Thursday 4 June 2015

Books, audiobooks and soup on a warm summery evening...

OK, I know… soup?  But I’m not used to writing in the evenings, and I’ve been super busy tonight after work as I am going away for the weekend, so I’m just now finishing my supper.  I’m having a delicious cup of homemade soup that I call my “Very Orange Cream Soup”.  

Since I’m going to be away this weekend, and I have an out-of-town wedding to go to next weekend, I wanted to take advantage of the time I have to write a quick post tonight.  I’m not really in the writing mood, so I apologize in advance if this post seems a bit disjointed.  I finished a book earlier this week called The Hesitation Cut by Giles Blunt.  Some of you may be familiar with this Canadian crime fiction writer’s “Detective John Cardinal” series, set in the Algonquin Bay area.  This is a stand-alone that is not due to be published until August 2015, but I have an advanced review copy, so gobbled it up in three days.  It begins by introducing Brother William, a young monk in a small monastery, Our Lady Of Peace, near New York City.  Brother William seems literally “at peace” in the monastery, quietly organizing the library and tending the sheep (not his favourite job), when his whole life is thrown into upheaval by the arrival of a young woman, Lauren Wolfe, a writer who has come to do some research using resources in the monastery library.  As Brother William helps her, reluctantly at first, he is drawn into her being, her sad eyes and the scar on her wrist.  She spends the day in the library, they have a few exchanges, and then suddenly she is gone from his life.  He just about manages to forget her when he is unexpectedly reminded of her due to unforeseen circumstances, and he experiences a crisis of faith.  Leaving behind the life he has lived for over ten years and the name he has used, he departs from the monastery, once again taking on his former name, Peter, and heads to New York to find, and possibly save, the young damsel whom he clearly believes is in spiritual distress.  What follows is his attempts to find, and then woo, this moderately successful, though very private writer, while also adjusting to his new life, which includes a society he left behind when he was still in college, though the why of his leaving is not revealed until much later in the story.  This dark psychological thriller probes deep into the thoughts and intentions of both Brother William/Peter and Lauren, which draws readers down, down, down into a labyrinth of self-destructive behaviour that is at once frustrating and heartbreaking, and leads to an explosive finale that is sure to surprise even the most seasoned reader.  This is a novel about religions, obsession, sex and death, themes that are often linked, and Blunt handles this combination expertly. It was very engaging and easy to read, and although there were times when I felt very frustrated by Peter’s passive/aggressive behaviour, I found it impossible to put down.  

I also finished listening to an audiobook this week, The White Lioness by Henning Mankell, part of the “Kurt Wallander” series.  This novel begins with a Methodist real estate agent running a few errands then going out to see one last house on a Friday afternoon before she heads home to spend the weekend with her husband and two daughters.  She gets lost on a country road and turns into a house to ask for directions.  Unfortunately, she is in the wrong place at absolutely the wrong time, and meets her demise at the hands of an unknown man for no apparent reason.  Wallander and his team investigate first her disappearance, then her murder, as plots become intertwined across history and continents.  Mankell explores apartheid in South Africa in the early 1990s, as a parallel plotline about the possible assassination of a political figure looms large in the very near future.  Wallander, of course, is still suffering from an unhealthy lifestyle, and is still pining over his former lover, Biba, and is still butting heads with his father and his daughter;  in short, he is the same old Kurt we have come to know and care about.  The plots in this book, while well researched and well written, were a bit too convoluted for this reader, and the book could have been much more interesting if it were significantly shorter (17 parts for an audiobook is pretty long!).  But he always explores some social justice issue in his novels, and so these parallel plots were no surprise.  It was an interesting book to listen to, and I did learn alot about the history of South Africa and the Afrikaners, but I will admit that I was glad to reach the end.

OK,time to read a bit more of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (I told you I was determined to finish!), then off to bed.  Have a good night!

Bye for now…

PS Mentioning soup reminds me of the excellent children's novel, The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo, that I read to the grade 4/5 classes at each of my schools. This book's full title includes the subtitle Being the story of a mouse, a princess, some soup and a spool of thread. I would highly recommend this novel to readers of any age. It is not all light and airy, despite the fact that it was turned into a (in my opinion very poor) film adaptation by Disney. It is, in fact, very dark and the language is mature enough to challenge any reader. So if you are looking for a great summer read, I would definitely recommend this title, available at a public library near you!

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