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A Letter to Barbara …

I finished reading ‘The Allegra Series‘ a few days ago and haven’t been able to pick up another book until I wrote you about how it affected me. I loved it! There is such precision and rich discipline inherent in your lush creativity, firmly rooted in a profound respect for your reader. You lead me into one captivating scene after another, graciously stepping aside to let me make of it what I would.

8047309 (304x475)That your fascinating characters are utterly believable is as much a factor of your constraint in the reveal, the easing into their psyches and degrees of self-awareness as it is your unrestrained honesty. You expose their traits a layer at a time, luring me to an emergent understanding of the ‘whole’ character, deftly cracking open the window onto acceptance of their eccentricities … and their nasty bits.

Complex, brittle characters, you took me inside to look out, to see how each viewed their particular world, whether skewed, hopeful or dark, where I discovered a silken thread of madness in each.

Mona, through her research, plaits a mystifying backdrop for this extraordinary love story. I don’t like Mona, so completely self-absorbed and dangerously opportunistic. Her perception of the history between her and Brad is shocking, whether true or a figurative symbol, claiming as theirs the story of Philomela? If real, then Brad is a far more sinister character than he seems. If, figurative, then Mona is calculatingly evil. How skilfully you hook the explanation for their fractious connection, at least as Mona identifies it, into one sentence, near the end of the book. My jaw dropped.

Allegra is captivating. I love her flaws, her desire to push on despite, or perhaps because of, a devastating diagnosis. I am inspired by her passion, drive and sexual volatility even in the progression of her disability. I admire her stubborn refusal to give up on the notion she will recover, that the strength of her will is sufficient to drive the debilitating disease from her body, denial paramount in the desperate risks taken with her physical safety.

Allegra believes love has found her again in Brad, an enigma to the very end. His attraction to Allegra is suspicious from the beginning, appearing to serve a need he himself can’t figure out, something ugly left behind when Mona walked out on him and their child. I want to believe he doesn’t initially understand his own intentions, though they appear to be deeply self-serving once he gains a modicum of insight into the ‘why’. The proof rests in the fact he hides the paintings of Allegra portraying the downward spiral of her progressive illness. Brad is at once overly protective and negligently dismissive, always at Allegra to make preparations for the life of an invalid, even while she hums with the vibrancy of the artist, so alive and passionate.

I will always wonder whether Allegra finds Angeline.

Was this really your debut novel, Barabara?



Canada Reads Top 40: Explore the booksIt’s time to turn the Canada Reads 2014 Top 40 list into a Top 10 list!  See who made the regional lists and vote at Canada Reads by 11:59 p.m. ET on Sunday November 3rd!

Explore the 2014 Top 40 Contenders.

Find out more about Canada Reads here.

The 2013 winning title was “February” by Lisa Moore.

Check out previous winners here.

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Five New Books

I confessed my book addiction in an earlier post.  With an hour to spare between appointments earlier this week, I wandered into yet another book store.  Here’s what I came home with …

Curiosity by Joan Thomas maple-leaf

paperback_Curiosity.pjg_1The weaving together of history and fiction holds a strong appeal for me.  The jacket description made this book irresistible, “Some forty years before Darwin published On the Origin of Species, Mary Anning … discovers in the soft cliffs near Lyme Regis, Dorset, the intact skeleton of a prehistoric creature.  Henry De la Beche … runs away from military college and soon finds himself living with his fashionable mother in Lyme Regis.  One morning, on an expedition, he encounters a young woman unlike anyone he has ever met.  Curiosity is an uncommon love story and an exploration of the fervours of both mind and heart.”

Love Poems
by Pablo Neurada (Nobel Laureate)

Love-Poems-9780811217293The pink and red cover of this small tome caught my eye first, but the jacket sold it, “Charged with sensuality and passion, Pablo Neruda‘s love poems are the most celebrated of the Nobel Prize winner’s oeuvre, captivating readers with earthbound images and reveling in a fiery re-imagining of the world.  Mostly written on the island paradise of Capri … Love Poems embraces the seascapes surrounding the poet and his lover Matilde Urrutia, their waves and shores saturated with a new, yearning eroticism.”  I was inspired to become more familiar with this much-loved Chilean poet by the mystery surrounding Neruda’s death.  How fitting that April is National Poetry Month, and 40 years after his death, Neruda’s body is about to be exhumed over claims that Pinochet’s regime (1973) murdered him.

Sleeping Funny by Miranda Hillmaple-leaf

13536358Since I don’t sleep much, any book about sleeping grabs my attention, as do story collections and debut authors.  This book has it all, as well as a funky cover. “Sleeping Funny is that rare book – a debut that introduces us to a fully mature writer, one who instantly draws you in with her lean style, empathy and wit, and keeps you reading, with growing admiration and delight, from first page to last. These stories showcase Miranda Hill’s astonishing range and virtuosity, introducing us to a protean variety of characters, each as well-realized as the next. Here is a writer who can seamlessly inhabit the consciousness of a sixteen-year-old navigating an embarrassing sex-ed class, a middle-aged minister experiencing a devastating crisis of faith in a 19th century rural village, a pilot’s widow coping with her grief by growing an unusual “victory garden” during World War II, and well-heeled modern professional women juggling jobs, kids, and husbands, and trying to cope with the arrival of a beautiful bohemian neighbour, on a gentrified street in downtown Toronto.”  I just had to have this one!

419 by Will Fergusonmaple-leaf

419Winner of the 2012 Scotiabank Giller Prize, Will Ferguson “… has hitchhiked the length of Japan, has worked as a professional space-cadet at the Toronto CN Tower and has walked across Northern Ireland in the rain.” Book Description: “… a novel both epic in its sweep and intimate in its portrayal of human endurance. A car tumbles through darkness down a snowy ravine. A woman without a name walks out of a dust storm in sub-Saharan Africa. And in the seething heat of Lagos City, a criminal cartel scours the Internet, looking for victims. Lives intersect. Worlds collide. And it all begins with a single email: “Dear Sir, I am the daughter of a Nigerian diplomat, and I need your help…

This final book was ordered online when a fellow blogger recommended it.

41MTBdBWoDLWhat is Reading for? by Robert Bringhurst

Robert Bringhurst a Canadian poet, typographer and author, has translated substantial works from Haida and Navajo, as well as classical Greek and Arabic.

Only 1000 copies of this book were printed, 500 in the fall of 2011 and a second printing in the fall of 2012.  I’m so pleased I found a copy. Book Description: “Reading could have a rich and interesting future, because it does have a rich and interesting past. But if no one remembers that past, it may not mean much to the future. This succinct and thoughtful essay is the text of a talk commissioned for a symposium entitled The Future of Reading which was held at RIT in June 2010. Written and designed by Robert Bringhurst, this limited edition is carefully crafted and letterpress printed.” It is a handsome text work! maple-leaf

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