Sunday, 28 December 2014

Last post for 2014...

WOW, another year has passed so quickly - I hope you are enjoying the holidays!  As I sip my Spiced Pear tea (no substitute for the Masala Chai I used to enjoy on Sunday mornings) from a beautiful new mug I received as a Christmas gift, and nibble on clementines and Banana Bread, I am thinking about what I’ve just read, and what I’ve read over the past year.  I’m also debating whether I should have a “reading plan” for 2015… more on that later.

I just finished Ann-Marie MacDonald’s latest book, Adult Onset, and I’m almost afraid to write what I really thought of it.  After all, she spent years writing this novel, and probably put bucketsful of emotion, bared her soul even, to write this.  In fact, after reading a few of the reviews, my thoughts that this was a very autobiographical novel were confirmed, so she really did expose her intimate side to readers, which is very brave and probably admirable.  But I thought the book was terrible.  It tells the story of Mary Rose MacKinnon, author of two highly successful Young Adult novels, who is married to significantly younger theatre director wife Hilary and has two children, adopted son Matthew, aged five, and two year old Maggie, Hilary’s biological daughter.  Mary Rose, or “Mister”, is a stay-at-home mom who is supposedly working on the third novel in her "Otherworld" trilogy, but she just can’t get going.  She receives an emailed message from her father praising her on a short film she participated in, “It Gets Better”, meant to help GBLT youths deal with their sexuality, but she is unable to compose a suitable reply to him, and mistakenly sends off the truncated message, “Dear Dad, I”.  So begins a week in the life of Mary Rose, a week when Hilary is away directing a play in Winnipeg or Calgary, when Mary Rose’s psyche begins to unravel.  Her arm starts to ache, a “phantom pain” left over from her childhood, when she underwent several surgeries to repair the bone cysts in her arm.  She forgets things, she loses her temper with Maggie, she fears that she loves Matthew more than Maggie, that she may abuse her children, that perhaps she was abused during her childhood but just can’t remember it.  She worries about her parents, about Dolly and the possibility that she has Alzheimer’s, and about her father, who is unable to show affection to his children but to whom she is deeply devoted, constantly seeking his approval.  Mary Rose worries about Andy-Patrick, “A&P”, her younger brother who is a special liaison for the RCMP, who is unable to hold onto a relationship.  She is 48 years old, and worries about her age, that she has passed her "best before" date, that this is as good as it gets.  She worries that younger bisexual Hilary is having an affair while away, with whatever man or woman has taken her fancy.  I really wanted to love this novel, and struggled to get to finish it in the hope that it would all be worth it in the end, but it did not turn out that way.  I was disappointed to the very last page.  She didn’t seem to know what she wanted the novel to be about:  was it a novel about mid-life crisis?  was it about uncovering deep, dark family secrets?  did she want to explore the trials and tribulations of motherhood and domestic affairs?   All along, I kept wondering where her editors were during the creation and publication of this book.  My biggest complaint was her recycling of characters and situations first encountered in Fall on your Knees, such as the 13-year old Arab child bride, daughter of Mr Mahmoud, who married an older Scottish man and recent immigrant to Cape Breton.  Would people who have not read that first amazing novel by MacDonald (I’m sure there are a few) even get the reference to “wives with heads in dirty ovens”, or her comment, when looking at a website of military graves, that “they are all dead”?  These are taken directly from Fall on your Knees, which begins with the line, They’re all dead now.  She calls the baby who died before she was born, her unborn sister, Other Mary Rose, when in Fall on your Knees there was Other Lily”, the baby who dies before Lily was born.  While the writing was great and there were nuggets of insight, this book was so frustratingly all-over-the-map that I cannot really recommend this to anyone, and I would hope that this is not the first book by this author that a reader picks up – it is not representative of her other works, so please do not judge her by this offering.   Fall on your Knees was her best work, The Way the Crow Flies was also really good, but I fear that, like Mary Rose, Ann-Marie may not have a third book in her. 

As we come to the end of the year, I like to write out my Top Ten Favourite Books and Audiobooks of the Year, so here it is:

Books

The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair Joël Dicker
The Husband’s Secret Liane Moriarty
The Colonial Hotel Jonathan Bennett
Life or Death Michael Robotham
Local Customs Audrey Thomas
Waiting for the Man Arjun Basu
The Children Act Ian McEwan
The Rise and Fall of Great Powers Tom Rachman
The Winter Palace Eva Stachniak
The Narrow Road to the Deep North Richard Flanagan

Bonus title:  The Weight of Water Erin McHugh
Bonus YA title:   Last Message Shane Peacock
Bonus Juvenile title:  The Tale of Despereaux Kate DiCamillo

Audiobooks

Witch Hunt Ian Rankin
All Cry Chaos Leonard Rosen
Tenth Witness Leonard Rosen
The Expats Chris Pavone
The Brothers of Baker Street Michael Robertson
The Baker Street Letters Michael Robertson
Our Kind of Traitor John Le Carré
Mission Song John Le Carré
The Silent Wife ASA Harrison
Dry Bones Peter May

That’s all for today.  Enjoy the last few days of the year!


Bye for now…
Julie

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