Monday, 28 March 2016

Thoughts about Canada Reads 2016

Canada Reads had a new moderator this year.  Gil Deacon is an author and a broadcaster.  I  really didn't like her questions the first day.

1.) Which book least embodies the theme?
2.) Which novel is most relevant to Canada today?
3.) Which book surprised you?

  It was made very clear that this is not a literary discussion but a game show for fun and entertainment.  I guess I always knew that but hoped it would have some literary value.  It was also mentioned that it is not about 'the best', but about the book that all of Canada should read. really is about the message.  
   My friend Gayle loves to learn something in a book, but I really just want to enjoy the story.  If there is a subtle message that makes me think, I am delighted!
  It was also mentioned that there are serious themes of mental illness, death, trauma, tragedy, DESPAIR. These situations do cause you to 'start over'.  But Vinay brought up the idea of transformation and I think "The Hero's walk" showed that in a powerful way. All of the books addressed 'starting over', but "The Hero's Walk" was more powerful for me because it clearly demonstrated the first step in transformation- admitting that you don't know everything, that you may have been wrong.
  "Minister Without Portfolio" was the first book to be eliminated. But Adam 'Edge' Copeland really did a great job of supporting it. He is a wrestler but his defence of the book was the exact opposite of the book- so articulate.  Metaphor after metaphor!  
   The second day the book eliminated was "Bone and Bread".
The questions were better the second day and the discussion became more interesting.  The first day, none of the panel wanted to say anything negative about any of the books, but the second day the real opinions surfaced.
  I was surprised that Farah was offended when Bruce mentioned that perhaps the Canada Reads book should take place in Canada. That is a question that has often been explored, but she wanted an apology from Bruce.  I didn't understand that.
  The third day, "Birdie" was voted off.  It really is a difficult read.
  And so, the winner is "The Illegal".  Clara supported the book well and was beloved by everyone.  If Clara didn't have to vote for her own book, I think she would have voted to keep "The Hero's Walk".  Even Lawrence Hill, the author of the winning book, expected "The Hero's Walk" to win.
A great panel with thoughtful discussion.  Canada Reads 2016.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Canada Reads- book five

"The Illegal" by Lawrence Hill
   I was such a fan of Lawrence Hill after reading "The Book of Negroes" and hearing him speak.  However, I was incredibly disappointed in this novel.
   It is a timely subject, and I did get a sense of what it would be like to be "illegal". Having a runner for the protagonist seemed like a good idea.  But...
Let's talk about the characters.  They came and went.  I didn't get all of the characters established in my mind early in the story and was always having to think - who is this?  They didn't seem real.  I never got to really know them. 
   Thinking  back, I wish I had been able to connect more because there certainly was a range of interesting characters.  But even Keita, the protagonist, wasn't developed enough to fully connect with him.  I enjoyed Ivernia Beech. She added some lightness and humour to a very 'heavy' story.
   The novel takes place on two small islands in the Indian ocean, Zantoroland and Freedom State (certainly a play on the word 'free'). Both countries have corrupt governments and the novel is full of blackmail, bribes, beatings and killings.  Guns are involved in the final violent scene taking place in the office of the prime minister of "Freedom State".
   Some of the characters had great promise.  John Falconer was in grade nine and was making a documentary. He certainly was central to the story, but his character was also not well-developed.
  The characters were flat, the plot was bizarre, the setting was unreal.  The language was pedestrian (lacking inspiration or excitement; dull).
  I meet with a group of friends to discuss the Canada Reads books in advance of the Canada Reads discussions.  I realized while discussing this book why I didn't enjoy it.   The book is not based on character, plot, setting or language - all the things that I look for and enjoy.  This novel is really a 'message' book. 

 Clara Hughes is a Canadian cyclist and speed skater, who has won many Olympic medals in both sports.  She is also a humanitarian, involved in several charities.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Canada Reads- book four

"The Hero's Walk" by Anita Rau Badami    
I was hooked on the first page!  What amazing writing!  What beautiful description! 
I was so impressed that I kept stopping to write quotes- how delicious!
For some readers, the description may be too detailed, but I have not been to India and I wanted to know every detail including the cow tied to the porch next door.
Right in the first chapter, I got well acquainted with all of the characters and was transported by the description of the setting. Then I was ready to follow the plot.

I cried at the end and realized that this book has great significance!
I agree with a review that I read on amazon :"This book is heart-breaking, gut-wrenching, a page-turner filled with pathos.  I loved it madly!"
I know that this is the best book that I have read in a long time and I am considering that it may tie with my all-time favourite, "Poisonwood Bible".  It is very different but I see a connection.  In fact, it may surpass "Poisonwood Bible" because of the ending. "Poisonwood Bible" showed a man's arrogance and the effect on everyone he met, but this book revealed a man's change of heart that is profound and moved me to tears.

I am very interested in hearing from this man.  
He was born in Brampton and graduated in business from York University.  
He studied filmmaking and theatre in New York. 
 He has written and starred in three movies.  
He screens his movies for high school students, and recent immigrants studying English. 
 He is only 30!

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Canada Reads- book three

"Birdie" by Tracey Lindberg

I was looking forward to this book about a Cree woman.  I was hoping to 'get into her head', but I found that that was a confusing place.  This novel follows Birdie's descent into madness.
"She woke up in a room.  And could not move.
She woke up.  In a room.  And was tied to herself.
She woke up.  In a room.  And was herself tied.
She woke up.  In a room.  And found.  She was not changed.
She woke up.
In a room.
And learned.
She was crazy."

Each chapter starts with Cree vocabulary and a traditional Cree story about an owl winds through the novel.  The story is mostly flashbacks and at times, I got lost.
There was some beautiful writing, but I struggled to understand what was actually happening.  Perhaps I needed to stand back and just try to get the general feel of the book.  The language and traditions made me feel that I was an outsider.  
I would expect that it would be a spectacular read for Cree women, but the general public?
Who is supporting "Birdie"?

  Bruce began the travel company 'G Adventures'.  He has also written the book "Looptail: How One Company Changed the World by Reinventing", which is the story of his travel company.
We know how excited I am about reinvention.  He changed the world?

Friday, 18 March 2016

Canada Reads- book two

"Bone and Bread" by Saleema Nawaz

   This cover is interesting because the book is about two sisters, Beena and Sadhana Singh. They were born in Montreal, where their Indian-born father had owned a bagel shop but died young.  Their mother was a Californian (born in Ireland) who loved yoga and chanting, and she also died when the girls were teenagers.
   The girls had been very close and I enjoyed the description of this relationship: "We had a hard time knowing where one of us left off and the other began".
  Their uncle took over their guardianship and the problems began. "Uncle had come into our house like our own misery made flesh, and in his blunt bulk had become the wedge around which my sister and I could no longer see eye to eye."
  This novel alternates between two storylines- the present and the past.  In the present, Beena has died and Sadhana is unable to cope with her grief.  The storyline dealing with the past -the early years of the girls was more interesting to me.
  I'm not sure about the theme of 'starting over'.  This book is more about Sadhana's grief and inability to 'start over'.  
  I wondered if a book about grief would appeal to readers, but "February" by Lisa Moore won in 2013.  The theme of that book is an oil rig disaster in Newfoundland and a widow dealing with her grief.
  There is no question that this book is beautifully written!

Who is supporting this book?

Farah Mohamed is a social entrepreneur.  She began G(irls)20, where one delegate from each G20 country gathers to work on methods to cultivate a new generation of female leaders.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Rules for Writing

   I have been putting some thought into the idea of the rules of composition-  syntax, grammar, punctuation.
   I ranted about "Minister Without Portfolio" and constantly wondered why an author would choose that style of writing.  And further, why Canada Reads would choose such a novel as the best writing in Canada.
Abstract Art
   Then I thought about the visual arts.  And I realized that for all the rules in any discipline, there are those who desire to think outside of the box and break the 'norms'.
   There are rules of composition in the visual arts, but then there is abstract art. And many artists enjoy this form of expression, also.
   Reading is really about learning about yourself to some extent.  I probably already knew that I am generally not interested in innovation- especially when things are working well.
   And so, I really don't appreciate novels that are written in puzzle format where you have to put the plot together as you go, or figure out what this conglomeration of words is about.
Landscape Art
   I love Victorian literature and don't think it can be improved in any way, shape or form.  The introduction sets the who, what and where.  Then the plot carries you along, hopefully with a fascinating climax.
  But that is just me.  And the world is full of diverse thought.
   I still love Thomas Hardy and Jane Austen. 
   And landscape art!
The artist for this painting is my friend Christina Preece.  Love it!
In my angst about grammar, I forgot to mention who is supporting "Minister Without Portfolio".
Adam will be able to address the theme of Canada Reads this year- "starting over".  He was a professional wrestler (The Edge) until he retired in 2011.  He has been acting since then.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Canada Reads- book one

   Canada Reads has chosen their 5 panelists and each panelist has chosen a book that represents the difficulties of 'starting over'.
This is the book that I decided to read first.
"Minister Without Portfolio" by Michael Winter.
   What a disappointment!  The sentence structure was so poor that I felt that I was reading an elementary school student's writing.  I kept feeling that I needed to correct it- "No, that sentence is not complete, that punctuation is not correct", etc. etc. 
   Of course, punctuation is not an issue for a lot of authors these days. This book has a complete lack of quotation marks, which seems to be fairly common in novels today.
   But the sentence structure was so terrible, that I could not focus on the narrative.
   I had to look up 'syntax' to see if it is still in the dictionary.  Did I come from another planet, where they were conscious of syntax and punctuation?
   I would love to know who decided that grammar (including punctuation and syntax) no longer matters.  

Monday, 7 March 2016

"My Mother's Secret"

   My friend Terri, who was born in Poland told me about this book. What an amazing little book!  And it is little- only180 pages with very little print on each page.  And so powerful!
   It is based on a true story of a mother and daughter, Franciszka and Helena Halamajowa who harboured Jews during the Holocaust. Those who risked their lives in this way are called "the Righteous among the nations".  I had not heard that title, but these people certainly need to be remembered in a very special way.

   The woman and daughter in this novel lived in Sokal, Poland in 1942 in a two room house, but they were able to hide a Jewish family of three in a loft above the pigsty, a Jewish doctor and his wife and son in a crudely dug-out cellar, and a defecting German soldier in a 3-foot-high attic. 
   The novel tells the story of the mother and daughter who owned the house, as well as each of those who lived because of their kindness.
  This novel reminded me of the very powerful "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl- a non-fiction account of the holocaust. Click here for my blog on this book.

“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”  Viktor E. Frankl 

Friday, 4 March 2016

March reading

It's March and I'm delighted!  The pile of books waiting for me looks so inviting!
1.) "The Illegal" by Lawrence Hill is the last of the Canada Reads for me to read and discuss with friends before the actual 'battle of the books' begins.  I trust this author who delighted me with "The Book of Negros".
2.)"A Man Called Ove" by Fredrik Backman.  Two of my friends have already blogged about it, I had better get busy.  This author fascinates me because he is a 34-year-old Swede who studied comparative religion but dropped out to be a truck driver.
In 2012, he had two books debut on the same day- this book and a non-fiction book called "Things My Son Needs to Know About the World".  The next year another novel was released called "My Grandmother Sent Me to Tell You She's Sorry".  
3.) "The Goldfinch" by Donna Tartt is almost 800 pages of very small print.  I need a deserted island to get this book finished.  But two very smart friends have strongly recommended it. It won a Pulitzer Prize in 2014.  I'm sure it will be a literary delight, but I have a feeling that I will leave this one for last.
4.) "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin is our next book club selection and I am committed to lead the discussion this month. I have been researching all the press around this story and can't wait to get started on this controversial novel.
5.) "Rebecca" by Daphne du Maurier is another book club selection for a different book club. Du Maurier lived in Cornwall and when I was in England, we stopped at "The Jamaica Inn" - the title of one of her books.  I bought some of her books there, but only read one at the time.  I wasn't overly impressed, but this is supposed to be her best.  She wrote 37 books, many of which were made into movies or T.V. series. One of her short stories was made into the movie "The Birds" - yes, by Alfred Hitchcock.
My request:
I would love to hear from anyone reading my blog. 
Just click on these red words at the bottom of my entry: No Comment 
If I am lucky, it may say 1 comment or 2 comments.  
Just click on those red words and a box will pop up where you can write a few words and then click on publish.
Thank you!