Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Light Reading and Not so Light . . .

You know I struggle to keep up my reading record at the best of times, but it's even tougher to do so on holiday. Still, before titles are lost to the mists of bad memory, I'll quickly note that before leaving home I read Johann Skibsrud's Giller prize-winning The Sentimentalists. Interesting how that analogy of the dam flooding small villages pops up again here, as in Anne Michael's The Winter Vault and Michael Ondaatje's Desiderata. It's a potent analogy, and it also points us back to question why and how we make these huge, arrogant, engineering changes to living landscapes. Of course, I think back to the country in NE British Columbia that we traveled through last summer, all scheduled to be underwater if the Site C dam goes ahead. . .
Skibsrud's book is also interesting to those considering the long, sad legacy of the Vietnam war, its effects on the families of soldiers, decades and decades later. I have a colleague whose father was also damaged, and his consciousness of the war makes me think of the way Holocaust survivors'childrren inherit some of their parents' memories, almost at a cellular level (as in Edeet Ravel's Your Sad Eyes).

The contemplative way memory is filtered through various of the novel's characters and, I think, the gentle lakeside landscape, mitigate against the story's ultimate horror and sadness, but for a rather slim book, it truly lingers, and I know I'll re-read it. . .

Not so my airplane reading. That was perfect to kill several hours, but not one of my favourite Jack Reacher novels. Lee Child's Die Trying caught me up a few times so that all of a sudden the flight attendant was putting a meal in front of me and I realized I'd been somewhere else for half an hour. But it didn't add much to my storehouse of knowledge about Reacher's bio, and that's been part of the series' hook for me, trying to assemble a composite narrative of the guy.

More satisfying, if more gruesome, was Val McDermid's Fever of the Bone. Here, McDermid has a cast of characters to develop and move forward beside the main protagonists, Carol Jordan and Tony Hill. And she's hardly cranking the series out, instead maintaining the quality and the tension. Still, I'd only recommend these mysteries to readers who can tolerate forensic details or who can glance over them quickly as if looking through fingers at a gruesome scene on the movie screen (my modus operandi).

Now back to my holiday. I've picked up a French novel, Gwenaƫlle Aubry's 2009 Prix Femina-winning Personne, which will compete with the French countryside for my attention when we train down to Bordeaux. . .

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