Daydreams of Angels, by Heather O’Neill

Daydreams of Angels, short stories, by Heather O'Neill, HarperCollinsCA, 2015, trade paper, 354 pp.

Daydreams of Angels, short stories, by Heather O’Neill, HarperCollinsCA, 2015, trade paper, 354 pp.

“TEN GAZILLION STARS”: that’s what I wrote when I first finished reading Daydreams of Angels, by Canadian author Heather O’Neill (Lullabies for Little Criminals, The Girl Who Was Saturday Night). I’m slightly embarrassed by this hyperbole now, but that reaction was genuine, born out of my deep appreciation and excitement for wildly inventive writing that smacks almost of improv. That’s not to say that O’Neill didn’t craft these stories carefully and thoughtfully, only that she understands relinquishing control to the literary muse.

Daydreams of Angels is magic realism at its best. It’s original and playful, funny and tragic, wise and clever. It is uninhibited while remaining true. Combined with the delightful ridiculousness are moments of striking reality we can all relate to, which is what keeps this collection from overloading us with only fancy and wit.

Most of the stories carry the tone of fairy tales, and there are a few liberally riffed upon actual fairy tales, such as Pinocchio (“Bartók for Children” is an exceedingly clever version that carries the same kind of inventiveness as the original, only O’Neill does it better) and Red Riding Hood (“The Wolf-Boy of Northern Quebec”).

As the title of the book vaguely suggests, some stories include angels, heaven, the devil, and even Jesus. In one of my favourite stories, “The Gospel According to Mary M.” (yes, that Mary M.: “Other people’s parents said I looked like a whore…”), Jesus is a Grade Six kid with what Mary’s mom calls “inner strength—a real screw-all-of-y’all attitude” who one afternoon finds the contents of his juice box mysteriously changed to wine (“‘Tell me if this apple juice doesn’t taste funny to you,’ he said”). Jean-Baptiste (haha), who says that Jesus has a Messiah complex, and Peter and Judas also feature on the playground.

Once when we were all in the back of the schoolyard and Judas was explaining to us where babies came from, Jesus positively spazzed out.

Now I knew all about that baby stuff, even then, and I knew that Judas was fifty percent full of crap, but if I piped in with my corrections, he’d be all “Excusez-moi, Professor Been-Around-The-Block, so I made sure to keep my mouth shut.

But Jesus, on the other hand, started having a complete breakdown. He said that Judas was a liar and that if a woman hears someone whispering in her ear in the middle of the night and if she sits up and looks around and no one is there, she’ll be pregnant by the morning.

Interspersed throughout the collection is a series of connected stories featuring Grandfather and Grandmother (which have been radio-featured), who delight their grandchildren with fabrications narrated to us by the granddaughter. These stories are hilarious, for both the tales and the children’s reactions, and are about where babies come from (they’re washed up on shore by the waning tide, with their bums sticking up out of the sand so women can rescue them [“Where Babies Come From”]); dying and coming back to life and what happens in between (“Heaven”; the dead are all hustled onto trains: “The angels sorted through everyone, rushing about and chain-smoking cigarettes—for as it turned out, in heaven, smoking was good for you”); and about when Grandfather was a ladies’ man on the Isles of Dr. Moreau and dated a cat-girl, a deer-girl, and a swan-girl, and finally settled on the monkey-girl, Grandmother.

In other words, O’Neill fantastically succeeded in what she set out to do:

The collection I kind of conceived as a whole. I wanted it to be seen like one of those old anthologies of children’s literature that I used to get for Christmas in the ’70s. They would just have little chapters from Dickens novels and then a fairytale, and then an Aesop fable and then a story from the Bible. So I wanted it to be like one of those big children’s compendiums but then they would all be dark and for adults and with my own sort of twisted, perverted, little trademark things stuck in there. (Source)

Trademark, indeed. The collection is the misfit she often writes about but which has through obvious honing of her craft managed to find its own cool place. This book of imaginative, often reimagined stories is in a league of its own, not only with its original stories but also at sentence level.  I dogeared so many similes and metaphors because they’re like nothing I’ve read before—in a good way that absolutely thrilled me. As a writer, I appreciate the hard work she’s done to cultivate this skill, which has totally paid off—so much so she makes it seem easy.

Daydreams of Angels, UK edition, Quercus, 2015

Daydreams of Angels, UK edition, Quercus, 2015

For example: “The old man was careful with his life. As though it were an egg balanced in a spoon in a children’s race”; “Little O brought Joe’s awful black cat to the vet. It was always messy looking and out of sorts, like a kid that had just had a turtleneck pulled off its head;” a bear in the first story, “The Gypsy and the Bear,” spins “balls around as though he was God deciding where to put what in the solar system”; and “they slammed the book shut, like a folk dancer pounding his foot on the floor to announce the end of an act.”

Streetlights are, from above, like strings of pearls; a boiler bubbles and burps all night long as if it had a huge meal and now has indigestion; a young girl with three brothers finds herself lacking (“It was as though there wasn’t enough material left to make another boy and so I got made”) and compares herself to the “last funny cookie on the tray that there wasn’t enough dough for”; and “The surface of the moon on a clear night looked all dented, like it had been out drinking and driving and had now lost its licence after a crash.” There are tons more, connections you might not think to make but strangely seem almost obvious when you read them.

As I hinted at the beginning, this book isn’t all fun and games. Artfully blended in is an also observant insight into the darkness of being human. O’Neill writes about poverty, loneliness, feeling like a misfit, the misery of being unfulfilled, abandonment, the mid-century views of motherhood, and especially the girls and women are made to feel by the expectations of society.

“The Saddest Chorus Girl in the World” is a particularly tender story about vulnerability, objectification, and sadness. The final story, “The Conference of the Birds,” tells of a family of six on welfare (not the only story in this collection that deals with poverty of some sort), and though it’s well-balanced and told with humour and a rather sweet ending that focuses on the way we can survive by being close-knit and positive, it too was tinged with sadness for me.

In all, Daydreams of Angels is a brilliant exploration of imagination, desire, and finding one’s place in the world, a collection that left me feeling satisfied yet hungry for more. I have yet to read The Girl Who Was Saturday Night (soon!) but already, I’m looking forward to whatever O’Neill wants to write next.

For more on this collection, listen to Heather’s interviews on and All in a Weekend. (Her sweet, light voice totally surprised me when I first heard it. Her writing made me imagine something meatier. I love this juxtaposition!)

Cauchemar, by Alexandra Grigorescu: Review and Excerpt

The luminescent, Catherine Zeta-Jones lookalike author, Alexandra Grigorescu., who lives in Toronto, not New Orleans.

The luminescent Catherine Zeta-Jones lookalike author, Alexandra Grigorescu, who lives in Toronto, not New Orleans. I know: What?!

I have a thing for the Deep South. I’ve never actually been, not yet, but I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read set there. I listen to New Orleans blues. I’m addicted to the show The Originals. I season food with Slap Ya Mama. The place lends itself to magic both literally and figuratively, though some people might not call it that. For me, the mystery of the bayou, the pervasive sense of something otherworldly, the dark underbelly, the bewitching blues, and especially the lore — as well as the swampy, humid, mossy, crawling atmosphere, are some of the best things in literature. That’s why when Sam at ECW Press offered me Cauchemar by Alexandrea Grigorescu, I said yes. (Thank you, Sam!)

And at first, as thrilling as the book sounds, I actually had trouble getting into it. I’m sure it was due to my expectations more than to the writing, but I wanted more…what? voodoo? and less relationship. More sax and less sex. But I kept at it (and I don’t usually do that) and increasingly became compelled as things got weirder: growing, pulsing cracks in the walls, biblical plagues, glimpses of an albino reptile, throats choked with black feathers, snakes writhing out of the plumbing, visions that blur the lines between real and spiritual so you can’t tell one from the other.

Hannah is left alone after the death of her adoptive mother Mae, with so much to figure out about herself, her past, and her home, but when her birth mother steps in, a witch with the power to hold men under her spell in a way that makes them alarmingly decrepit, things start to get really creepy, including with Hannah’s boyfriend, Callum. It was all enough to make me genuinely uneasy.

I’ll say this of Grigorescu: somehow she was able, using everyday words, to conjure up an atmosphere so spooky that I felt equally compelled and repelled. I was torn between staying up too late and tossing the book out the car window as we drove (I stayed up late, like Melissa, in the bath, and had to reheat the water three times). It’s hard to describe the feeling, really: kind of the residue after you watch a horror movie, say. Except so mesmerizing at the same time!

Cauchemar is a thriller movie begging to be made; I hope someone with the power to make it, and make it well, comes across the story and see its potential. And I don’t get this feeling from it sounding like it was written with that intent; no, I get it from everything being so vivid and visceral and real—from the legions of insects to the decrepit men to the unborn baby to the crossed fingers and hissing of the neighbours to the voodoo magic and heavy heat and window-crashing crows—that I had to take a shower after my bath. The veil between this world and the next is far too thin in this book for you to rest comfortably with sweet tea.

Cauchemar is a nightmare, a love story, a tribute to Southern cookery, a frightening bestiary, the grip of the moody bayou, a powerful conjuring of the dark magic that buoys the swamps of the Deep South. And Grigorescu is a literary sorceress—who has possibly hung out with the Louisiana witches, because she evoked them something strong in this book.

Read an Excerpt!

 Chapter One

 Alexandra Grigorescu’s Blog Tour Stops


This review is part of a blog tour sponsored by the publisher, ECW Press. For the complete list of tour stops, see below. For more information, click HERE. For a guest post from the author, Alexandra Grigorescu, click HERE.

MARCH 1: Review and giveaway at The Book Binder’s Daughter
MARCH 2: Review and guest post at Bibliotica
MARCH 3: Review and excerpt (Chapter 1) at Bella’s Bookshelves (Here!)
MARCH 4: Guest post at Write All the Words! for their International Women’s Week feature
MARCH 5: Interview and excerpt (Chapter 2) at Editorial Eyes
MARCH 7: Review at Lavender Lines
MARCH 9: Review at Svetlana’s Reads
MARCH 10: Review and interview at The Book Stylist
MARCH 11: Review, guest post, and giveaway at Booking it with Hayley G
MARCH 12: Guest Post at Dear Teen Me
MARCH 13: Review and giveaway at The Book Bratz
MARCH 14: Interview and excerpt at Feisty Little Woman

Our Endless Numbered Days, By Claire Fuller

“Dates only make us aware of how numbered our days are, how much closer to death we are for each one we cross off. From now on, Punzel, we’re going to live by the sun and seasons.” He picked me up and spun me around laughing. “Our days will be endless.” With my father’s final notch, time stopped for us on the twentieth of August, 1976. —From Our Endless Numbered Days


Anansi cover, March 2015

Anansi never disappoints. This Christmas, I received a package from them with the ARC of Claire Fuller‘s debut novel Our Endless Numbered Days (due out in March and present on at least eight “most anticipated books” lists) plus two candles, a tin of chicken, matches, a ball of twine, batteries, and survivalist lists of what to pack for a trip into “the interior.”

IMG_20141211_114004IMG_20141211_115625They’ve read the book. They must know it’s a winner. But did they know just how appropriate their package would be? Did they know that after I finished the book, when my husband, dog, and I went to the woods for our walk a couple of hours later, I would feel convinced that I needed to bring the candles, matches, and a blanket in case something happened? We tramped through the forest and I could not shake off the feeling that I was still in the novel. I stumbled through the snow behind my husband, breathlessly, seemingly endlessly, describing the story to him.

Our Endless Numbered Days is told to us by Peggy, who is 18. When she is eight, she is taken from her home by her survivalist (or, Retreatist) father, from London to a remote European forest. At first she thinks they’re on a short trip to “die Hütte” [the cottage]—a camping trip, as they’d done in their backyard while her mother was off giving piano concerts in another country. But her father wishes to avoid people on their trek, and when they finally arrive at the small, hidden, ill-equipped, ramshackle cabin, he tells her that the rest of the world has ended, and everyone else is dead, and it is not safe to venture beyond the borders he sets. And she, having little concept of her father’s designs, believes it all.


US cover, March 2015

For nine years, Peggy and her father live off the land, almost starving, then adapting but only just surviving. The events that transpire are utterly engrossing. But increasingly Peggy’s father shows alarming signs of deterioration and mental illness, and we wonder how this could possibly all end well.

The story alternates between the time of these nine years and the present, which in this book is 1985, when Peggy has returned home and discovered the world is not ended, after all. We know, then, early on that she survives the ordeal, but breathtaking tension remains as she relates her story, even as we deduce and suspect (I did not find this spoiled anything), and then confirm, with horror, the reality and disturbing effects of what transpired.


British cover, Feb. 2015

I’m telling you right now, this is the best book I’ve read in ages. I cannot remember the last time I spoke aloud at a book, with volume, or if there has ever been a time when, no matter how great the book was, I actually told someone they needed to leave me alone till I finished. I’ve wanted to, of course.

Yesterday, reading near the end, I said aloud, “Oh God, oh my God…” and my husband said, “What, what? Did you forget something important?” And I just shook my head, my eyes wide, my hand over my mouth. “Oh God,” I said, muffled. And he said, “Ohh, is one of your book characters having difficulties?” Which is from The Simpsons and made me kind of laugh, but I was unable to remove my hand from my mouth. I was between worlds; I felt—and this will sound like hyperbole—like I’d been punched. No, not the hurt, but the recovery, from the surprise and holy-shitness of it (yes, I’ve been punched before).

And then, a few minutes later, I said, “No. NO. No, no, no, no, noooo…” I knew, I had suspected, but to hear a character come to her own realization, for me to have my suspicions confirmed, for the realizations to dawn on me slowly as the book progressed, horrifyingly so…it was all very intense. And when my husband started talking to me about his beer brewing process, which he’s very excited about and which is his own passion, I squirmed and I held my breath and I smiled and I told myself, HE is more important than your book…but then I couldn’t hold it in any longer, and I said, showing him, “I just have one and a half pages left,” and he said, “Oh, okay—” thinking I meant I would shower and get ready to go out after those pages, and I blurted, “NO, please. I mean, I have to read these now and then you can talk to me. I’m sorry, I-I just need to finish, I’m in the story…” And, bless him, he put up his hands and backed away slowly.

I didn’t close the book for a few minutes after I’d finished. I sat processing. I thought of so many things at once. Is it typical that once you finish a book like this you immediately start looking for flaws? You review the story and the events over and over and look for holes or things you can object to. Every time I came up with something, Fuller had it covered (read: I got this) by something else. I thought of objections others might have with regard to the story, but I always had something solid to counter them with.

All day yesterday, I thought about the book. I had been so there, alongside Peggy—or as her, I don’t really know. The atmosphere, the setting, the details…everything was so palpable that it feels like memory.

download (2)This is Fuller’s first novel, did I mention? Penguin was the highest bidder of three, and the book’s going to launch in eight countries this year. She even quit her job:

“It feels like a big risk,” she said. “The book will come out but I have no idea how well it will sell. It is amazing and I can’t quite believe it. It is still rare for this to happen to new authors. It’s amazing and it must mean that they think the book is sellable—they are a business at the end of the day. If the book doesn’t sell I probably have two or three years and then I might have to go out and get a job. We have decided it is worth taking the risk.” [source: Hampshire Chronicle]

Duh. Totally worth it. I’m already slavering over her as-yet-unborn second novel and can’t wait to meet her someday, and I am not alone. It’s tough to believe OEND is a debut novel. I admired the prose—which Kirkus Review called “translucent”—sentences like, “The forest smelled heavy and dirty and sorry for itself”—though, taken out of context, perhaps things lose a bit of their lustre. But the rhythm of her writing, the structure and organization of the story, the way important things are revealed throughout but not too much, not too tellingly, her power to evoke surroundings that are so real you are transported, and the way Fuller was able to reach deep into the human condition and translate things so that we relate, even not having experienced what Peggy does first-hand—all of this is expertly done. This book is going to be big, okay. Award-winning. Or I’ll eat my survivalist candles (the dog ate the canned chicken.)

That I could not pick up another book to read yesterday and haven’t been able to so far today is testament to Fuller’s power as a storyteller. Not only do I feel I haven’t read something as effective as this novel in ages, but I also feel it will take a little while for me to believe I can read something as good next.

The Strange Library, by Haruki Murakami

Random House is still very kindly and generously sending me free books. I guess it’s because they know that when I love a book, even if I can’t review it (new clients mean extremely limited time; also, just so you know, this isn’t what I’d call a review), I can’t keep it to myself and will at least tweet and FB about it. Bless them for thinking that’s enough.

So they sent me Murakami’s upcoming story The Strange Library (12/2014). What a delight this book is! I appreciate when people understand that experiencing a book doesn’t just mean reading the text. It’s everything, from introduction to running a hand over the back cover when you’re done.

This gem of a book came wrapped in plastic. So already the heart’s pounding because you’re going through the motions of unwrapping a gift. At least, I get this feeling when I’m having to remove an exciting product from whatever it comes in: there’s that anticipatory moment, you know? So I pulled at a corner of the plastic with my teeth.

Anyone who’s seen the latest Murakami books knows that Chip Kidd‘s been given more creative freedom. Vellum and cutout covers, cool graphic and illustrative design, and then this, which at first appears to be in a protective cover and then gives the impression that it might read like a notepad.


Opening Murakami's The Secret Library, Random House, 2014. Chip Kidd design

Opening Murakami’s The Secret Library, Random House, 2014. Chip Kidd design

But once you lift up and pull down the covers, the pages turn as a normal book. I folded the covers at the back page, and used the top cover as a bookmark the one time I put the book down. Note in the photo above the line along the spine: For internal use only. It’s in the story, but here I think it has a double meaning.

Page 2, with the covers of the book open

Page 2, with the covers of the book open

The Strange Library is a highly imaginative story that showcases the joyful creativity of Murakami and the superb translation skills of Ted Gossen. One might ask how I know it’s a great translation, and okay, I don’t with regard to the original. But in English this book reads very well: the words seem perfect for the telling. I read quite a bit of translated literature (I love it), and when it creates what I think is the right tone for the story and author, it’s succeeded.

So I adored this beautiful little book from start to finish. A young man goes to the library and is sent to the labyrinthine basement he didn’t know existed, where a crotchety old man wants his brains. Thus, he’s kept prisoner until he can read and memorize three books (on tax collecting in the Ottoman Empire) he’s given, in order to make his brain “creamy.” A wraith-like girl and a man in a sheepskin round out the cast of characters, as well as a starling, a frightening hound, and the young man’s mother.

It’s a dreamlike tale with a very likable and sometimes humorous narrative voice, and gives the impression that Murakami let his imagination drift without censorship. Yet, even in its simplicity and brevity, it also carries a strange, at first unidentifiable weight. About After the Quake, a collection of short stories, Murakami said,  “I want to write about people who dream and wait for the night to end, who long for the light so they can hold the ones they love.”

This story is exactly that, actually. I don’t think it’s a story or a fabulously designed book just for story’s or design’s sake. I don’t have a problem with it if it is, but I’m certain there’s more to it. Like a good short story, The Strange Library leaves me to figure out the white space. Which of course I won’t reveal here, because your experience of it would be partly ruined. Already, though, I want to read it again, and just skimming through it, things begin to take on even greater meaning.

And now I also want more Murakami. The more of him I read, the more I learn what it means as a writer to be creative, imaginative, yet grounded in truth.


Second-hand Finds

Okay, is it weird that I can often do my best book shopping in Value Village, totally not a bookstore, totally ignorant about the classification of literature? If this keeps up, I’m going to end up wanting to go every week or so! While of course I want to support publisher, author, bookshop, industry, I can’t help but get a thrill when second-hand book shopping.

The hardest part about this kind of shopping is finding books you love but already have. Then I know it’s a compulsion, an addiction I’m fighting. I don’t need several copies of favourite books just because I might now have found the pristine hardcover, but I will buy a different edition if it’s special in some way.

Look at what I found today:

After buying the Bean Trees, I'd decided only this weekend I wanted to try this book again. And here it was today. Score!

I'm a sucker for children's books, especially classics. This edition's jacket is rather brittle and a bit torn but the copyright is 1962, after all, and the hardcover is in fine condition otherwise. Illustrated by Mary Shepard. I loved this story growing up!

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. I've been attracted to this book for a while and then it was reviewed during KIRBC's Keep Toronto Reading Series and that doubled my desire. What luck!

Another I've eyed up for some time because I love a good medieval mystery. A lovely Penguin.

Winner of the 1999 Booker. I read Coetzee's Foe in university and I've been forever meaning to read this. South Africa has always intrigued me and Coetzee's writing is excellent.

I'm not lying when I tell you I've never read The Great Gatsby. It's my brother-in-law's favourite book and he's not a huge reader. That's saying something. Plus, I figure it's time.

Pulitzer Prize winner. I've saved my most exciting purchase for last. I'm in love with Annie Dillard. Her books are among my very favourite, especially this one and Holy the Firm (but not the Maytrees, really). And this edition is totally gorgeous. It was published in 1974, appears to be a 1st ed. It's a lovely large hardcover, with beautifully designed jacket, endpapers, and layout. It smells just as it should, and sends a thrill up my spine to hold it. I cannot wait to read this book again. It is perfect.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek endpapers; these photos don't do the book justice.

I can’t tell you what a great day it is when I buy second-hand books. O the stuff you can find, the places you’ll go!

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Town House by Tish Cohen: A Review

Not long ago I picked up two new books, Town House by Canadian author Tish Cohen and Little Bee by Chris Cleave. We were at Costco and I couldn’t resist. I’d eyed up Town House before, a different paperback edition, a few years ago, but I admit I can be wary of first novels (though I’m taking more “risks” and finding myself pleased).

Here’s a synopsis from Cohen’s site, because though I’ve been avoiding these, seeing blurbs on other review sites has convinced me they make sense and are helpful:

Jack Madigan is, by many accounts, blessed. Thanks to his legendary rockstar father, he lives an enviable existence in a once-glorious, but now crumbling, Boston town house with his teenage son, Harlan. There’s just one problem: Jack is agoraphobic. While living on his dad’s dwindling royalties hasn’t been easy, Jack and Harlan have bumbled along just fine. Until the money runs out…and so does Jack’s luck.

Suddenly, the bank is foreclosing, Jack’s ex is threatening to take Harlan to California, and Lucinda, the little waif next door, won’t stay out of his kitchen. Or his life. The harder Jack tries to keep Lucinda out, the harder she pushes her way in — to his house and, eventually, his heart. Things look up when the real estate agent, Dorrie Allsop, arrives so green she still has the price tag dangling from her Heritage Estates blazer. But even Dorrie’s overworked tongue can’t hide the house’s potential and, ultimately, a solid offer thrusts Jack towards the paralyzing reality that he no longer has a home.

To save his sanity, Jack must do the impossible and outwit the real estate agent, win back his house and keep his son at home. Town House is a sweet and serious look at one man’s struggle to survive within the walls of his own fears. And it’s through the very people he tries so hard to push out of his life that he finds a way to break down those walls and, eventually, step outside.

First off, I love the format of my edition of Town House, part of the Harper Weekend imprint. It’s a lovely matte cover but mainly the size and shape, about an inch and half shorter and half an inch or so narrower than a regular trade makes it light and easily portable as well as pleasant to hold. The paper is soft and fragrant, the binding such that the book can easily lie open. A nice paperback to travel with.

However, while it did accompany me day after day to work, I found myself unable to read more than a few sentences because I’m so interrupted there that I don’t really get a lunch, and thus I read this 305-pager in about two days over this past weekend. It’s an easy read—not fluff, really, but compelling and reminiscent to me of something like a romantic comedy movie. Yet it’s more than that. According to Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants, it’s “everything you could ask for in a novel: touching, wry, bewitching, eccentric, and riveting to the end.” Which is all true, though “riveting” is a word I use sparingly and I think it a bit too strong in this case.

Town House was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book (Canada and the Caribbean region), and deservedly so. What attracted me to the book in the first place was the cast of characters and a plot line that promised the development of said characters as they go through their ordinary days and also come together. Cohen writes her protagonist, Jack Madigan, son of 70s rockstar Baz Madigan and an agoraphobe with the uncanny skill of mixing perfect shades of white, in such a way that you feel as attached to him as you do to endearing IRS auditor Harold Crick in one of my favourite films, Stranger than Fiction.

This to me is one of the major signs of a good novel: relatively ordinary but different characters who can worm their way into your heart so that you can relate, empathize, care about what happens to them, want to spend more time with them. Indeed, I feel somewhat bereft now that I’ve finished the novel, as though I’ve just spent quality time with a friend whose presence I’ve just left.

The writing is very good, the content often funny, the relationships and interactions between characters, who are often quirky or idiosyncratic, well done. A few characters, like Jack’s ex-wife and her new boyfriend, are a bit too cliché for my taste, but they work. It’s a novel peopled with believable human beings, flawed and vulnerable yet there are those who stand out somewhat heroically, bringing much needed hope into play. There are failures and triumphs, of course, and survival lessons from those you might least expect.

Only one complaint, really: a couple of times the situations grew a bit forced in order to make the plot direction work. I can think of two examples, both near the end of the novel, and the ending in particular was disappointing because it seemed a bit too…romantic, as well as improbable. Something about it smacked of a bit too much serendipity, and while I’m not against that by any means (in fact, one of my favourite romcoms is Serendipity), in this case things just felt a little bit too…neat. I can’t think of the word I’m looking for. At the same time, it’s not as though absolutely everything works out the way Jack would like, but still.

On the other hand, the plot led to the particular wrapping up of things from the beginning, really, and nothing was unexpected. Perhaps more important, in getting us to the end the novel was a gentle but poignant mixture of humour and heart that I found difficult to put down. As Harper’s imprint suggests, it’s great weekend reading.

In fact, perhaps one weekend next year I’ll be watching it, too. I’ve just done a bit a research and found out that Town House has been scripted by director John Carney, and the movie, due out in 2011, might star The Hangover‘s Zach Galifianakis and Amy Adams. Word is the story is only only loosely based on Cohen’s novel, but she says the script is perfect. Now, of course, I’m curious! It’s always interesting to see film adaptations of books I’ve read. It gives me an idea for a Biblio-sponsored event: Books & Their Movies series, with viewings at the local Empire Theatre. If properly planned, people will buy the books that will be announced ahead of time and then buy tickets to see the corresponding films (with popcorn!). Afterward, we can have a discussion based on the readings and viewings. Exciting! My mind is already racing with titles!

Purdy's "At the Quinte Hotel" with Gord Downie

For all you Al Purdy fans out there, here’s a Bravo!Fact short of his “At the Quinte Hotel” poem, starring Tragically Hip‘s singer/songwriter/poet Gord Downie. It showed at the Sundance Film Festival (I think in 2009).

It’s an interesting rendition, rather humorous, as Al was known to be, and it’s obvious Downie’s enjoying his acting debut. I find reading the poem to myself more powerful, somehow better, but this is a fun bit of Canadiana for you (in so many ways, from the filming, to the star, to the film festival, to the poem, to the poet, etc.), and it’s pretty cool to hear Purdy’s voice again. What excites me most is that the short was done in the first place.

Off to read the Al Purdy A-Frame Anthology now! It’s well worth the purchase. Not only is it an excellent and well-laid out collection of photos, poems, anecdotes, and essays but also the sale of it contributes to saving the Purdy A-frame in Ameliasburgh—the most famous writer’s house in the country, where, Jean Baird writes, “hundreds of writers and their housemates found their way…to visit the Purdys and talk about poetry and history while downing beer or wild grape wine”—with the goal of making it a retreat for future generations of Canadian writers. A feel-good book in more ways than one!

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"This is not about food": An evening with Joanne Harris

Ottawa, Mayfair Theatre, 18 May 2010

Who’s Who lists her hobbies as “‘mooching, lounging, strutting, strumming, priest-baiting and quiet subversion of the system,’ although she also enjoys obfuscation, sleaze, rebellion, witchcraft, armed robbery, tea and biscuits. She is not above bribery and would not necessarily refuse an offer involving exotic travel, champagne or yellow diamonds from Graff. She plays bass guitar in a band first formed when she was 16, is currently studying Old Norse and lives with her husband Kevin and her daughter Anouchka, about 15 miles from the place she was born” (taken from her website).

Now I ask you, is there any more intriguing author description than this? I think not.

Even better, I’m sitting at the Mayfair Theatre in Ottawa, several rows up from the stage, waiting with bated breath and pounding heart to meet this very person, someone I’ve admired for years—and not because I too love witchcraft, rebellion, diamonds, tea, and biscuits, although I do. It’s because she is none other than Joanne Harris. If you don’t know who Joanne Harris is, shame on you. (You’re missing out.)

As part of the Ottawa International Writers Festival, Harris is to read from her newest novel blueeyedboy and then participate in a Q&A, later open to the audience. After that you can get your book(s) signed (there’s a limit of 42 per person, artistic director Sean Wilson jokes, and thank God, because I brought five and had wanted to bring more), and then nestle back into your seats, popcorn on your knee, for a special screening of Chocolat, which is, of course, one of my favourite films.

My coffee table overfloweth

Before everything starts, I quickly visit the book table where Harris’s books are being sold and pick up a copy of Chocolat. Mine has the film cover, and I don’t prefer that for my books, but after deciding I don’t much like this other cover either and considering the sentimentality I have for my well-read copy, I put the new book back and return to my seat. I’m trying to remain calm but I’m buzzing. Harris has come all the way from Yorkshire (incidentally my favourite place on the planet) and this is her first visit to Canada, the first time I’m seeing her in person.

And then I turn to my right, wondering where the throngs of fans are, and there she is. Joanne Harris, author extraordinaire, is casually perched on the arm of one of the theatre seats, clutching a gargantuan cup of what I later learn is Coke, sipping merrily through her straw while chatting with two other women. She’s smaller than I thought, topped with a close-cropped pixie, clad in a black soft leather motorcycle jacket, red blouse, and black jeans. The finishing touches: ballerina flats and a sparkling necklace. She looks edgy but sweet: a little dark with the light. How very like her.

I realize I’m beaming. Joanne Harris looks to me like an imp, and I do not mean that in a bad way. Suddenly she laughs, and her youthful, vibrant face is instantly and amazingly transformed. She is one of those people who lights up when she smiles, eyes crinkling to crescent-moon slits. I want to gobble her up.

I also want to go over there and meet her. But I’m looking about and not a single person aside from the two women with her, who seem to be involved in the event, acknowledge her presence. Either they don’t think it’s proper writers festival event etiquette or they’re too polite. They can’t possibly not know it’s her. But no one is even looking her way. I’m both flabbergasted and trying to swallow my racing heart. Aw, screw polite, I finally decide (I’m not totally Canadian anyway!), and make my way over to her. I’m not missing out on this opportunity. I came three hours to see her, after all.

Of course I’m a complete bumbling fool when I ask if I can interrupt and then try hard not to come across as the creepy fan who ends up in horror stories, or the Twihard-ish enthusiast. But I can’t help it. I’m practically vibrating with nervousness and excitement and I say stupid, inarticulate things. And then it’s Joanne being polite and calming me down by being so remarkably grounded and casual and making it seem as though she’s an old friend. She’s one of us. But I know there’s something special about her. One of the women obliges me with a photo of the authoress and me, which comes out looking as though we are two classmates goofing around in a photo booth. It is brilliant—until I realize later I had forgotten to save it. Merde.

We chat about Yorkshire and I tell her I’ve brought her a taste of home—Yorkshire Tea—and she thanks me for being so thoughtful and says that had she had it this morning, her day would have been completely different: hence the giant Coke. Apparently we don’t know how to make tea here (I quite agree!). She tells me a story about Betty’s, where both of us have been, that makes me guffaw and thus embarrass myself. But Joanne Harris is full of stories, and before long we’re chatting and laughing almost like people who’ve met before. I’m enamoured, and suddenly I know that tonight will never be long enough to say all the things that have been building up for years. Especially since most of it won’t come to me till she’s gone.

The lights dim and I return to my seat. The magic is about to begin. A spotlight illuminates the already glowing author, and she begins to introduce blueeyedboy, warning us that this is not a book about food, and it is not a book that takes place in France. It is not, in fact, even a book that many people like, seeing as they found no likable characters in it. With this, she elicits appreciative laughter from the mostly senior audience. Then she begins to read. In my seat I shiver with delight, listening to her round tones and alto voice as she enunciates the words she’s written as though she remembers the love of her craft, which she poured into this book. Her rich English accent makes me think of hot chocolate with cream and chili. I could listen forever.

All too soon, the bit she is reading is over and she takes a seat, concession stand drink in hand, one leg crossed over another at the ankle. The questions are good, about blueeyedboy (though because the book has many twists, not much can be discussed at the risk of spoiling it for those who haven’t yet read it) and herself, too, and she answers them freely and off the cuff, intermittently taking sips through her straw. What we learn is that she is not at all like Gloria, a horrid woman in blueeyedboy, and that she does not like to be asked which of her characters she is. (This is understandable. People have this very interesting need to make books at least somewhat autobiographical regarding the author, which confounds me because it strips away the author’s very purpose, which is to imagine outside herself.) We also discover that a certain red evokes the smell of chocolate for her (thus she calls it chocolate red), and that she dislikes and ignores when people tell her she must write a certain way about certain things (e.g., about food and France).

Listening intently, I realize with chagrin that I’ve been a very naughty and negligent girl having written a review directly after finishing blueeyedboy far too late at night and having read others’ reviews to feed my own. It’s irresponsible and unintelligent, and even kind of cheating, and I’m deeply ashamed. Of course the point was not to like the characters. Of course there’s deeper things going on than I allowed myself to process, having devoured the book as quickly as possible in preparation for this event. In light of having met Joanne and hearing her speak her mind, in remembrance of the brilliance of her other books, and thinking about the book in retrospect, I feel diminished, and look forward to racing home to delete or vet my review, as cowardly as that is. The things is, I’m still not sure what exactly I would change, even though it’s not a good review.

I find myself also desperately wanting to chime in during the Q&A period, to get in on the conversation, to protest that indeed blueeyedboy does have food in it, and lots, as a matter of fact. There’s biscuits and pies and rotting vegetables and fruit and likely more I don’t remember, not only the vitamin drink. Joanne can’t help but include food, it seems (and I certainly don’t object). In fact, what I’ve noticed about all her books is how sensual she is: how prominent are the senses of taste and touch and smell and hearing. Colours also factor in many of her books, right from her first novel, The Evil Seed. These are thesis topics, methinks, and though it’s been ten years since I graduated from uni, I think I may yet pursue them.

One audience member asks her question in French, and without hesitation Joanne answers her back also in French, with an impeccable accent. Of course I knew she could speak it, but for me to hear it, and for her to have the opportunity to do it here in Ottawa seems meaningful to me. Even more so when the audience obviously understands her answer.

Finally, it is time for her to sign our books. The lineup isn’t long but, sadly, neither are there many in the audience. “Better than Glasgow,” Joanne said to me earlier, where only two men showed up, and one of them to escape the weather. Nothing could be worse than Glasgow, she said wryly, though apparently she still managed to enjoy herself.

Gamely, Joanne signs all five of the books I’ve brought and takes two more photos with me, unfortunately neither as good as the one that got away. She accepts the Yorkshire Tea as well, but only one teabag to sneak for breakfast next morning. Much to my pleasure she remembers the story of my copy of The Evil Seed, which was out of print until recently and is still unavailable in Canada. I’d written her about how I acquired it a few years ago, and now looking at it she tells me that only 1000–2000 copies had been printed, and only in the format I own. I have in my possession a rare book indeed, and now it’s signed. Too bad it’s also stamped by the Nipissing Public Library.

Joanne Harris and me

I can’t stay for the viewing of Chocolat, as much as I would like to. I am happy at this event, with Joanne, mingling with other people who appreciate good literature. I’m in my element, and I know in my heart this is where I ought to be on a regular basis, among authors and good books, and people who love to read. But I am staying with a friend, who eagerly awaits my report on the evening.

Amid moviegoers trickling in, I leave the theatre and Joanne, stepping out into the cool night regretfully but also exhilarated, and at the same time somehow knowing I will meet her again. Joanne Harris is not a woman one easily forgets, her magical writing not so easily put aside. I feel certain that her next book, or perhaps the next after that, will have me not on the train but rather boarding a plane for Yorkshire.

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blueeyedboy by Joanne Harris: A Review

I’ve just finished Joanne Harris’s latest novel, blueeyedboy, in anticipation of meeting her this Tuesday the 18th during the Ottawa International Writers Festival. I’m a major fan of Harris’s writing, so I’ve really been looking forward to this event!

Because you can read a synopsis of blueeyedboy anywhere, I won’t include one here. I will say by way of introduction that the story is current and interesting because, as the back cover says, it “plays on the myriad opportunities for disguise, multiple personalities, and mind games that are offered by the internet.” As a blogger both here and elsewhere and someone who thus interacts with many online personalities, I was certainly intrigued.

Now, at the risk of sounding like most of Joanne’s readers, I absolutely adore her novels that take place in France. Those are undoubtedly my favourites. I can’t help it. I lived in France for a year. I love food. And I am a romantic, too. But I also loved The Evil Seed and Sleep Pale Sister, both dark, Gothic novels. There’s not only sweetness in Harris’s writing: as she demonstrates with these last two novels I mentioned, and Holy Fools, too, there’s a definite streak of seductive blackness to her writing as well.

Gentlemen and Players as well as blueeyedboy are both departures from her other works, and I really did enjoy G&P, which was deliciously twisted. Both these books contain mystery and murder in various forms, and while I have absolutely nothing against those things in fiction since I have my own black streak, I admit, apparently like one of those people, that they’re not what I love most coming from Harris. She can write a fantastic twist, though, and she’s very good at dark. In this case, blueeyedboy is no exception. Dark is an understatement, though the book is not without humour.

Still, I got off to a disappointing start with blueeyedboy, thinking the writing seemed a bit forced, for lack of a better word. There was just something about it, perhaps the fact that the readers had to learn everything through web journal posts, which seemed then to make the characters speak a bit unrealistically, too informatively, too purposefully. That was my initial impression, anyway. I’m not certain this was intentional, or that it’s there at all; perhaps I’m just being overly critical. I’ve read many blogs over the years and I’ve never encountered writing like this, which is not to say it can’t exist but perhaps is to say I’m uncertain about how…natural it is. You know how sometimes when watching a movie you can tell a character is saying something for your benefit? It felt something like that—too…directed, almost as though the characters didn’t have their own voices.

True to herself, though, Harris is wonderfully evocative in blueeyedboy. I was easily transported to the little village where this story takes place, my senses overloaded with smells and colours, even tastes. At the same time, I had a bit of trouble knowing where I was in the story—that is, following the non-linear timeline (typically I don’t have a problem with this), and I wondered if perhaps this is because nothing, and no one, is as it seems in the novel. But I worried: was I being particularly dense or was I meant to be confused? Was I not being the intelligent reader I’ve learned to be? It wasn’t until about halfway or three-quarters of the way through blueeyedboy that I oriented myself and the pace picked up for me and then I didn’t want to put down the book; there were a couple of brilliant twists that threw me for a loop and which I thought quite clever, though the big twist at the end was one I had unfortunately already suspected.

In general, I found myself wondering if the story wasn’t a bit too fantastical, a bit too unbelievable for me. I have no doubt there are people on the internet pretending to be people they’re not; in fact, I imagine that’s a part of the allure of having a web journal or blog. You can be who you want, you can play out whatever fantasies you want. You can confess. There’s something to that unique kind of anonymity that opens you up, even though it’s in public. You are also pretty much free to live out an entirely false existence if you so choose. In this book, you never know what’s true or not, not even when it seems you’re reading the truth.

However, finding the course of events perhaps too unbelievable was ultimately not what I found disappointing; rather, it was the fact that there was nothing redeemable in the end, nothing good that stays. There was almost nothing but dark, from domestic violence and discord to murder or murderous fantasies and fear and insecurity. It wasn’t quite the kind of dark I prefer, which is deliciously thrilling and noir and magic and even underworldish. I can deal with those other things, but there needs to be some sort of counter for me, then, and I don’t necessarily mean a happy ending. Much of the content was upsetting or disturbing for me, which I can hardly fault Harris for since it’s me who’s sensitive, but it did affect my opinion of the novel, as did the fact that there also wasn’t a single character in the book I could like, love, or relate to, even if that’s the point, i.e., to not like any of them. Almost everyone was repelling or nasty in some way or mentally or emotionally immature or unstable, or the likable characters were not more than sketches and were killed off.

I can’t say, then, based on these above things, that I would highly recommend this book, and that pains me greatly. Joanne Harris is, after all, a brilliant writer, but blueeyedboy was not, for me, a great read. My opinion of Harris certainly hasn’t changed after reading this, of course, and I would wholeheartedly recommend a number of her novels. Certainly as an author she’s allowed to explore genres and topics and various levels of dark (it’s evident she has fun doing this and it bothers me because I like her so much that I can’t descend as deep as she can). And certainly she should not be limited to writing stories set in France or in which food is a major component. But I can’t help but hope for something I like more next time.

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Gunnar’s Daughter by Sigrid Undset: A Review

Gunnar's Daughter, by Sigrid Undset, 1909, Penguin Classics

If you’ve been reading here, you saw when I received Gunnar’s Daughter as a birthday present from my good friend M. It came wrapped in lovely paper with a large red and white print, and was tied with twine.

I was going to read it right away. It’s not a long book, especially considering there is a substantial foreword and historical and translator notes at the back of it, but either work or other books kept me from it.

I have already read and very much enjoyed Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter, which M and I affectionately refer to as KL. M introduced me to the trilogy years ago and I bought it right away and devoured it. There was no doubt in my mind about why Undset had won the 1928 Nobel Prize for it. A sweeping medieval Norwegian saga, beautifully printed and bound by Penguin, I buried myself under winter blankets and cradled hot cups of cloudberry and crowberry Inuit tea (one of each of the tea bag wrappers lies still in book, which is displayed on one of my side tables in the living room) and read that three-book volume voraciously.

So it came as a surprise when I picked up Gunnar’s Daughter (also beautifully published by Penguin with soft pages and a gorgeous cover) that I could not get into it right away. The style was seemingly different and cumbersome, and the text fraught with endnote numbers, which caused me to keep flipping to the back. I made it several pages in and put it down, thinking I would return to it later, when I felt more in the mood for it. I suspect that editing academic texts made me feel as though I needed a break from endnotes!

It wasn’t until this weekend I picked up the book again, and this time, except for the two chapters I’d read earlier (and the chapters are very short), I read the book in almost one sitting (I decided to ignore the endnote numbers and read those at the end; this did not take away from my understanding or the story). I was totally reluctant to put it down last night and so picked it up again first thing this morning while lying comfortably in bed listening to the geese that passed three times overhead and the soft-falling rain. There I finished the last few chapters.

Her first historical saga novel, set in the tenth and eleventh centuries in Norway and Iceland and published in 1909, Gunnar’s Daughter tells the story of Vigdis Gunnarsdatter, who when young meets Viga-Ljot (pronounced Yot). I don’t want to tell too much of the story, and typically in a review I don’t: you can find that information anywhere.

Let me tell you, though, that the story is fraught with hardship and tragedy, in among the triumphs. I loved how strong a woman Vigdis was (she could make a study I’m sure; probably most of the medieval Scandinavian women could, for they seemed often in some sort of charge), but ultimately I was sad about how unforgiving and hard she remained over the course of her life and what this meant in terms of the people she loved. As a reader you feel you want to direct the characters, because you know what they’re headed for, and the writing and events were such that I felt not only drawn into the story but quite emotional as well: angry, indignant, mistrustful, triumphant, sorrowful.

Not long into the story I got used to the historical style and felt it reflected a storytelling tradition, which I enjoyed, imagining old Norsemen recanting as they did tales of bravery and triumph, revenge and tragedy. I was reading what seemed a fairy tale or legend, also a moralistic story. Many times I felt KL echoed in Gunnar’s Daughter, which gave me a sense of déja vu, though KL came afterward.

Reading Gunnar’s Daughter, as short as it is, transports you out of culture, country, time, and mindset. Everything is so foreign yet so well evoked it is a great and beautiful escape. You feel the icy wind across the sea, hear the creaking of ships on the waves, smell the pines of the forests, the woodsmoke in the winter’s air. You can feel the warmth of mead and fire on the hearth, of furs that smell slightly musty. You can imagine the brightly coloured jewels and riches, feel the rough-hewn benches and tables under toughened skin. Much like KL, it is also a story and atmosphere that stays with you long after you turn the final page.

Undset was without doubt a significant woman and author for her time. I highly recommend reading her for a lesson in not only talent and skill but awesome medieval Scandinavian history (and did I mention that she writes a damn good strong woman?).

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Preserving Canadian (Literary) Culture

I’ve posted here several times about one of my favourite Canadian poets, Al Purdy (just do a search at the top of this blog), and after reading this excellent and inspiring article, I’m doing it again.

Several times throughout the article, Marnie Woodrow observes that Canadians seem to suffer from cultural apathy, and when I first read that, my heart began to pound. It’s exactly the reason behind my concept of Biblio: a bookshop/literary hub to preserve but more importantly encourage and grow support of our literary contribution to this world. This means promoting not only Canadian literary output but also that which is tied to it, like Al Purdy’s A-frame house, once a meeting place of literary genius, now threatened by Canadian disinterest.

As Woodrow mentions in her article, Purdy’s wife Eurithe promised him that she would turn the A-frame into a writers’ retreat, and while her efforts are bolstered by hardworking individuals like Jean Baird and George Bowering, who initiated the project to save the A-frame, and by Harbour Publishing, there is yet a sense of urgency, of struggle in making this happen. Why don’t we care about stuff like this? The million-dollar question.

I’m not a writer looking for a place to work on my novel or chapbook (yet). But if I were, I would definitely want to be creating at the A-frame, where the ghosts of past literary celebrations were held and the muses still reside, in among the chittering chipmunks and whispering pines and by the peaceful lake.

I feel a sort of desperation in me when I read about things like this, the kind you get when you find a cause you firmly believe in.

My own financial situation is too close to where the Purdys found themselves when they first started out, but my plan is to begin support by buying the Al Purdy A-Frame Anthology, published by Harbour, since the proceeds will go toward saving the A-frame and helping Eurithe fulfil her promise. Then I hope to convince a local bookstore to participate, one where I plan to be working very soon (discussions as to how are in the works — woohoo!). The library could be next by way of working together to garner support.

If I can start now to cultivate the type of atmosphere and mission I envision for Biblio, I’ll be a happy woman with a purpose. Helping save the A-frame and thus provide a place for Canadian writers to produce their works while at the same time honouring Purdy’s own contribution and attempting to banish Canadian cultural apathy sound like very worthy causes to me. There is no harm in thinking big.

After all, that’s how Purdy and the rest of our literary notables started out.

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One Bloody Thing After Another: A Review

Recently I signed up for ECW Press’s Shelf Monkey program, which allows you to submit titles of their books you’d be interested in reading and reviewing. They enter your choices in a draw and if you win they ship the book to you. What, I ask, is better than free books?

Jen Knoch, who runs the Keepin’ It Real Book Club but also happens to work at ECW sent me my first book for review, the aptly named and eerily designed One Bloody Thing After Another by Joey Comeau (who, I have to include here, is a mere 30 years old, dammit). This sort-of-YA book has had rave reviews from Quill & Quire, Globe and Mail, Los Angeles Times, and more, and though I’m not at all a horror fan I thought, sure, whatever. It’s less than 200 pages and the chapters are short.

Boy, was I in for a surprise. Which just goes to show, sometimes you should step out of your comfort zone and try something altogether different. And let me tell you, this book’s definitely different, and it actively avoids being definitively categorized.

It’s rare, I have to admit, that a book takes me so little time to read—a couple of hours, if that—and not only because it’s short.

Last night I was working but Comeau’s book lay invitingly beside me on the table, having just arrived in the mail, and finally I couldn’t deny it anymore and picked it up—just to have a peek, you understand. I’m already reading another book. But better to open this one than to have that black kitten’s eyes boring a hole through the side of my head.

Before I knew it, I was on page 107, the manuscript I had been proofing still on my lap, red pencil still in hand. I couldn’t believe it. I had got so caught up in the story I forgot about everything else. I couldn’t help it. It wasn’t on purpose. Jen told me I had time to read and review it. But talk about an easy read.

I’m not all about horror, as I said. I don’t read it. But this book was so unexpectedly engrossing, so sneaky about the horror bits, subtly, matter-of-factly slipping them in among tender scenes of various forms of love, loss, friendship, and family, that it wasn’t like anything else I’d tried, and therefore not a deterrent. As I said, the novel defies categorization.

And yet, while the supernatural and even gory bits slyly weaved in and out of the story, they commanded quite a presence. I was grossed out, unsettled, chilled, the hairs raising on my arms and back of neck when I put the book down. It was as though as long as I kept reading I would be okay, but when I closed my eyes those horrifying bits became magnified. Which is of course what makes the book great, among other things, like it’s poetic brevity of sentence, paragraph, chapter and the book as a whole. I’ve always enjoyed that spooky thrill a book can give, even when I was very young. Ghost and other supernatural stories were among my favourites.

Comeau’s writing was excellent: the present tense, the characterization, the mixture of humour with horror, the unexpected, the suggestion or ambiguity of many things, the short and powerful sentences, the poignancy, and his masterful choice of words all married to produce an impressive story that in its brevity finds even more power.

The book’s layout was superb as well, and the frisson I felt when I first realized there was that tiny spidery text on the bottom of some pages and what it meant and said — how clever, but more so, how spooky! — was enough to make me love this book. Well, is love the right word? I don’t know; somehow it seems inappropriate for the subject matter. It was compelling, creepy, touching…ultimately haunting.

Haha. Well done, Comeau.

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