I have a steaming cup of chai tea in front of me this morning, but for a change from my usual Date Bar, I have a Long John from Norris Bakery, a delicious cream-filled doughnut that is nearly too big for me to eat (in anticipation of this problem, I ate part of it yesterday to bring it down to a manageable size!).
I’m reluctant to comment on the book I finished last week, First Snow, Last Light by Canadian novelist Wayne Johnston, because he is an amazing writer and I certainly have no right to criticize him, but I must say that this book did not live up to my expectations. Set in St John's, Newfoundland in the 1930s, this novel focuses on Ned Vatcher, a young man whose parents go missing when he is just fourteen years old. As an only child, he is alone despite being taken in by his extended family and the family priest, as well as family friend Sheilagh Fielding, and grows up haunted by his parents’ disappearance. What could have happened to them? Did they leave voluntarily, or was foul play involved? And, dead or alive, where are they now? He spends the next twenty-five years searching for answers to these questions, accruing fortunes and adopting strays along the way. Johnston is a master storyteller, a true craftsman when it comes to the use of language. Sentences flow off the page and make his books unputdownable, and this book was no exception. It started off really promising and I was looking forward to a true literary indulgence. But around the halfway point, I started to get frustrated, as there seemed to be no other story except the search for Ned’s parents. Oh, and the wallowing of all the characters in their own sorry pasts and self-pity. I also wondered about the purpose of Sheilagh Fielding in this book. Her character was first introduced and developed in The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, an excellent novel about Joey Smallwood, first premier of Newfoundland, and his struggles to unionize the railway workers. Johnston’s later novel, Custodian of Paradise features Fielding as the main character, and I believe she makes appearances in other novels as well. But I’m not sure what purpose she served in this novel. As a family friend, I get it, but her own part in the novel makes it practically a necessity to have read at least one of Johnston’s previous novels to understand her backstory, so why not just create a whole new character to be the “family friend”? These are just a few of the reasons I felt let down by this novel; it had such a promising beginning, but was ultimately disappointing. I'll say no more, as I certainly would not want to discourage anyone from reading books by this wonderful author, but if you haven't read anything by him yet, I would recommend that you start with one of his earlier novels.
I finished an audiobook yesterday, though, that far exceeded expectations and was a real treat for my ears. Set in a small posh village in the Lake District, Just What Kind of Mother Are You? By Paula Daly begins with harried mother Lisa taking her daughter Sally to school after being off sick, only to discover that Sally’s friend, Lucinda, is missing. Lucinda’s mother, Kate, is a good friend of Lisa’s, and is the perfect mother, one who does not work, leaving her time to make real, proper breakfasts for her kids and to shop locally for fresh, organic items. Lisa, on the other hand, can barely keep up with the demands of her job at the local animal rescue charity, as well as those of her husband and children. When she realizes that, had she followed up on the plan changes for the sleepover the girls were meant to have the night before, the search for Lucinda could have begun a day earlier, she is tormented by guilt, and inserts herself into the investigation to try to make up for her lack of diligence. DC Joanne Aspinall believes Lucinda’s abduction to be the latest in a series of abductions and rapes of young girls in the area, and the search for the perpetrator escalates. Told from the alternating points of view of Lisa and Joanne, this novel is more than just a mystery; it is a commentary on motherhood, friendship and family. And the narrator, Laura Bratton, did an amazing job of bringing all the characters to life. I’ve had a bit of a struggle lately finding interesting audiobooks, so I was especially thrilled to listen to this fabulous novel.
That’s all for today. Get outside and enjoy this wonderful fall day!
Bye for now…