It’s been well below seasonal temperatures this week, and today is no exception, so I really appreciate my hot tea as I compose my weekly post.
I read a surprisingly good book this week by Canadian author Liam Durcan, The Measure of Darkness, which tells the story of a man in midlife who, due to an accident that has left him with a condition called “neglect”, is trying to maintain control and order in his life while also recollecting his past behaviour. Martin is a fairly successful architect in Montreal who, while sitting in his parked car on the side of a highway one February night, is hit by a snowplow, causing serious neurological damage and leaving him with “left neglect”, a condition under which he is unable to have an awareness of anything taking place in the left side of his vision. He not only can’t see what is there, he is not even aware that it exists - he thinks he has clear vision of his whole world, and does not experience any feelings of deficiency. His estranged brother, Brendan, whom Martin has encountered only briefly twice in the past thirty years, has arranged to have him treated at the Dunes, a prestigious rehabilitation centre in Vermont, although Martin has no idea why he would do such a thing. Over the years, he has also become estranged from his daughters, as well as his two ex-wives, and there are details concerning the recent decisions involving the architectural firm he founded that he can’t seem to recall. One by one, secrets and details are revealed as Martin’s life comes into focus for him, his brother and the reader, as we are led ever closer to solving the mystery surrounding the reason Martin was out on the side of that deserted highway in the middle of a snowstorm. Interwoven into the story is Martin’s obsession with Russian architect Konstantin Melnikov, a non-conformist in the early 20th century, who served as an inspiration to Martin and set him on the road to becoming the architect he is. Unable to continue his work with his condition, he must decide how to move forward with his future, which can only be achieved by looking back at his past. I had zero expectations for this book, so was very pleasantly surprised at how captivating a read it was. I was worried that there might be too many details and too much medical terminology describing his condition. I was also worried that, given the main character's obsession with this Russian architect, there might be too much description of Melnikov’s life and work, but thankfully, my worries were for naught. In fact, these two aspects of the novel were, if anything, underdeveloped, but not in ways that seriously impacted the story. This short novel was surprisingly insightful (no pun intended!), and there were moments of brilliance that made it a really worthwhile read. My only complaint was that there were quite a few errors in the text, not typos or spelling mistakes, but words that were repeated or left out, maybe five or six times throughout the book - not serious enough to impede the story, just mildly irritating. I’d give this book 7.5 out of 10, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading novels that explore the human condition and feature main characters who explore their past in order to better understand their present situation.
I also want to mention that the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) Annual Book Sale will be held on April 22nd and 23rd in Waterloo - it is a wonderful opportunity to stock up on good books very cheaply while also supporting a worthy cause. Check out this link for more information:
That’s all for today. I think it will be a good “stay-at-home-and-read” day - HURRAY!!
Bye for now…
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