Open a book this minute and start reading. Don’t move until you’ve reached page fifty. Until you’ve buried your thoughts in print. Cover yourself with words. Wash yourself away. Dissolve. Carol Shields Republic of Love

Belonging: M.G. Vassanji, Michael Winter and Alan Doyle

It’s a familar theme in the Canadian landscape of letters, and it was also the topic of Adrienne Clarkson’s recent Massey Lecture. “What does it mean to belong? And how do we belong? Who do we belong to?” These are the central ideas discussed in the series and they are at the heart of these […]

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Partitions: Neverhome (2014) and Between Clay and Dust (2012),

Neverhome is set in the years of the American Civil War and narrated by a fledgling letter-writer. She has survived the conflict and adopted this strange chore of authoring.

Little, Brown and Company, 2014

“When I’d eaten up my given share of a day I’d take up my pen to write Bartholomew. I […]

Under-represented at the table, holding their own on the page

Neither small-scale farmers nor low-income communities have been invited to the table to make food policy on a global scale.

The Stop illuminates this reality in matter-of-fact and unsentimental language, presenting facts both from a bird’s-eye-view and a grassroots perspective.

Readers are acquainted with some alarming information on an international scale. For instance, “in debt […]

Kim Thúy’s Mãn (2013)

In discussing the different kinds of love which the Vietnamese language distinguishes between, Kim Thúy’s Ru lists thích, which means “to love by taste”.

Random House Canada, 2014

(One may also love without being in love (thuong), love passionately (yêu), love ecstatically (mê), love blindly (mù quáng), or love gratefully (tình nghīa) and it’s impossible “quite simply to […]

Nick Cutter’s The Deep (2015)

Nick Cutter’s debut, The Troop, was one of those books about which I was truly ambivalent, literally thunking the book down after a haunting and visceral scene and snatching it up again because I simply had to know what was going to happen next. I recommended it widely to friends (it’s possible that I think […]

January 2015, In My Bookbag

Isn’t there something satisfying about beginning to read someone’s published diaries in a January, when those diaries begin in some other long-ago January?

Dawn Powell’s diaries have been on my shelves for more than a decade but suddenly, in this January, I felt compelled to begin reading them.

It sat beside other diaries (including Sylvia Plath’s and […]

Michael Crummey’s Sweetland (2014)

It begins in fog. With Matthew Sweetland hearing voices “so indistinct he thought they might be imaginary”.

Doubleday Canada, 2014

This scene from the past alerts readers that they should be concerned with the line between the real and the invented, and even more to the point, with how Sweetland views these states.

For readers […]

Quarterly Stories: Winter 2014

An excess of short stories in the later part of this year has led to a decision to return to the habit of more often devoting entire posts to collections rather than covering a variety in a single pass (last seen in Quarterly Stories: Autumn 2014)

Algonquin Books, 2014

Some of my favourite books […]

December 2014: In My Reading Log

Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods (2014)

Comprised of five long and two short works, these tales are peopled with losses and lonelinesses. Hues of red, black and white dominate the volume, with other colours used sparingly for contrast. Panel use is unpredictable, with images sometimes boxed but often sprawling and dripping across pages, so that […]

Telling Father’s Story: A Novel and a Memoir

Khaled Hosseini’s And the Mountains Echoed and Maurice Mierau’s Detachment: An Adoption Memoir are a perfect pair.

Penguin Random House, 2014

And the Mountains Echoed begins with a story, told by a father to his son and his daughter.

“Father never felt more present to Abdullah, more vibrant, revealed, more truthful, than when […]