Saturday, September 30, 2006


It is Saturday. A good day to start Saturday by Ian McEwan. I picked it up the other day at Chapters for $10.00 - in hardback! It was the only one on the table so perhaps the last. I have also started The Double Life of Anna Day by Louise Candlish which I am enjoying. It's a Brit book which I tend to like anyway. The author's style reminds me of Lynne Truss somehow but not quite as outlandish - at least not yet. I have some good reading ahead.

Also have been painting and can hardly wait to get back to that as I have started a new canvas based on a photo I took at Blue Rocks. Only wish I had more time for my hobbies!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Lucy Moon

It has been a while since I have dipped into a book for a "young reader" as they call them. I guess the last Harry Potter book would be the occasion. No, I lie, it would have been His Dark Materials series. But, anyway, I have zipped through That Girl Lucy Moon by Amy Timberlake and can honestly say that this is a book I would have happily bought my daughter - and I was pretty fussy.

Lucy is quirky,brave, believable and also changeable, vulnerable, unsure of herself in her new milieu of middle school. I liked many things about her more than the almost reflexive activism which she wore a bit like her hat as part of her persona. I liked her questioning of things, her desire for truth, her courage, especially the courage to apologise and take her lumps. Yes, I liked Lucy. Not that she didn't have faults but that is what makes her so human, so tangible that you want to just take her in your arms and comfort her as Mrs. Rossignol did.

I also liked the way the author crafted the book. It has young humour. It is spoofy, campy, with names like Turtle Rock and Wiggins, Dee Reams and Mrs. Mudd, a tofu turkey dinner and all the fuss about sledding (but maybe sledding is to Minnesota what hockey is to Port Huron?) Yes, the plot is a bit predictable (historic document proves hill cannot be controlled by Viola Wiggins and therefore free for community sledding after all) but the story really isn't about Wiggins Hill. It is about how Lucy and her Dad get through Lucy's Mom's mid- life crisis, how they grow and how they support each other. That is the real power of the book, the psychological insight it offers.

Lucy is at first sympathetic to and patient with her mother, even proud, but then impatient and annoyed. But as she learns and understands more she becomes angry, bitter, and feels abandoned but in the end she is relieved and reassured when her mother returns home from her rather self-indulgent adventure. In between she grows up a little and in noticing her father's pain loses some of her childish self-centredness. She recognizes the fickleness of fame and the meaning of true friendship. This is the kind of character and kind of theme that makes a book a classic.

Amy Timberlake builds an edifice of community in her portrayal of Lucy, Lucy's friends, and the people of Turtle Rock. Their reactions, Lucy's father's subtle presence and strength and Lucy's rollercoaster ride over a very rough, icy patch of hill, that is the real strength of the book shoring up and overpowering the flimsy plot structure. As Alexander McCall Smith said it is in the small actions and events in life that the moral dilemmas of our time become most clear and Amy has succeeded in expressing some of these in her deceptively simple, charming story.

I am relieved. I was afraid I wouldn't like the book. But if I hadn't I honestly would have said so, even though I was given the book on the understanding I would mention it ( for good or bad) .

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Book circle

There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries. (4.3.218)

We must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures. (4.3.247)

Both quotations from Julius Caesar seem somewhat apt for the theme of The Wreckage. Except that sometime it is not a normal tide to be taken but a tsunami which picks one up and tosses a life this way and that.

The message of the book started to come through loud and clear by the last half after a lengthy set up. Little decisions, impulsive actions, can have lasting and often disasterous consequences. What if Wish had not said the rosary over the coffin, and Hardy had not come to bribe him away, if Wish had not beaten him up so he thought he was dead, and had not run away? What if he Wish had not met up with the two Canadians? What if Mercedes had not followed Wish and stayed in Little Fogo? Lots of "what ifs".

Like our lives, the course of the lives of Crummey's protaganists seemed both determined by their earlier actions but also crafted from the pressures surrounding them - religious and cultural conflict, intolerance, discrimination - passed down to them from families and generations past.

I thought the author in putting together his stories and characters, showed considerable psychological insight. The characters had distinct and believable personalities. The author has put in some details which are puzzles to intrigue the reader: We search for meaning for example from the story of the horse put on fire prior to Wish's birth and it's possible connection to Wish's birthmark on his neck which looked like a horse and the death of Mercede's daughter, killed by a horse. Crummey also added some nice historical colour without letting his research swamp the "boat" of the story.

I liked this book in the end after having some doubts about it in the middle.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

More books!

My books arrived - ie. the two books I signed up for with the mini book expo for bloggers.
They are That Girl Lucy Moon by Amy Timberlake and The Double Life of Anna Day by Louise Candlish.

They couldn't have arrived at a worst time in some ways since I have less than a week to finish The Wreckage and of course I want to get at these new ones right away! I will just have to hold my horses, reign in my enthusiasm ( but save it) for later.

My daughter is helping me with this as a young(er) reader so I can take one to her. She is an even more voracious reader than I am so even though she has school start up, moving to a new apartment and work to deal with now, she will probably finish one before I finish the other!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The new year

On the Facts and Arguments page of the Globe this morning there was a piece titled Start something in September [by Lene Anderson] about how Sept. rather than New Year should be the beginning of the year. Strangely I had been thinking about this just the other day then see that it is not an original thought. Not that strange really. I am sure the thought is common.

As the writer says "The remnants of school shape my new year." I think that is embedded in our all our psyches. She describes almost precisely my feelings.

"Late summer still finds me making a pilgrimage to the nearest Staples ...I wander the aisles, lost in the scent of paper and ink ...folders, labels, notebooks and pens, yes, more pens, lovely and perfect for starting something new. And then I immerse myself in what can best be described as a minor orgy of categorizing, alphabetising, filing and labeling... I cannot but help but think how a clean desk is much like a blank slate. Now there is room for the year to enter, for yet to be born projects and for new ideas...."

That is the way I feel as September approaches. It is a time when I like to reassess where I am at and where I am headed and what needs to be done and when I feel an urge to organise things so that things get underway. It is a time to make appointments and get back at those projects delayed by that procrastinating " oh it's summer" attitude. A back to business time. I don't dislike it. I always enjoyed getting back to school after the summer break, looking forward to the clean pages, the fresh start, the new teachers. Yes, a new year.

The Wreckage

One thing about having 3 books by your bedside. As my hand hovers over them a swift little dialogue goes through my head. "Which one do I want to read tonight? This one? No, not in the mood for that. Perhaps this one. No, this one." The Wreckage has lost out most nights to Small Gods ( which I have almost finished) so I am only 50 pages into it.

But now duty calls. I have to finish it by next week so I have my work cut out for me. I have to get back into the book. Back into Wish's head and Sadie's (Mercedes') head. I have forgotten a bit and have to back track. I catch up a bit and read some more. I want to see how many pages I can manage in half an hour. 30 pages! Not bad. I am getting interested again. The part about the Newfoundland quake and tsunami of 1929 is interesting. I look it up on the internet and print off a bit of information for the book circle members.

And I start to ask myself, as I always seem to do, what is the message the author is expressing in the book because that's the thing about writing - you have something to say. What does Michael Crummy have to say in this story of young lust in a fishing outport? Is it the Catholic vs Protestant issue? Such prejudice seems really silly "Bloody old foolishness in the end" as one character says but having lived in Dublin I know it's real enough.

Or is it a love story mainly? Do Sadie and Wish really love each other or are they both just looking for escape or someone to cling to? Is it mainly about loss? Wish's family lost everything in the tsunami and then he lost his father and after he meets Sadie she loses her father, both to the sea. And we know from the introduction set in the War that it is coming and will play a role in the story.

Better get back at it. Maybe I can get another 30 pages read tonight.
Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am Marie of Romania.
Dorothy Parker, Not So Deep as a Well (1937)