Monday, March 22, 2010

BOOK: Through Black Spruce and The Book of Negroes

Two Canadian Award Winners + a new Canadian book

Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden, 360 pages

Book Awards IV: Giller Prize 2008; Colourful Challenge

Will Bird, famed Cree bush pilot, is telling his nieces the story of his life, from his coma. His niece, to help him recover, tells him the story of looking for her missing sister in Montreal and New York City amidst the glamourous, partying modelling world. The story alternates between these two (very nicely too, as I was never confused as to who was talking) and also between the present and the past.

I mostly liked it. I was intrigued by what had happened and the gradual discovery of how Will ended up in the coma. I was hoping for the characters to be happy. The sense of northern Ontario and how life has changed for the natives of that area was very well done. However, it was a touch long and could have been shorter and told the same story. In some sections, the details were too much, but overall, I liked the book, and would read the author's book, Three Day Road, which has some similar characters - Will Bird's father, during World War One.

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill, 475 pages

Book Awards IV: Commonwealth Writers Best Book 2008; TBR Lite

Fiction that felt a bit like nonfiction, like a Roots type book. Very brutal violence, so much so that I barely was able to continue after page 80, but people promised me it would get better. It took anther hundred pages, but I guess it improved in some ways, but still horrible, horrible events happened to Aminata Diallo, a slave stolen from Africa at the age of 11. She narrates her life from Africa, to America, and then to a version of freedom. I liked the historical story of the 1700s, but I just wasn't up to the brutal violence inflicted on the slaves by the whites, just because.

While this book won Canada Reads last year, I would much prefer The Outlander or Mercy Among the Children, other choices from that competition.

Deloume Road by Matthew Hooton, 310 pages

Canadian Book Challenge; Countdown Challenge: published in 2010

Set on Vancouver Island, following the residents who live on Deloume Road from several points of view and from several time periods. There is the unnamed narrator who hints at events from twenty years before, the residents from the road in the 1980s, and Gerald Deloume the original settler from 1899. The characters are connected because of of there homes, but living separate lives. Mostly it follows four preteen boys, two brothers, their friend, and the poor neglected kid, but also an immigrant butcher, a young Vietnamese widow, and a Vietnam veteran.

There is a sinister overtone in parts, and it is obvious 'something' happened, and the reader is kept in suspense, but the concern is reconciling what the reader imagines, with what actually happens, and hoping that there isn't too much of a gulf between them. Deloume Road was a slice of a simple Canadian life.