indian Summer, in October you’ve got the beautiful fall leaves, and in December, well, it’s all about Christmas and “when will it snow?” But in November, there is nothing. I know there is Remembrance Day, which is an important date, but it isn’t necessarily something to look forward to or plan for, and although some people get that day off work, most of us do not. So I'm thankful that there are quite a few Arts and Crafts Fairs around the city that take place in November, something to perk up the month, at least for me.
I finished the novel by CanLit icon Rudy Wiebe, Come Back, and I have to say, while it started out really interesting, it was a disappointment in the end. Since I gave a summary of this novel in last week’s post, I will not repeat it here. I was really looking forward to this novel because it tells the story of a man who is searching for answers to questions that have haunted him for years, questions that originate in a sudden, tragic event in his life. I love those kinds of stories because they always reveal bits of the main character’s past that are significant, where the character made the wrong choice, or reacted in a way that was, in hindsight, not in the best interest of everyone. These types of stories make me, too, think about my own life, and consider things I’ve done that could have been done better or differently, and I don’t think literature that encourages self-reflection is a bad thing. When the character finds the answers, or makes amends, or forgives himself for past wrongs, I as a reader feel satisfied, or forgiven, or relieved of a burden, too. But in the case of Hal Wiens in Come Back, there were no moments of discovery, no revelations, and no forgiveness. There was a review in the local paper this weekend for this novel, and the reviewer said that Wiebe is “too wise to offer easy answers”, instead leaving us with the same unanswered questions that “haunt Hal’s restless soul” (http://www.therecord.com/whatson-story/4924378-a-novel-of-ruthless-memory/). In my opinion, that reviewer is being very generous. I don’t mind if an author doesn’t tie all the bits of his story up in a neat little bow at the end, but I also don’t want to be left with all questions, and no hint of answers. I also found the sections that relate entries from Gabriel’s diaries and journals to be too long and boring, saying a whole lot of nothing over and over again. So, while I’m almost ashamed to criticize this famous, highly respected author, my verdict on this book is that, while very well-written, it is ultimately disappointing. Shame on me for saying this, but I’m grateful it was short!
This left me with plenty of the week left to read Peter Robinson’s new book, Abattoir Blues. As a vegetarian, I was a bit worried about this book, due to the title and what I expected would be part of the plot, and I was not far wrong. Thankfully, there have been no detailed descriptions of what we all know goes on at abattoirs so far, just a few mentions that, while disturbing to me, were not so gruesome that I lost sleep over them. I’ve still got about 60 pages to go, so I can’t comment on the ending, but so far it has been typical Robinson all the way. Great writing, interesting mystery, and some insights on the personal dilemmas various characters are facing. This novel begins with DC Annie Cabbot being assigned to investigate the theft of an expensive tractor from a rural farm. The station also receives a call about a suspicious stain at an abandoned airfield hangar that may be blood. When a motor accident caused by a sudden hail storm leads to a gruesome discovery, the investigation team digs to find links between all of these seemingly unrelated events. As the investigation proceeds, it turns out that they are part of a much larger scheme involving a missing man, a burned-out caravan, possible illegal international black-market trading, and murder. I always enjoy a mystery by Robinson for a few reasons. Since I have read them all so far, I am familiar with the histories of each character so find it interesting to be updated on what has been going on in their lives since the last book. I also find that the stories are not challenging to read; that is, the language is easy to understand and the text flows smoothly from paragraph to paragraph and chapter to chapter. The mysteries in his novels are interesting, complex enough to keep you turning pages, but not so complex that you get lost in the twists and turns of the plot. The characters and situations are also fairly believable, considering these are works of fiction. So all in all, I would recommend this or any of the other Peter Robinson novels to anyone who likes a good British mystery. I don’t think this is one of his best books, but it will certainly not disappoint existing fans, and may win over a few new readers.
That’s all for today!
Bye for now…