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

Margaret Millar’s A Stranger in My Grave (1960)

Here, the figurative language of Millar’s 1950s novels (like Vanish in an Instant and  Wives and Lovers) is replaced by a cleaner style which often focuses on extremes.

“But Fielding’s pity, like his love and even his hate, was a variable thing, subject to changes in the weather, melting in the summer, freezing in the […]

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Mavis Gallant’s “About Geneva”

Even the shortest story in The Other Paris provokes a strong sympathy on the part of readers.

Bill Perlmutter: “Through A Soldier’s Lens. Europe In The Fifties”.Click for source details

At the heart of the story are two young children, Ursula who is older than seven and Colin who is younger than seven.

They live […]

Mavis Gallant’s “The Deceptions of Marie-Blanche”

If the story were titled “Les Deceptions de Marie-Blanche”, it might be translated as “The Disappointments of Marie-Blanche”: an apt choice.

San Francisco Earthquake, 1907 – Click for source details

And, yet, as it stands, there is the added implication that Marie-Blanche has not only been disappointed by her love affairs, but that the […]

Margaret Millar’s The Listening Walls (1959; 2016)

Although some of the characters in the Margaret Millar mysteries I have read answer their own phones, many answer other people’s phones instead: the telephones of older or more privileged relatives or those of their bosses. There’s even a switchboard operator in the mix, along with a woman better known for not answering calls at […]

Mavis Gallant’s “Autumn Day” (1955)

I laid in with this story, while on a brief holiday in a small town outside Toronto. Outside, the sound of other people’s everyday morning scurried past, but I was not required to be anywhere in particular that day.

Salzburg Austria, Prison overlooking town [Piotr Bozyk, Click for credit]

This open-ended kind of feeling suited […]

Margaret Millar’s An Air that Kills (1957; 2016)

Because so many of Margaret Millar’s novels consider married couples – often at the point in which the relationship is strained, if not fractured – one wonders about her relationship with Ken Millar (better known as Ross MacDonald, who also wrote mysteries).

Did they squabble like Esther and Ron do at the beginning of An […]

Mavis Gallant’s “The Other Paris” (1956)

There is, about an hour’s drive from Toronto, a small town called Paris, on the Grand River. I’ve visited it a couple of times and I have travelled through it, by train, countless times.

Rarely, on one of those rail journeys, did I miss that broad curve of the tracks, the glorious view of the river […]

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 […]

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, […]

Page-turners and other gripping reads

What’s interesting about each of these novels is that none fits a traditional model in the suspense genre. Shari Lapena’s The Couple Next Door is the closest to a conventional thriller. But even her novel spends more time on characterization and atmosphere than many loyal genre readers would tolerate.

Nonetheless, she does rely on tropes to […]