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

Telling Stories: Five 2016 Novels

It’s not all “Reader, I married him” but plenty of contemporary novels are preoccupied by the idea of storytelling, and often one voice does speak to us directly even now.

Periscope Books, 2016

In Tabish Khair’s Just Another Jihadi Jane, the storyteller’s direct address appears regularly and spiritedly.

“Yes, well, if you insist, I […]

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November 2016, In My Reading Log

In the wake of my IFOA reading list and the literary prizelists of the season, my November reading felt relatively whimsical. Without duedates attached to the majority of my reading, it was a pleasure to slip into volumes which had sat untouched in recent weeks.

Each of these three volumes covers, in one way or another, […]

Jonathan Safran Foer’s Here I Am (2016)

In interview with Mark Medley in September, Jonathan Safran Foer discusses his new book, Here I Am, in such a way that it’s clear it feels distinct from his other writing for him.

Hamish Hamilton – PRH, 2016

Many of the attendees are carrying copies of his earlier books, Everything is Illuminated and Extremely […]

Difficult Stories, Difficult Narrators: Five Novels

Conflicted: that describes my first impressions after meeting Pillow in Andrew Battershill’s Giller-nominated novel of the same name,and it also describes his perspective on the world.

It’s hard to be Pillow, to see all the angles which converge and diverge simultaneously on any single thought he has. For instance: “Pillow was of the mind that […]

Gail Anderson-Dargatz’s The Spawning Grounds (2016)

The Boston Globe called her fiction “Pacific Northwest Gothic” and her latest novel, The Spawning Grounds, fits that description well.

She made a splash on Canadian readers’ stacks since The Cure for Death by Lightning was shortlisted for the Giller Prize (A Recipe for Bees was also nominated for the Giller, and there have been other […]

The Inseparables, Tobacco Wars, I’m Still Here

Having stories narrated by – or assembled via – a number of voices is a popular way of  world-building. Each of the following books plays with this technique, allowing different perspectives to combine and create a more credible space for readers to inhabit.

Just as in Meg Wolitzer’s The Position, the matriarch in Stuart Nadler’s The Inseparables […]

“Wasn’t my life supposed to be rock and roll?”

Rockstar or not, Nicola Harwood’s Flight Instructions for the Commitment Impaired is a bold and absorbing memoir. At times her style is plain and functional, at other times it is poetic and intricate – even captivating, her voice consistently displayed centre-stage.

Caitlin Press, 2016

“No such thing as one true love, just the one sent hurtling against […]

Stephen King’s End of Watch (2016)

In the final volume of the Bill Hodges trilogy, the timeline briefly veers back to the opening scene of Mr. Mercedes. This time, a few minutes after the scene which opens the series. (Then it returns to a contemporary setting, a few years after Finders Keepers.)

Scribner – S&S, 2016

This kind of attention-to-detail, […]

Stephen King’s Finders Keepers (2015)

A detective haunted by past cases left unresolved or unhappily resolved? This offers a terrific launching pad for storytelling.

Pocket Books – S&S, 2016

Particularly when the detective is no longer in an official capacity and has more time on his hands to ruminate and regret.

“There’s not a day that goes by when he […]

Storytelling or Chicanery: Trust in words

Sometimes, it’s clear who the bad guys are. Sometimes they’re clearly drawn, not only unsavoury, but also unprincipled.

Like the misogynists who people the Signy Shepherd series by Susan Philpott, in which women are rescued from life-threatening situations by other women working a type of Underground Railroad, called The Line. (Blown Red, 2015 and Dark Territory, […]