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

In My Stacks, May 2016

How much of your reading is non-fiction? Does it fluctuate, or are you committed to reading (or not reading) it?

When others were participating in non-fiction November last year, and actually reading a lot of the books that I’d been kinda-half-sorta thinking about reading, I realised that tending towards fiction had shifted into reading almost […]

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Charlotte Rogan’s Now and Again (2016)

In an interview about her bestselling debut, The Lifeboat, Charlotte Rogan states: “The best writing opens a person’s mind rather than closing it.”

Little, Brown and Co, 2016

Readers of Now and Again should pay attention, because her second novel is over 400 pages long and it is written to satisfy open-minded readers who […]

Confined: Margaret Atwood and Claudine Dumont

“If prison isn’t prison, the outside world has no meaning!” So says Aurora to Charmaine in Margaret Atwood’s new novel, The Heart Goes Last.

McClelland & Stewart, 2015 (Penguin Random House)

It dates back, the CanLit icon’s interest in imprisonment, a preoccupation with the idea of lives which are lived inside and lives which […]

In the Balance: Will Starling and Punishment

Crimes of the past lurk beneath the stories in Ian Weir’s Will Starling and Linden MacIntyre’s Punishment and the main characters lurch towards and stumble into confrontations and altercations with life-long repercussions.

Goose Lane Editions, 2014

These are both dark tales, but Ian Weir’s novel is literally and figuratively so: “And every step I had taken since […]

Lissa M. Cowan’s Milk Fever (2013)

You might not guess from the cover of this debut novel that the epigraph would be drawn from Olympe de Gouges’ “Declaration of the Rights of Women”.

Demeter Press, 2013

But one can be dressed in satin and lace and be a revolutionary, of course.

As was Olympe de Gouges, although her portrait was […]

Craig Davidson’s Cataract City (2013)

Reading Craig Davidson’s Cataract City took me somewhere else.

You might think, if you have heard something of the novel, that I am about to say Niagara Falls.

But as much as the novel is about two boys’ coming-of-age in this environs, it is a study of how ‘what-came-before’ morphs and alters into ‘now’.

Duncan Diggs […]

“A Wilderness Station” Alice Munro

What a complicated tale. Though perhaps less so than “Open Secrets” and “The Albanian Virgin”, for readers have a much broader sense of understanding what “really happened”.

The possibility of honest understanding, in this case, settles in the last letter that Annie wrote to Sadie.

[NOTE: There are some spoilers below, but quotes are selected […]

Vaddey Ratner’s In the Shadow of the Banyan (2012)

Raami is “just a spit past seven” in 1975, when the year of the Tiger shifts to the year of the Rabbit.

It is the Khmer New Year, and Raami’s parents disagree about whether it is appropriate to celebrate when there is so much misery and fighting.

Raami is pleased that her mother is insisting […]

Two French Novels, In Translation: One Old, One New

Nathacha Appanah’s The Last Brother Translator Geoffrey Strachan (French) Graywolf Press, 2011

A Graywolf Press publication, a contender for The Tournament of Books, with a gorgeous and haunting cover image: all excellent reasons for picking up a copy of The Last Brother without reading a single word.

And then you meet Raj. It’s clear that he […]

Nine Reasons to Read Camp Nine

1. Remarkable wrangling with world-changing matters: racism. (Most of what I say below is about this: but there are other fine reasons too.)

2. Southern US setting (Many readers know and love Southern fiction, but this isn’t Mississippi: it’s Arkansas. That’s refreshing. Even if Chess does think it’s boring!)

“I sank into his oversized leather […]