Thursday, February 25, 2010

Jade Peony: A Story to Treasure

Last night I stayed up well beyond the Olympic evening coverage to finish the last pages of Wayson Choy's The Jade Peony, one of the 2010 Canada Reads Selections and my sixth read for the Canadian Book Challenge. I really enjoyed this book. The mixture of historical references of Chinese immigrants living in Vancouver during the first world world war and the intimate stories of 3 young Chinese-Canadians as they grew up in the Chinatown district was a most enjoyable and wonderful read. The author guides us through the story of a multi-generational Chinese family through the eyes of the 3 youngest children - Liang, Jung and Sek-Lung. After I finished the first section on Liang, I was disappointed it had ended, almost frustrated at this. I wanted to learn more of what happened to this young girl and felt that I couldn't possibly enjoy section 2 which was narrated by Jung. But then I got wrapped up in his story and was once again drawn in. The same was true for the last section, the longest of all 3, narrated by Sek-Lung, affectionally (or not) known as Sekky. I was suprised to read the reviews which said it was a story about nothing but that the small details of the characters were enough to make the story enjoyable. I found the opposite. I felt there was so much story in each of the narratives. Many characters and many nuiances which were engaging and captivating. I was very excited when I read on the jacket that there is a sequel already written. I can't wait to get this one.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Gen X

Just over a week ago I finished reading Generation X: Tales for An Accellerated Culture by Douglas Coupland, published in 1991. This novel popularized the term "Generation X" which refers to the generation of people born from 1960 to 1970 and were adults in the 80's. This is my 5th read for the Canadian Book Challenge. I had a bit of trouble motivating myself to get through this book despite the fact that it was the selection from Canada Reads I was most excited to get to. I thought it would be a very quick read, but wasn't. The novel follows Dag, Andy and Claire, all mid to late twenty-somethings as they discuss life, relationships and jobs. Beyond this, there isn't much of a story. What I did enjoy were the pop cultural references sprinkled throughout the book. I particularly enjoyed the cartoons and definitions in the side panels of most of the pages defining words like "Mcjobs" and other phrases that I think Coupland just made up to describe a certain set of circumstances for a particular type of person. I think I perhaps tired of this story as I have gone beyond the I don't want to work for the "man" mindset that the main characters in this story have and revel in. This is the third book I have read of Coupland's, having read Life After God and Jpod. I really enjoyed Jpod so this was a bit of a surprise. I did warm up a bit to this novel at the end, but I have to say, not my choice for the Canada Reads so far. I have moved on to the Jade Peony which I am already enjoying.