Friday, 3 April 2015

Book talk on a long Easter weeked...

On this first day of the Easter weekend, I am enjoying a steaming cup of chai tea and a slice of freshly baked Banana Bread as I write this post.  I will be away on Sunday visiting family, so it was either write on Friday or Monday, and since I will have nothing new to write about on Monday, I may as well get a head start on the coming week and write today. 
Another reason I wanted to write today is that Good Friday always reminds me of my favourite book, which I haven’t reread in quite a while.  The Winter of our Discontent by John Steinbeck opens on a “fair gold morning (in) April” with Ethan Allen Hawley going to open the grocery store which his family once owned, but where he is now a grocery clerk for his Italian boss, Marullo.  On his Good Friday, just before he opens the store, Hawley is addressing the restocked wall of canned goods in Latin, and it is this scene, more than any other in any book I’ve read, that comes to mind whenever anyone asks what my favourite book is.  Hawley’s loss of pride and personal shame in the face of others’ success is his fatal flaw, and Steinbeck’s subtle portrayal of his character is, in my opinion, one of the best examples of “show, don’t tell” I’ve ever read.  Hmm… maybe I will have to make time to read this amazing book again sometime soon.
But for now, I must focus on the book I’m reading for my next book group meeting, Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky, which is really good, but a rather slow read for me, so dense is it with excellent writing and historical detail.  I will write about that book once we’ve had our discussion next weekend.
I read Tessa McWatt’s latest novel, Higher Ed, last week, and it was a very good read indeed.  This novel intertwines the stories of five characters, each with their own personal worries and triumphs, who are all searching for love, albeit in different forms.  Francine is part of the Quality Assessment and Evaluation team at a college in East London.  She is devastated after witnessing a fatal accident that leaves her distraught and struggling to find meaning in her life.  Robin is a film studies lecturer who faces possible layoff due to the restructuring of his department, but this uncertainty only adds to the complexity of his personal problems as he tries to figure out how to move forward and find true love, while dealing with a complicated issue from his recent past.  Olivia is a charismatic student at the college, pursuing a law degree while also dealing with her own family and personal issues.  Ed works at a council office, where he is in charge of burying the unclaimed and unnamed dead, a job he undertakes with dignity and conviction.  And finally, Katrin is a Polish waitress who is struggling with her job at a café to save enough money to bring her mother over from Poland.  These characters’ lives become intertwined against the backdrop of contemporary London, where layoffs and unemployment loom large as very real possibilities for everyone. This novel had humour, it had strong emotion, the characters seemed very real to me, and the stories were believable and timely.  I have never read anything by this Canadian author, but I would definitely recommend this book to just about anyone.
The sun has come out, but the forecast calls for rain this afternoon, so I best get outside and enjoy the spring weather while I can stay dry.  Happy Easter!
Bye for now...
Julie

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