Selasa, 17 Juli 2012

Five From the Archive (no.5)

I hope the Canadian bloggers among you don't mind my affectionate teasing in the sketch(!)  Although I've never been to Canada, I feel a certain affinity with that nation - we Brits (when we're not binge-drinking football fans) also radiate politeness (even when seething), and apologise when someone bumps into us.  Kate Fox's Watching the English is a brilliant read for this sort of thing, and will probably appear in a Five from the Archive at some point - but, for today...

Five... Books By Canadians.

1.) Too Much Happiness (2009) by Alice Munro

In short: A collection by one of the world's most acclaimed short story writers.  Munro examines many themes, but particularly death and intrusion.

From the review: "In playing with the short story genre, Munro invents a formless form appropriate to her superlative talent as an observer of human nature and human interaction."

2.) Literary Lapses (1910) by Stephen Leacock

In short: Very amusing sketches by an exceptionally gifted comic writer, not well known outside his native land.

From the review: "Stephen Leacock is a humorist par excellence. If I utter his name in the same breath as PG Wodehouse, it is not because their styles are all that similar (though both make fantastic use of stylistic exaggeration) but because Leacock is the only writer I would dare hold up to Wodehouse."

3.) Crow Lake (2002) by Mary Lawson

In short: A sister returns to visit her family, feeling guilty that she has studied for a PhD while her siblings have had to sacrifice their education... but things become more complex than that...

From the review: "Lawson writes with so many character nuances, and is concerned with subtle issues of empathy, sympathy, unity, hope, hopelessness, courage, foolishness, pride, misunderstanding - it's all there."

4.) The Penelopiad (2005) by Margaret Atwood

In short: A re-telling of The Odyssey from Penelope's perspective.

From the review: "The 'hook' of Atwood's narrative, though - a more original feminist viewpoint - is the death of Penelope's twelve maids. Odysseus apparently had them hanged upon his return from his voyage. I suspect this is a footnote in Homer's original, but Atwood plays it to its full potential, and it really is an ingenious angle: why were they killed, when they had aided Penelope?"

5.) Let's Kill Uncle (1963) by Rohan O'Grady

In short: A troubled orphan, Barnaby, is sent to a Canadian island and befriends a local girl, Christie.  Nobody would believe that Barnaby's kindly uncle is, in fact, a manipulative, evil man, intent on killing him.  Barnaby and Christie hatch a plan to kill the uncle first...

From the review: "When I read in the blurb that Donna Tartt had called Let's Kill Uncle a 'dark, whimsical, startling book', I was a little confused. Surely those words clash a bit when placed together? And I'm still not sure that there is much whimsy in the novel, unless you describe any scene without blood as whimsical - but it's certainly the lightest dark book I've ever read. Or possibly the darkest light book."

*  *  *

Over to you!  Which would you suggest?  (I chosen this 'five' theme because I've read so few Canadians - I imagine many of you would be able to suggest dozens.)

I should add that I loved The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence, but apparently never blogged about it.  And, before you suggest it, I really did not like The Handmaid's Tale...

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