Friday, 14 November 2014

Downhill Chance


   Donna Morrissey grew up in Newfoundland.  She now lives in Halifax but I have heard her speak and she has kept her Newfoundland expressions and dialect.  There is a lovely lilt to her voice and she is blunt and real and fun.

   Her first book, "Kit's Law" was written in 1999 and won several awards.
   I loved that book!  It was about three generations of women in Newfoundland. When Nan, the grandmother died, Kit was left with her retarded mother.  Kit was fourteen and it was interesting to read about the different reactions in the community to a retarded mother raising a teenager.
   The minister wanted Kit moved to an orphanage, but the doctor helped them stay in their home together.  Sid, the minister's son, was very kind and caring to Kit and her mother.  He helped out in useful ways, like chopping wood for them.  In fact, Sid witnessed a murder and took the blame.  Shine, a moonshine runner, had attempted to rape Kit and her mother Josie killed Shine with an axe.  Sid took the blame and was sent to jail.  When he had served his sentence, he married Kit.  Happy ever after?  Not quite.  Sid discovered that he was Kit's brother.  Whoops! That means that the minister.....
   Well, it was a fascinating story and I loved it when I read it in 2004. 
   Ten years later, I got around to reading her second book, "Downhill Chance".  What a disappointment!  The dialect is so strong that it ruins the story.  The sentences are awkward and confusing.  I suppose that some isolated communities did use that awkward grammar, but my friend who also grew up in Newfoundland has always used the English language perfectly.  Perhaps an expression or two thrown into the book would have been fun but constant use of the dialect was bothersome.
   The novel was long and did not keep my interest.
   This book was written in 2002 and Donna has published three more books since then.  Will I continue to read this author?  Probably not, but I will always wonder what I'm missing.

Monday, 10 November 2014

The Hundred Foot Journey

Richard Morais

   Richard Morais, the author,  has traveled the world, in the company of millionaires. He was a correspondent for Forbes magazine, and is now the editor of Barron's Penta, a quarterly magazine, offering insights and advice to wealthy families. In addition to his unusual business stories, he has written a biography of Pierre Cardin.  Obviously he must have experienced a great deal of 'haute cuisine' in his travels because his first novel is filled with culinary delights.
Richard's great friend Ismail Merchant, was a film producer who intended to make the book into a film.  Unfortunately, Merchant died before the book was finished. However, the film was made, thanks to Oprah Winfrey and Stephen Spielberg.  But some of the reviews are not great.
  John Patterson, based in Los Angeles, writing in "The Guardian", has this to say about the movie: "Cute foodie movie leaves a sour taste.  Lasse Hallstrom's latest piece of food porn will only be popular among critics looking to ram more metaphors down our throats."

   Speaking of metaphors, Richard Morais is the 'master of metaphors'. and I love them!  This definitely is a 'foodie' book.  There are dozens of foods that I have never heard of.  I knew foie gras and haute cuisine but that is all.  The book has a strong theme of family- three generations of chefs.
   The characters are interesting, the setting is fascinating, the plot moves along nicely and the language is great!  I really enjoyed the novel.

   I knew that the movie would have a different focus and so I was not disappointed in the differences.  But the setting didn't seem real and the dialogue was difficult to follow at times- with the Indian accent mingled in with lots of French words.  It was an enjoyable movie- but, once again, I enjoyed the book more.

Friday, 7 November 2014


Regis Philbin- how I love and miss him!
But the title of his autobiography is just awful!
Regis is a great storyteller and the book is very interesting to read.  Each chapter tells about a famous person who influenced his life.  I loved reading his stories, but the title!  So wordy and clunky!
The book is published by Harper/Collins.  Couldn't they think of a better title?
Perhaps he should have asked Barbara Walters for a suggestion.  She has a classy title- "Audition".  
I realize that Regis' book is not a full biography, and he is only writing about the influences in his life.  I have been searching through the thesaurus to find a title to reflect that.  I'm sure I can come up with one!

Perhaps the dull November weather is making me cranky.  You think?

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Scotiabank Giller Prize

It's the richest fiction prize in Canada and I have not read any of the books!  How can that be? Every year I say that I want to get more involved with the Giller Prize but then it's November and it's too late. Oh well.  For sure, I will be watching the event next Monday- hopefully on my new T.V.  The new T.V. isn't hooked up yet, and when it is, I may be in shock. I am going from a 21 inch screen to a 50 inch screen.  Culture shock!

And this is the year for shocks.  Our 'dearly beloved' Jian Ghomeshi will not be hosting any shows.  I say 'dearly beloved' because I think his life is over.  My daughter disagrees.  She thinks he will go on to write books and become a different kind of 'star'.  But the court case will be very interesting and important in defining 'abuse'.
Rick Mercer is our man this year and I love what he says about taking over the show. He says that it is not about the host, but the books and he will not be mentioning Jian. He also is not putting the story on his show "The Rick Mercer Report" because he is into humour and doesn't have the resources for this type of story.  He feels that it absolutely should be discussed in other circumstances.
Mercer will certainly be a great host, but I don't think he is a reader.  He says that he has read the 'Coles notes' on the books that have been chosen.  And here they are:

This prize is a big deal!  The jury read 161 novels, came up with a short list of 12, then the 6 finalists. They saved us all that reading! The winner receives $100,000.00 and each finalist get $10,000.00.  Wow!  It is a big deal!  This is the 21st year.  Maybe I'll get my act together for the 22nd show next year and read all six books in preparation for the 2015 award show!

I am familiar with four of the authors and it seems like a really good selection of books.  I am especially interested in the content of "Us Conductors".  The jury said, "Sean Michaels makes music seem to sing from the pages of a novel".  This novel was inspired by the scientist that invented the theremin.  And that, in itself, is fascinating.  A theremin is an electronic musical instrument controlled without physical contact, invented in 1928.

"Tell" also interests me because I have read books by Frances Itani and she is a great writer.  Her sentences are well-crafted and she really gets into the emotion of her characters.  This books sounds similar to "The Deafening"- also about  a W.W. I injured soldier returning to Ontario and his life here.

I have taken a course on Miriam Toews but still find her cynical and sarcastic. But she is a good writer.

I am also not a fan of Heather O'Neil.  She grew up poor and motherless in Montreal and feels that she can profit from that in her writing, but I found "Lullabies for Little Criminals" terribly sad with poor plot development.  The novel seemed to be a shopping list of misery- abuse, poverty. drugs, prostitution. I did enjoy some of her description but I always need a ray of hope and she didn't provide any!

David Bezmozgis is the other author that I am familiar with.  His book "Natasha and other Stories" was a finalist for Canada Reads in 2007.

Next year- for sure!  I will read all six books in anticipation.  It's more fun that way!