His Whole Life by Elizabeth Hay

His Whole Life Elizabeth HayThis is a fabulous book, a quiet story told with perfect prose. An example: “Jim overheard and thought that he respected him enough to believe he meant what he said, and if he meant what he said, then how could he respect him?”. An insightful examination of relationships between: husband and wife, children and parents, best friends and siblings. Summers at an Ontario Lake alternate with the frenzy of NY; at its heart: this story is about the consequences of secrets and shame.

Martin John by Anakana Schofield

Martin John by Anakana SchofieldThis book was on the Giller short list. Martin John is a sexual predator, with actions ranging from touching himself in public to inappropriate touching of others. What is fascinating is that the voice of this book describes the circular thoughts in his head with clear evidence of mental illness. And there is his Mam, frustrated by MJ’s pattern of offending and re-offending – how far can a mother’s love stretch. This is an excellent and provocative book.

Amy notes: As seen Vancouver Writers Festival 2015

The Night Stages by Jane Urquhart

night stagesUrquhart writes exquisite books: The Underpainter, The Stone Carvers, A Map of Glass, etc. This great new book is mainly set in the SW of Ireland (County Kerry) in the 1940-50s. The characters are vivid: two Irish brothers, an Englishwoman who eventually moves to Ireland, and a Canadian mural painter. A beautiful part of the book describes a prolonged fog delay in Gander Airport which allows detailed contemplation of a mural. There is much discussion about art and love, and even a bike race in the beauty of Ireland. This is one of my best reads of 2015.

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

The Buried Giant by Kazuo IshiguroIshiguro writes impeccable books about life in England: e.g. Remains of the Day and my favourite, Never Let Me Go. This intriguing story takes place in post-Arthur Britain, with Britons and Saxons and a knight (Sir Gawain) and ogres, pixies and a dragon. There is something “off”, a forgetfulness or loss of memory, that drives the story in a fascinating way. Two principal characters, Axl and Beatrice, are delightful; overall, an excellent book.


The Book Of Lost Things by John Connolly

The Book Of Lost Things by John ConnollyThe premise of this book is that the act of reading makes stories come alive, and so a young 12-year-old boy crosses a portal into a world that contains elements of books/stories that he has read. For example, he encounters a new spin on Red Riding Hood and a hilarious version of the Seven Dwarfs. But there is a dark and violent aspect of this new world as well, similar to original Grimm tales and modern Neil Gaiman stories. Excellent and imaginative writing so highly recommended.

Lila by Marilynne Robinson

Lila by Marilynne RobinsonThis wonderful book is the third in the Gilead trilogy, and is the best, in my opinion. There is almost no sense of place; most of the book takes place in Lila’s mind. The dominant emotion for Lila to learn is trust because she must always fight an impulse to flee what is a good outcome for her. Magnificent story telling.

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

As an aside, I have a goal of NOT reading any more WWII novels, but this book was recommended highly by a reading buddy in Ottawa, and I am very glad to have read this compelling story. The key feature is that the book is written from the perspective of two children and then young adults. There are two intersecting story lines: Marie-Laure in France and Werner in Germany. Werner’s decision to join the German army produces conflicted emotions. And the chaos of war is accentuated for Marie-Laure because she is blind and thus especially vulnerable. This is a very good read.