Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Starting the New Year off with Atwood and mystery and memoir . . .

First novel of 2010? Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood, about which I think Puttermeister has pretty much articulated what I would say about the book (and she adds some interesting commentary about her longstanding relationship with La Atwood, and even describes a very recent reading she attended). I might add my own bemusement at the stance Atwood seems to maintain towards the earnest Gardeners in the novel, at once apparently mocking them, if gently, and crediting them with providing some small hope for humanity/the earth's continuance. She's such a captivating storyteller, I think it would be difficult not to be engaged by anything she's written, but it's not difficult, either, to find this a bit grating in spots.

And I followed up the dystopia with a nice little murder mystery, you know? Nothing to clear away visions of apocalypse like some forensic nastiness. . . Actually, the mystery was surprisingly close to fitting the description of "a cozy" -- those often-English-village-set mysteries where quaint characters interact and figurative skeletons are found in closets even as the literal ones are dug up from their shallow graves. This one, Bone by Bone by Carol O'Connell, set in a small American town, wasn't really what I expected from the author of the Mallory series (much more in-your-face violence and gore, generally, often perpetrated by serial killers). I've written before about the difficulties for mystery writers of having to turn out book after book in a series that's lost its lustre for the poor scribe, so I'm pleased for O'Connell that she got to do some palate-cleansing, but I am enthralled by Mallory and her retinue (why, oh why, hasn't a movie been made yet? I think Uma Thurman would be perfect!) and I hope she'll be back soon.

I've also finished Penelope Lively's Family Album and hope to say a bit more about it soon. I'm just at the last pages of a book of e-mails exchanged between my neighbour, Carol Matthews, and her friend (who's also a colleague of mine) Liza Potvin, while Liza was in India with her children for a year in 2001 and Carol (and her husband Mike) stayed here on our little island caring for the dog Liza's children had rescued the week before they left for India. Dog Years is a small gem of a book that has me quickly turning the pages but also causes me to pause often in thought (not to mention guffawing out loud in the breakfast line-up on the ferry the other day!). Both women are thoughtful, erudite -- widely-read creative thinkers, good writers, funny and wise. Liza lived with and taught English to Tibetan monks and embraced all the adventures India had to offer, and Carol grappled with her admiration for, and envy of, Liza's audacious spirit and worked to reconcile herself to her own appreciation of stability -- as well as to appreciate, through Liza's eyes, the strength she provides for others to found their adventures on.

And I've just begun Toni Morrison's Mercy. Such a wealth of wonderful reading out there, no?


  1. Hey Frances,
    That's a great list! And an honour to be in cluded in it. I'm also with you on Kate Atkinson -- loved "Started Early,Took My Dog." Your reviews are great and have given me some good ideas for next reads. Thanks. Carol

  2. thanks for commenting, Carol, although we seem to be a year out of synch. . . I believe it was you who originally recommended Kate Atkinson's mysteries to me, way back when . . .