Obasan: Fifth time’s the… last?

Because Obasan is on the list of course texts I need to teach this term, it is one of the few books on the 10-10-12 list that I have read before (the others are also books I need to teach). It is certainly the only book I’ve read four times before. Why, you might be thinking, would I need to read it again if I’ve read it four times already? Combination of terrible, no good, very bad memory for plot and a (maybe?) unmemorable plot itself. (and because of the good teaching practice, that, too, I think.)

It might be because the novel over-emphasizes description and so some of the plot gets weighted down in my memory by long passages describing prairie grass or dreams (I *hate* dream sequences). Or maybe because there’s a limited range of symbols/images and questions that the whole book feels like a focused meditation on how one should best deal with trauma (speak about it or banish it to the past). Which is not to say there aren’t any complications – why doesn’t Namoi tell her mother about her sexual abuse? why sexual abuse at all? I don’t know, perhaps because I’d read it so many times before the questions the novel raised felt belaboured. Actually, that’s probably exactly the reason. Hmm.

I don’t like the ending. That has nothing to do with having read it too often and everything to do with there being an atomic bomb where there ought not to be one. Well, no, the bomb is in the right geographic location, but it doesn’t belong in this narrative, that much I’m sure of.


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Filed under 100 Books of 2011, Canadian Literature, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Prize Winner

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