Friday, February 19, 2010

BOOK: Nikolski by Nicolas Dickner

Nikolski by Nicolas Dickner, 286 pages

What's in a Name 3: place name; Book Awards IV: Governor-General's Prize for English to French translation 2008

reminded me of Yellowknife by Steve Zipp: quirky, wandering characters, humorous, not a plot per se, but an enjoyable story nonetheless.

Nikolski: a community on an Aleutian island, in Alaska, where a particular compass always points.

Three young adults who have lived very similar lives - raised by a single parent in unorthodox manners, all head toward Montreal and live near each other. Each has little in the lines of possessions, but their one valuable or cherished item passes around amongst each other. The three characters are actually quite entwined in too many ways to begin to explain.

Some topics that could be discussed in book groups:
- possessions versus nomads
- the archeology of garbage
- pirates: then and now
- the displacement of aboriginal people
- maps, compasses, charts

And through it all, it's a sea-faring novel, with so many ocean references and water comparisons no one ever sails on water, even the pirate. The first line, "My name is unimportant" could also be a reference to the opening line of Moby Dick. (I didn't recognize that, I read that somewhere that I can't find the reference to now. I didn't figure that out, but it's pretty smart.)

There are lots of levels and symbolism here for those who like that sort of thing. In fact, once I read some comments about the book at CBC Reads Bookclub, I was more impressed with the book. It may be a book that I keep thinking about after the fact, but it didn't touch me as I read it, even though I enjoyed the book.

also reviewed:
august at vestige, a literary blog

Canada Reads Update:
I have managed to read all the books in this year's Canada Reads 2010, the first time I have completed them. I was lucky that this time I had already read Generation X by Douglas Coupland and Fall on Your Knees by Ann Marie MacDonald. Since they were announced, I've read The Jade Peony by Wayson Choi and Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott.

My rankings:
1. Good to a Fault (the one I want to talk about the most, and that I was most involved in the story)
2. Nikolski (quirky and cute, but it didn't lead me to want to talk about it, until I read some other comments; reminded my of Yellowknife)
3. Fall on Your Knees (I read it long ago, and liked it but didn't get the raving and found it too depressing)
4. The Jade Peony (nothing to like or dislike)
5. Generation X (I recognize why it is iconic, and Coupland is one of my favorite authors, but this is my least favorite of his books)


  1. Interesting that it's similar to Yellowknife. I wanted to read it before, but even more so now!

  2. john - just something about the tone reminded me of Yellowknife.


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