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Book Reviews

The Innocents by Michael Crummey
Post Date: November 11, 2019

     Unlike Michael Crummey’s previous novels, where the characters are sometimes subsumed by the vastness and rawness of Newfoundland, in ‘The Innocents’ the adolescent protagonists, Evered and Ada Best, are central to the story.      Set some time in the early 1800s, the novel begins with tragedy when Evered and Ada’s parents and baby sister die.[…]

The Lost History of Stars by Dave Boling
Post Date: September 2, 2017

“Sunsets that bled in layers across the horizon were God’s reminder that only he could brighten such a desolate pit with infinite beauty.”   The words of 14-year-old Afrikaner, Lettie Ventner, as the deprivations in one of the filthy, disease-ridden concentration camps set-up by the British in South Africa during the Boer War took its[…]

A Disappearance in Damascus. A story of friendship and survival in the shadow of war, by Deborah Campbell
Post Date: December 28, 2016

“We talk about them, make policies to deal with them, even make war on them, while knowing almost nothing of who they are or what consequences our actions might have.”  The words of immersive journalist, Deborah Campbell, in her award-winning book based on her time in Damascus in 2007, living among displaced Iraqi refugees.  Researching[…]

The Translation of Love by Lynne Kutsukake
Post Date: September 17, 2016

In the immediate post-WWII period, the people of Japan were bewildered by their new reality as the country began to shift from a feudalistic and militaristic society to one endeavouring to embrace more democratic and individualistic principles.  Observers were baffled by the swiftness of transformation in a society that had vowed to fight to the[…]

‘The Summer Guest’ by Alison Anderson
Post Date: August 20, 2016

Did Anton Chekhov, the master of the short story and one of Russia’s best-loved writers, write a novel?  Although this tantalizing question drives Anderson’s novel, it slips into the background as her lyrical prose weaves together the lives of three women, separated by time and space, whose worlds teeter on the brink of disaster and[…]

‘Circling the Sun,’ by Paula McLain (with references to ‘West with the Night,’ by Beryl Markham)
Post Date: October 24, 2015

The opening chapter of McLain’s fictionalised version of the unconventional life and loves of the pioneering aviator and racehorse trainer, Beryl Markham, epitomises the sense of impending doom that dogged Markham all her life.  In 1936, attempting to be the first woman to fly solo non-stop across the Atlantic from East to West, she struggles[…]

‘The Book of Aron,’ by Jim Shepard.
Post Date: August 5, 2015

  Amidst the plethora of Holocaust literature, it would be easy to dismiss Shepard’s novel as just another tale woven around one of the darkest periods in history.  But, ‘The Book of Aron’ is different.  In unassuming and unquestioning language, the tale of survival in the Warsaw ghetto is told in the sometimes understated voice[…]

‘They Left Us Everything,’ by Plum Johnson.
Post Date: July 13, 2015

For anyone who has dealt with the loss of parents and resultant sifting through the ‘stuff’ they left behind, while coping with grief, guilt, and anger, Johnson’s memoir will put a humorous and touching spin on a toxic situation.   Imagine tackling the task in a 23-room home bulging with possessions accumulated in the fifty-something[…]

The care and management of lies – A novel of the Great War by Jacqueline Winspear
Post Date: September 17, 2014

In this her standalone novel, set in the early months of World War I, Jacqueline Winspear, the author of the Maisie Dobbs series, steps away from the classic mould of war novels.  However, the passive writing style diminishes what is, in essence, a good storyline.  Opportunities to make scenes come alive are lost.  Even amid[…]

Crampton Hodnet by Barbara Pym
Post Date: May 14, 2014

Crampton Hodnet – the name of an eccentric gentleman, of limited means, whose unusual name gives him a certain cachet with the denizens of the bucolic corner of England he chooses to grace with his presence?   No.  Not even close.  The name was conjured up by the Reverend Stephen Latimer when asked to explain[…]