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

The First Jalna Story: Meeting Adeline

In 1944, Mazo de la Roche published The Building of Jalna, nearly twenty years after she began to work with the Whiteoak family on the page. The beginning grew out of the middle, you might say.

Jalna was actually written first, begun in 1925 and published in 1927: the fifth in the sequence of the […]

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Beginning Mavis Gallant’s The Other Paris (1986)

From the age of twenty-eight, Mavis Gallant lived and wrote in Europe, writing about “Canadians, Americans, Australians, Eastern and Western Europeans and their distinctive social and cultural milieux”: she was “a citizen of the world”.

On the edge of beginning a deliberate reading and rereading of her stories, I peeked into Janice Kulyk Keefer’s Reading […]

Margaret Millar’s Wives and Lovers (1954; 2016)

Readers familiar with Margaret Millar’s suspense novels, will immediately recognize her style and language in Wives and Lovers. (Just yesterday I discussed Vanish in an Instant, another volume in the Syndicate reprint series.)

“It was a shoebox of a room, with the ceiling pressed down on it like a lid, and Gordon and herself, two mis-mated […]

Vickie Gendeau’s Testament (2012; 2016)

Originally written after the author had been diagnosed with a brain tumour, Testament is a response to the news that Vickie Gendreau would have little time left to live: about a year.

2012; Book Thug, 2016

The novel’s translator, Aimee Wall, writes about the work, a few months after its author died, in Lemon […]

The Promise Falls Trilogy

Promise Falls has a history. You might not think so, but it matters.

“Are we too insignificant up here: A couple of hours away from New York? Is that what we’re foolish enough to think? Let me tell you something, my friend. You want to strike fear into the hearts of Americans? Then go to […]

Madeleine Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing (2016): Third Variation

This is the third of three posts spiralling around the notes made while reading Do Not Say We Have Nothing. Each with ten parts. Thirty segments. As though my post is the aria and the thirty segments are the variations. In recognition of the importance which Bach’s Goldberg Variations holds in relationship to the novel.

[…]

December 2016, In My Bookbag

In which I discuss some of the skinny volumes which have kept me company while on the move, while heavier volumes (like Connie Willis’ Crosstalk and Steven King’s 11/22/1963) stayed home.

Warsan Shire’s chapbook is my skinniest book of the year. I finished reading it on a single commute, but rather than read another volume […]

Riel Nason’s The Town that Drowned (2011)

Nothing really happens. Here, the “main event is simply a view of the water”. So Ruby’s story should not be a page-turner. But, in fact, The Town that Drowned is a coming-of-age story with a curious momentum.

No single element is responsible: character and voice, setting and structure, all work in concert in this debut, […]

Steven Price’s By Gaslight (2016)

Steven Price began as a poet, so the hype surrounding his new novel, By Gaslight, must have been disconcerting. But that’s appropriate, because it is intended to be a disconcerting story.

McClelland & Stewart – PRH, 2016

The majority of readers probably won’t be interested in either the rumours surrounding its acquisition (apparently a six-figure sum) […]

Soraya Peerbaye’s Tell (2015)

Poems for a Girlhood, it’s subtitled. But it’s actually for girlhoods. For the author’s. And Reena Virk’s.

At least, for what of Reena Virk’s girlhood is known and what can be imagined. She was murdered on November 14, 1997 when she was fourteen years old.

At least eight teenagers participated in her death (two were charged and sentenced), […]