A Pale View of the Hills: What a weird little novel

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This is one weird little novel. I read it for book club and I’m so glad because hopefully one of my friends can explain what in the what. Continue reading

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Filed under Fiction, Prize Winner, Book Club

The Best Kind of People: Great premise + adequate execution = Beach read

9781770899421The Best Kind of People is the sort of book you take on holiday and read quickly and find yourself enjoying (despite of or because of) its content and then you finish it and move on to playing volleyball and eating BBQ and you forget about it. Even though the subject matter is such that it should probably linger: rich, white man is a high-school teacher and community leader; he is accused of several counts of sexual assault; the reader follows the impact of the legal proceedings on his family: his teenage daughter who goes to the same school where he taught and where the young women who were assaulted attend, his wife – a nurse and community leader, his grown son – now living in New York who came into his gay identity in the same homophobic small town.

One of the things to admire about the novel is that it tells this story without narrating the perspective of George Woodbury – the father and abuser. Nor does it narrate the abuse itself. Focusing instead on the ripples of the crime on the family of the criminal, the novel offers a vision of guilty by association, or monster by proxy. It considers the way individuals are framed in relation to crime and the criminal: what should have been known, who should have known it and when. It raises all sorts of interesting questions about trust and belief and forgiveness. And in its shifting narrative point of view, asks the reader to take on different perspectives of those around George in order to imagine a sort of empathy for those in the orbit of crime who are neither victims nor perpetrators.

I’m not sure then why I find it forgettable. I enjoyed reading it (as much as you can enjoy being asked to enter a world of emotional distress and disruption and empathize and discover): the pacing was neat (with a structure of examining the week after in detail, and then the week before the trial – giving a sort of telescoping of time while still allowing for character development and change) and the moral questions and actions for the characters complex. I suppose I didn’t find any of the three key characters: daughter, son and wife, all that compelling. Their reactions made logical sense, their decisions and their choices in the aftermath were scripted such that they felt like the ‘right’ set of responses one might be expected to experience. Yet they lacked a certain something that made me want to really feel alongside them and so was left in a sort of observational capacity when the book was clearly calling me to empathy.

All that said I do think it would make for a compelling summer read or a great book club discussion. Again – not for anything stylistic so much as the questions it raises and then fully explores.

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Filed under Bestseller, Book Club, Book I'll Forget I Read, Canadian Literature, Fiction, Giller prize, Prize Winner

SPECIAL: Call for Guest Authors

Dear readers,

For the first time in the eight year (!) history of Literary Vice I am planning to take a holiday from posting (just for the months of July and August). Emphasis on planning. I may still insist on writing a couple of reviews.

But! I don’t – at all – want to leave you without reviews to read. So. This is my call for guest authors. I’d love for *you* to write a review in your own style, in your own voice, of whatever it is that you like to read. Who knows. Maybe we’ll make having guest authors a thing.

The criteria?

  • You are willing to write an original review;
  • You are not marketing a book in writing your review;
  • Reviews need to be submitted by June 28 so that I can prepare a scheduled release date for the post.

Questions you might have:

  • Length of review is entirely up to you (most of my posts fall somewhere between 500-750 words);
  • You can review something I’ve reviewed in the past and dis/agree with my reading of it (in fact I think a review disagreeing would be fun);
  • You can review any genre (given my propensity to only review fiction it might be nice to have some non-fiction reviews. That’s a lie. Who would that be nice for?!);
  • You can review something you think I should read and make the argument for why I should read it;
  • No compensation. Just glory.

Other things you want to know? Questions or concerns? Send me a message at literaryvice@gmail.com or however you best like to get in touch with me.

Please let me know by June 11 if you’re interested in writing a review, so that if no one is interested I can do a scramble to figure out what to do instead. Please don’t leave me to scramble. I am not well coordinated and scrambling will likely lead to a bashed up knee or something.

Yours in reading,

Erin

 

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Filed under Erin's Favourite Books, Popular Posts, Uncategorized

The Last Neanderthal: In which I display disproportionate outrage

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This book is getting a lot of play. Well done to Claire Cameron for having a hard working marketing team (it helps that Cameron’s first novel, Bear, was widely praised and sold a bunch of copies). I’ve seen ads for the book in all sorts of places, write-ups in Chatelaine, I got a free copy from Random House to review.  Continue reading

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Filed under Canadian Literature, Fiction