Thursday, November 23, 2017

An Unlikely Road Trip: Sara Baume's Literary Debut

I'd make my apologies for the lapse since last posting, but by now, this is what you've come to expect here. My mother used to insist that an apology was only as good as the commitment to restitution or, at least, to not sinning in future. (What would she have thought of the current litany of apologies echoing meaninglessly from the mouths of celebrated figures on screens ubiquitous. . . .)

I'm not at all sure I can do any better than this year's erratic posting, but I'm not ready to part with your company entirely and I selfishly appreciate parking my reading lists here, knowing I'll otherwise forget what I've read.

As a gesture, though, to restitution or recompense for your patience, I'll direct your attention to the wonderful literary debut that Sara Baume made in 2015 with Spill Simmer Falter Wither (which subsequently garnered several prestigious awards). This is not your ordinary "man's best friend" book. Read these  reviews if you need further enticement than my bald recommendation. All I have time to write is that this book is deeply affecting in its content, but it's also wonderful stylistically, structurally, and it's hard to separate those two, as in the very best writing. The narrative voice is quite extraordinary: a 57-year-old man, arguably disabled and whose life has been severely limited by his deceased father's paucity of spirit, speaks to the dog he has adopted from the local shelter.  The plot involves a mystery and a road trip, but it primarily sets out the unlikely relationship that develops between these two wounded creatures as they move through a physical and social geography that doesn't spare them much kindness. . It's sad, yes. But oh, so beautiful. So spare and lyrical at once, and the countryside, and the deft sketching of people, village life. . . .

Let me know if you read it -- I'd love to chat about it. And consider also reading Eva Hornung's Dog Boy which I wrote about here and which #readswellwith Spill Simmer Falter Wither (I begin to think I should find myself a book club here in Vancouver . . . )







6 comments:

  1. Happiness...my phone pinged with an email and it was not another Black Friday sale, but a Reads post.

    I am learning! I have saved this recommendation to be pursued at a later date. For my winter reading is set based on the 'Paris to St Petersburg' course I am completing this week (maybe better described as a series of lectures...no assignments or exams). Based on references in class I am reading Transforming Paris from the library (life and labours of Baron Haussmann) and have The Gods Will Have Blood and Les Miserables in my to-read-or-reread pile. But oops, I had to go to the bookstore for them, and Mad Enchantment was just about to come out in paperback, and well, The Judgement of Paris was so good, I should really have my own copy. You see the theme here. I'm just going to hang out in France in the long 19th century for a while. I get a charge from meeting my favourite characters again and maps of streets I know. And so, so many side trips to the internet to research details. A nerd's paradise really.

    I have always been an animal lover. When I wa a little girl, I read a LOT of animal stories and some of them were absolutely heartbreaking. Because they are still on my bookshelf I particularly remember Beautiful Joe and Portrait of a Dog (my introduction to Mazo de la Roche at age 8 or 9). I would lie in bed at night and sob, quietly. And read more the next day, as we do!

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    1. This course sounds so good! I love that whole process of "reading 'round the subject" as I remember a tutor-character in a Kate Atkinson novel saying to her pupil (not sure why that stuck so insistently, but it has).
      I'd rather forgotten that part of my childhood reading, but yes, the animal stories. Not all sad, and far too many anthropomorphized in weird ways. . . the Thornton Burgess series too, so many of those, and then all the Misty of Chincoteagues. . .

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  2. So happy to have a new book recommendation from you. My reading life has taken a hit due to grandparent "duties" lovingly accepted. I enjoyed Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng.I know a book has hit the mark for me when I find my unoccupied thoughts drifting in its direction weeks past the reading. As such, Lincoln in the Bardo was also a "yes" after an initial "no". I found the format off-putting. There are many characters (40+) and the setting and format of the novel are new and different. Applying my own metric - a book causing me to think about it for weeks afterwards- I've moved from a "no" to a "yes". Sometimes it takes time and distance to appreciate what it "good".

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    1. Ah yes, "grandparent 'duties' lovingly accepted". . . . well put.
      I still haven't read Lincoln in the Bardo, although I certainly intend to. And I'll make a note of Little Fires Everywhere. Your recommendation of Anthony Marra's Constellation of etc. was one of my favourites of 2016 reading.. .
      And absolutely agree about books continue to work away in our thoughts long after we've turned the last page. .

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  3. No need to apologize - as a newcomer to your blogs, I am quite happily reading through old posts finding all sorts of wonderful recommendations while I await your next! One of my favourite writers is Kate Atkinson. I have been urging all my friends to read "A God in Ruins" so I can discuss the ending with them but so far no one is as excited about it as I was!
    Frances from Sidney

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    1. Thanks, Frances. I, too, count Atkinson among my favourite writers, ever since I read Behind the Scenes at the Museum in a book club ever so many years ago. Recently reread it and it's so good.
      Have your friends at least read Life After Life?

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