Let’s not dilly dally, shall we? The summer here is very short, and time for reading in the warm breeze on my deck is limited. Soon the snow will be flying and I will be kicking myself because I didn’t spend more time out there with my cup of tea and my nose buried in a book. So let’s get straight to the books.
As blogger Faux Fuschia used to say, maybe she still does, “run don’t walk” my friends to get your hands on a copy of A Song from Faraway by Deni Ellis Béchard. This is my favourite read in the last few months. Since I finished Olive Again, by Elizabeth Strout, which I adored. Ellis Bechard’s book captivated me from the first chapter.
What’s it about? Hmmm. Two half brothers (one Canadian and one American) who share a father and have not much else in common. Both searching for their true identities and some purpose in their lives. A young art student who ends up in Iraq chasing a thread from his father’s past. A fiddler from Prince Edward Island whose Acadian mother has bequeathed to him her brother’s fiddle. A brother killed in a clash between Acadians fighting for their language rights and a “maudit Anglais” policeman. The fiddler’s abandoned sweetheart and her tragic child. Characters drift together and drift apart. The story moves from Vancouver, to Boston, to the Gaspé, to Prince Edward Island, to the battlefields of WWI, to Kurdistan and back.
A Song from Faraway is a book about alienation, and identity, about love and fear, about loneliness and restlessness. And I can’t say more because I haven’t finished it yet. But it does remind me a little of Jane Urquhart’s Away, and a little of Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News, with a dash of Khaled Hosseini’s And the Mountains Echoed. Phew. Now, that’s high praise in my books. Pun intended.
Hubby and I have both been enjoying the DreadfulWater series by Thomas King. King, a well known and respected Canadian indigenous writer, took a bit of a diversion from his usual literary fare to write this wry and gentle detective series. The first couple of books were even published under the pseudonym Hartley Goodweather. We discussed the first book in the series at my book club meeting a couple of weeks ago. Known as DreadfulWater Shows Up in the States, and just DreadfulWater, up here.
Thumps DreadfulWater is a Cherokee ex-police detective from California who fetches up back home in tiny Chinook working as a photographer, often called in to photograph crime scenes, and usually trying to get out of helping the cops solve mysteries. One reviewer said King’s Chinook is like Louise Penny’s village of Three Pines “but with attitude.” I can guarantee that you will love the characters. And King’s witty and lean dialogue is wonderful. With a twist of a word or two he can make you laugh and make you feel as if you are right there with Thumps in Chinook. Hubby and I have already finished the second book in the series The Red Power Murders, and we’re waiting to start the third one.
Although murders abound in Chinook, don’t expect the twists and turns and swift moving plot of a thriller. These books meander. Thumps likes to muse about life. He stops for coffee or breakfast, visits the wise old man on the reserve for advice, or goes home to feed his cat in mid-case. But trust me (and Hubby) you will love the journey. In fact, I want to move to Chinook. Even though Thumps complains about the weather all the time, I think I’d love it there.
I just finished a book I should have read ages ago, but somehow missed. Madeleine St. John’s The Women in Black. Set in 1950s Australia, The Women in Black is about four women who work selling dresses in Sydney’s premier department store. It’s a story of love, and growing up. It’s a bit funny and a bit endearing, about finding love and surviving love, in a way. St John’s dialogue, as usual, is perfection. I found it a great summer read. Sweet, and wry, and comforting. And all the talk of dresses was pretty good too.
I saw the movie called Ladies in Black a couple of years ago and had no idea at the time that the book was written by Madeleine St. John. I read her Booker short-listed The Essence of the Thing in the nineties and have never forgotten its lean and evocative style. Maybe I should read it again.
I don’t know if you remember my writing about a thriller I read a while ago, Our House by Louise Candlish. Set in London, about a woman who arrives home for a three-day holiday and finds strangers moving into her London house. Ha. What a ride that book was. Not in the usual thriller way, but more of a domestic thriller, about lies, and marriage, and property aspirations. And while you may find some of the characters particularly unlikable, sometimes exasperating, the ending makes up for any short-comings in the rest of the book… in my view.
A week or so ago, Hubby and I both read Candlish’s next book. Those People. This one might be called a neighbourhood thriller, instead of a domestic thriller. Lies, marriage, friendship, and neighbourhood aspirations. Every day he was reading this book, I’d hear Hubby calling from the bedroom where he’d been reading before his lunchtime nap. He’s out in the garden by 5:00 am in the summer, so he usually needs a nap if he wants to last until supper at 7:00. “This book is driving me nuts!” he’d yell. “Well, stop reading it,” I’d reply. “I can’t.” Candlish sure knows how to get into a reader’s head and play with their emotions. And keep them turning the pages. It’s not literature, that’s for sure. But we both enjoyed it immensely.
So that’s a pretty good assortment of summer reading, I’d say. A non-thriller thriller, with suspense but no violence. Well, not much. A couple of gentle mysteries, with characters I’m looking forward to reading more about. A well-written chick-lit. And an engrossing modern literary tour de force. Okay. I’m not sure if A Song From Faraway is a “tour de force,” but it is meaty enough in its plot, and lyrical enough in its style, with sufficiently evocative settings, and almost mythical storytelling in places to satisfy me this summer.
Now, if I could just find a replacement for Downton Abbey on television, I’d be perfectly happy.
Okay. Your turn my friends. Haul out your list and tell us what we should read next. Our pencils are poised.
P.S. As you know, I am now an affiliate with BookShop.org which donates a portion of profits to independent book stores in the States. The links in the text are to BookShop.org. Since they only ship to the U.S., I’m going to continue to include Amazon links in my book posts as well. You’ll find them below. If you make a purchase after clicking any of my links, I will earn a commission.
P.S.S. Amazon affiliate links to books mentioned in this post.