Category Archives: Bestseller

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

The Nest: You’ve Already Read This Book; or, On Doubting Your Memory Because This Book is So Unoriginal and Terrible

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Three chapters in to Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s The Nest I checked the publication date (2016) and decided no, despite the nagging feeling, I hadn’t read the book before. Four chapters in I checked this site to be absolutely sure I hadn’t read it before. I have been known to forget things like books I’ve read (or meetings, or words, or…) on occasion constantly. Trusty site confirmed that it was a “new” read.  Continue reading

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The Rosie Project: What to read while the world burns

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I’m comfortable with the ‘compulsively readable’ label oft attached to  Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project. Originally envisioned as a screenplay, the novel has cinematic pacing and a powerful sense of scene (including here both a sense of the setting and a well-defined plot focus for a particular chapter). Taken together with the warm and lighthearted romance plot and you have yourself a perfect stay-up-late, read-on-the-beach, pass-the-time-while-waiting-for____ kind of novel. There is much to enjoy in the characterization of Rosie and Don, the certainty of the romance genre’s happily ever after and the unapologetically optimistic take on the world and the ability for individuals to do right. Continue reading

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Outline: Sometimes you have to be bored by a novel

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People seem excited about Rachel Cusk’s Outline because it’s some sort of experiment in form and characterization: the ‘novel’ follows a writer/writing instructor while she is in Greece teaching a writing seminar.  The novel narrates her conversations with those she encounters – from airplane seat mates to long time friends – over the course of her trip. There is something to be said for the way her character is revealed in relief – what she doesn’t say, how she lets the conversation be focused on the other person, by the questions she asks and the settings in which these conversations unfold (e.g. on a boat with a person she met on the plan the day before).  Continue reading

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Filed under Bestseller, Fiction, New York Times Notable