Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant

This book by Michel Tremblay was my 12th read for the Challenge and my fourth read of this year's selections for Canada Reads. So far, this was the most disappointing book to date. As I mentioned previously, it could be related to the fact that there was something lost in the translation from French to English. Perhaps also it was too personal to the author such that some detail was not included that would help the reader along. It did improve about half-way through the book, however I cannot say that I really enjoyed it - with some exceptions. There were so many characters that I found following the book a bit confusing. Each section flipped from one family to another and sometimes I was about a paragraph in before I realized who he was talking about. I had particular difficulty keeping Victoire's family straight as there were so many living in the one household - mothers, brothers, sisters, spouses, children. This book just did not hold my attention and I was almost glad to be finished with it - sorry!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Probably the Best Book I Have Read

With great sadness I had to read that last page of The Book of Negros (my 11th read for the Challenge and my third Canada Reads 2009 selection) which meant the end of what must be one of my favourite reads. While I have loved many of the other books I have read, the last book that left me feeling this way was 2007 CBC Canada Reads winner Lullabies for Little Criminals. Perhaps this is my own premonition for this year's winner??? I am not sure what else I could add for my official final entry and review for this book that I haven't mentioned below. The depth of character was spectacular. The narration was such that I felt that I was right there inside the story, a witness to the many hardships felt by our heroine as her life abruptly changes from a free Muslim to a slave facing conditions that most could not (and did not) survive. The book ended much quicker than I expected and I in fact finished the same night as I wrote my previous entry. There was a great number of pages where the author indicated how he researched this book and the reference materials he drew from. Interestingly he noted areas where characters in the novel actually existed and where he diverted from history to make the story more interesting. This addendum also included information on his family and why he wrote this book and many acknowledgements for the people who helped him in putting this spectacular historical fiction together. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this addition to the book as it helped fill in some of the blanks and answer some questions I had about this time in history that I was not familiar with. Wow. I loved this book.
And now I have moved onto my 4th read - The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant. So far I am disappointed with this read. Perhaps there is something that has been lost in the translation from French to English. In reading the back of the book which describes the story, it seems that there is supposed to be some subtext that I seem to be missing. Perhaps it will come together soon.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Book of Negros

As I am not quite finished this fantastic book, this is not my official review of my 11th read for the Challenge, however I couldn't wait to post something. While it is difficult to compare books that are as different as apples and oranges, I have to say that The Book of Negros by Burlington, Ontario native Lawrence Hill is probably leading the pack for me of the 3 books I have read so far in CBC's Canada Reads 2009 selections. The others may surprise me, but I think this one probably has a very good shot at winning. This historical fictional story is intensely detailed in its description of Aminata's journey from her village of Bayo to the coast of Africa, the Carolinas in the US, New York, Nova Scotia and back to Africa again where she is in my current spot in the book. It is as if Aminata wrote it herself as a true account of her life story. I have not read background on how Hill conducted his research to produce this story but it is more real and alive than I could have imagined anyone could write that had not experienced it themselves which says much of the talent of the author. I will save more for my official review. While I could devour the rest of this book tonight, I want to savour the last few pages in the journey of a remarkable woman who likely existed at least in part in many of the people who were taken from their villages, and forced into a life of slavery - that is if they even made it across the sea with the terrible conditions on the slave ships. An appropriate read as the United States inaugurates its first African-American President - President Barack Hussein Obama - as the world watched with great hope and inspiration for all of our futures.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Fruit, A Delicious Tale

I flew through Fruit: A Novel About a Boy and His Nipples by Brian Francis finishing it just this morning. This is now my 10th read for the 2nd Canadian Book Challenge Eh! and my second Canada Reads 2009 read. I absolutely loved this book, so much so that I was sad as I was nearing the end as I really wanted to read more about Peter Paddington and his life as he approached the end of grade 8 and anticipated in dread the approach of highschool. Francis completely endears this wonderful character to his reading audience. You not only totally believe this story, but at times I know I felt that I was Peter myself experiencing his trials. We all have a bit of Peter in us. Perhaps we are not overweight or experiencing feelings of being attracted to the same sex (and what is hiding in their red parachute pants) but I know I felt for him as he was ridiculed, bullied and feeling like an outsider. Kids can be mean as we know and it is very difficult when you feel like you don't fit in. Thankfully we are able as adults to look back and laugh at what we went through and our feelings at the time and realize that the people who we thought were the cool ones or who bullied or shoved us asside weren't really worth our time anyway. While heartbreaking, many of situations Peter is faced with, including his ongoing dialogue with his swelled nipples is done with humour.
What was interesting to me is that I saw myself in this story as it takes place in the same time period as I was at Peter's age - mid 80's. At one point in the book I actually flipped to the author's bio to see if I knew him or if he grew up in Hamilton, because I could have sworn I was a part of this same cast of charcters ... perhaps I was one of the other "outsiders" in the book that Peter refers to. In high school I was part of what I now refer to as the "goody goody gang" as Francis refers to in this fantastic book. As with most writing, I expect that some of the authors own experiences were reflected in some way in the various characters in the book, which makes it even more real.
This book was a complete departure in style from my previous read which makes it very difficult to figure out which of these two Canada Reads selections I feel should be the big winner. I loved them both for very different reasons. I am now moving on to The Book of Negros by Lawrence Hill who is from Burlington, Ontario.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Mercy Amoung the Children A Heart Wrenching but wonderful story

The other night I stayed up and finished the last pages of Mercy Amoung the Children by David Adams Richards - my 9th read for the Canada Book Challenge Eh! and my first read for Canada Reads 2009.
It is a tragic fictional story narrated by Lyle Henderson, the son of Sydney Henderson, a gentle man who while not formally educated is extremely intelligent, having taken it upon himself to read everything he he could get his hands on. Sydney believes that truth will always win out in the end and redemption will be received by those who deserves it and thus is only passive when he and Lyle's mom Elly are blamed for tragedies that befall their small community in Eastern Canada. This causes much distress for Lyle who throughout his narration of this story grows from a boy to a teen and sees his poor struggling family continue to be beaten down. He turns the other way, aligning himself with some of the less desirable in what he believes is the means to regain his family's reputation. Interestingly, on my drive to Florida I was enjoying listening to a few of the volumes of the children's fiction - A Series of Unfortunate Events. Mercy could also be given a similar title in that just as you think in the Series of Unfortunate Events that the Bodelair siblings will get away from Count Olaf and things will get better for them so to the reader continues to read on in hope that there will in fact be redemption for the Henderson family and that Lyle's life will finally turn around for the better. This novel was wonderful. It was well told and while very sad and extremely tragic at the time was very true and a value to have experienced. I can see why this received the Giller Prize in 2000 and is part of Canada Reads 2009. It is my first completed book in series and I have already started and am enjoying Fruit: A Novel About A Boy and His Nipples by Brian Francis. This is a complete 360 from Mercy - a humourous tale about an adolescent boy going through puberty who has noticed that his nipples look like ripe cherries and his efforts to counteract this as well as deal with the other terrible things that we all went through as young teens. I am enjoying this one so far. I am now wondering if either of these will win Canada Reads. It will be interesting this year to follow the debate on the books as I hopefully will have read them all by then. Speaking of which, I have joined another group that are reading all the Canada Reads Selection. This blog can be found at
Keep on reading!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Late Nights on Air Worth the Read Into the Night

I just finished Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay. It took some time to get into this fictional story about an eclectic group of individuals who work at the CBC radio station in Yellowknife and how their lives and some of the other locals intermingle and weave together in a sometimes complicated web of relationships. It had a slow start but, the book picked up speed around midway to two thirds into it when 4 of the characters - Harry, Gwen, Eleanor and Ralph embarked on a canoe trip in the remote Barren Lands. The description of the landscape of the north during this part was breathtaking and made me want to go where they had gone. This story was humourous in parts, sad and suspenseful in others, but I enjoyed following the lives of these characters through till the end of the book. I would recommend this 2007 Giller Prize winner as an enjoyable read. Of course I am starting to think that I could almost like anything I read ...
Santa was very kind this year and I now have the entire Canada Reads 2009 selections. I have started Fruit but should get back to Mercy Amoung the Children and find out how that ends. I hope to blog some more while I am away so check back here for my literary reviews and also my ceramic blog at - I hope to post images of my drive down from Hamilton to Port Charlotte Florida on this blog.