By: Grant Buday
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
Vancouver, summer 1962. Cyril Andrachuk and Connie Chow are seventeen and in love.
Cyril is the only Canadian-born member of the Andrachuk family, his parents and older brother having survived Stalin’s systematic starving of the Ukraine. His brother’s brittle bones are not the only legacy of Stalin. Cyril’s famine-free childhood has built up a distance between him and the rest of the household.
His family’s past charges Cyril’s present with bitter overtones he barely understands and Cyril’s love of art is beyond his family’s comprehension; Cyril is destined to be a working man, not a working artist.
In this house built on the edge of a cemetery, where his mother reviews the burials over her morning tea, creativity and joy are suspect. Mourning the early death of his father, Cyril finds solace in lovingly drawing his father’s metal-working tools and in his happiness with Connie. But his family’s resentment sows the seeds of betrayal, and Cyril must find a way to live with his family’s past in order to find his future.
Art, love, and history furnish the setting in this tale. The Delusionist is a novel of longing, loss and rediscovered joy.
I discovered this author as I was browsing the marketplace at the Toronto International Book Fair in November. I’m always on the lookout for Canadian authors to read and lo and behold I came across this book. It was the cover that caught my attention first–what is Stalin doing on the cover?–which prompted me to pick up the book. The premise includes some interesting features of Canada–namely our multiculturalism–and the story in general interested me so I picked it up.
By: Graham Swift
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
Four men once close to Jack Dodds, a London butcher, meet to carry out his peculiar last wish: to have his ashes scattered into the sea. For reasons best known to herself, Jack’s widow, Amy, declines to join them. On the surface the tale of a simple if increasingly bizarre day’s outing, Last Orders is Graham Swift’s most poignant exploration of the complexity and courage of ordinary lives.
You know my perchance for trying to read Man Booker prize nominees and winners when I have a chance 😉 I’ve long been eyeing this book, partly because I keep hearing it in passing (as well as seeing the author’s books whenever I’m in the bookstore). I recently got my hands on the Picador 40th anniversary edition.
The Little Stranger
By: Sarah Waters
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
In a dusty post-war summer in rural Warwickshire, a doctor is called to see a patient at lonely Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for over two centuries, the once grand house is now in decline, its masonry crumbling, its garden choked with weeds. All around, the world is changing, and the family is struggling to adjust to a society with new values and rules.
Roddie Ayres, who returned from World War II physically and emotionally wounded, is desperate to keep the house and what remains of the estate together for the sake of his mother and his sister, Caroline. Mrs. Ayres is doing her best to hold on to the gracious habits of a gentler era and Caroline seems cheerfully prepared to continue doing the work a team of servants once handled, even if it means having little chance for a life of her own beyond Hundreds.
But as Dr. Faraday becomes increasingly entwined in the Ayreses’ lives, signs of a more disturbing nature start to emerge, both within the family and in Hundreds Hall itself. And Faraday begins to wonder if they are all threatened by something more sinister than a dying way of life, something that could subsume them completely.
I read this book around the time it was long- and shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize but for some reason never got around to writing my thoughts on it; I’m not sure if this was because I was not book blogging yet or because I wasn’t book blogging regularly at this point. In any case, it made the perfect candidate for a re-read this year 😉 This book is part of the A Year in Re-Reading: a 2014 Reading Challenge that I am participating in.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
By: Karen Joy Fowler
Format/Source: Mass bound paperback; my purchase
Rosemary’s young, just at college, and she’s decided not to tell anyone a thing about her family. So we’re not going to tell you too much either: you’ll have to find out for yourselves what it is that makes her unhappy family unlike any other. Rosemary is now an only child, but she used to have a sister the same age as her, and an older brother. Both are now gone – vanished from her life.
There’s something unique about Rosemary’s sister, Fern. So now she’s telling her story; a looping narrative that begins towards the end, and then goes back to the beginning. Twice.
It’s funny, clever, intimate, honest, analytical and swirling with ideas that will come back to bite you. We hope you enjoy it, and if, when you’re telling a friend about it, you do decide to spill the beans about Fern, don’t feel bad. It’s pretty hard to resist.
I picked up a copy of this book shortly after I heard that it had been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2014. I’ve always so behind when it comes to books long- and shortlisted so this is my small attempt of trying to be in the current for this year. By the time this review is posted, the shortlist for this year’s prize should be out and at the time that I’m typing this review out, I’m curious to know if it makes the list.
By: Laudomia Bonanni, Susan Stewart (Translation), Sara Teardo (Translation)
Format/Source: eBook; free download from the University of Chicago Press
In the bitterly cold winter of 1943, the Italian countryside is torn apart by violence as partisans wage a guerilla war against the occupying German army and their local fascist allies. In the midst of this conflict, a ragtag group of fascist supporters captures a woman in the late stages of pregnancy. Suspecting her of being in league with the partisans, they hastily put her on “trial” by improvising a war tribunal one night in the choir stalls of the abandoned monastery that serves as their hide-out. This sham court convicts the woman and sentences her to die—but not until her child has been born. When a young seminarian visits the monastery and tries to dissuade the fascist band from executing their sentence, the absurd tragedy of the woman’s fate is cast in stark relief. The child’s birth approaches, an unnerving anticipation unfolds, and tension mounts ominously among the characters and within their individual psyches.
Based on a number of incidents that took place in Abruzzo during the war, Laudomia Bonanni’s compact and tragic novel explores the overwhelming conflicts between ideology and community, justice and vengeance. The story is embedded in the cruel reality of Italian fascism, but its themes of revenge, sacrifice, and violence emerge as universal, delivered in prose that is at once lyrical and brutal.In her native Italy, Bonanni, a writer of journalism and critical prose as well as fiction, is hailed as one of the strongest proponents of post-war realism, and this is the first of her novels to be made available to Anglophone readers. Translators Susan Stewart and Sara Teardo render Bonanni’s singular style—both sparse and emotive, frank and poetic—into readable, evocative English.
I received an email informing me that this novel was the free eBook featured for the month of July. It sounded interesting–I’m always up for a novel written by an Italian author–so I decided to check it out 🙂