I’ve been off this past week for March Break, so I've had lots of time to read, and have a couple of books to tell you about as I sip my steaming cup of chai tea and nibble a yummy cinnamon bun from the Kitchener Market…mmmm!!
The first book I read this week was reviewed in the Quill and Quire and so I put it on hold at the library, not really expecting that I would enjoy it, as it didn’t sound like the type of book that was for me. The Hunger of the Wolf by Stephen Marche opens with “Hunters found his body naked in the snow…” The body in question belongs to Ben Wylie, heir to one of the wealthiest families in the world. His body was found in the snow near the cabin this American family kept in northern Alberta, a kind of getaway from the pressures of the business world in which they were so embroiled. The narrator, struggling journalist Jamie Cabot, a man so determined to make it in New York that he is willing to lose his wife in order to stay, decides that he will uncover the truth about the unusual circumstances surrounding Ben’s death. And Jamie has an in – his family have been caretakers for the cabin in Alberta ever since Jamie can remember, and as a boy, he used to trim the hedges and mow the lawn regularly, even if no member of the Wylie family put in an appearance for months or even years. What he discovers as he pieces together information gleaned from the fragments of papers, letters and diaries hidden everywhere in the cabin is the secret the family has hidden as they have moved from humble beginnings to the international wealth and fame they have acquired at present – for three days every month, at the time of the full moon, all of the males in the Wylie family turn into wolves. The Wylies’ rise to wealth and status over several generations is documented in enough detail as to make the reader feel informed, but the author does not overwhelm the story with unnecessary detail. As for the part about the males becoming wolves, and how they and the other family members deal with this transformation, it is presented in such a way that, while it is important to the story, it is not as unbelievable as it may at first sound, nor is it a detail that consumes the reader’s attention while the rest of the story is being told. I don’t know if that makes sense to you, but I wanted to make that part clear – when I was reading the novel, unless I was at a part where they were turning into wolves or recounting their wolfish experiences, I didn’t think, “Oh ya, well Carl is a wolf as well as a father and businessman”. If this was intended to illustrate how well the men in the family hid their secret and never talked about it, even amongst themselves, then Marche did an excellent job of it. This literary page-turner was one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. I was particularly impressed with the way in which Marche managed to convey the rise in wealth and status of so many generations in such a short novel – this book was less than 300 pages – yet I never felt that he was skimping on necessary detail or information. It was all there, clearly and concisely. He has an amazing skill with language, and I could tell right away that he was a talented and experienced writer. I’ve never read anything else by this Canadian author, but I will definitely add him to my list of authors whose works I want to read.
I finished another novel last night by Canadian author Elisabeth De Mariaffi. The Devil You Know is set in the early 1990s, at the time of the Paul Bernardo investigation, and tells the story of 21-year-old Evie Jones, a rookie reporter who is assigned to cover the search of Bernardo’s house in St Catharines. This investigation hits close to home for Evie, as she is reminded of the unsolved case of the abduction and murder of her friend, Lianne, 10 years earlier. As she delves deeper and deeper in to the details of that case, given the wealth of research tools she now has access to through the newspaper’s database and archives, she becomes more and more afraid for her own safety, while also suspecting that her family and neighbours may have been involved in the case. Twisting and turning every which way, this novel did a good job of mounting tension and creating an atmosphere of fear and suspicion. It was well-written, but the plot was uneven, the timeline was difficult to follow, and I had to suspend my sense of disbelief for most of the novel, due to the almost surreal atmosphere created by the narrative. It was also very Toronto-centric, so I don't know how enjoyable it would be for a reader who was unfamiliar with particular streets or locations mentioned in the book. I’m not sure who I would recommend this book to, or if I would recommend it at all, but it was certainly suspenseful, and kept me interested to the very last page.
That’s all for today. Enjoy the rest of the weekend!
Bye for now…