The Burning Girl – Claire Messud

The Burning girl - Claire MessudMessud wrote the very excellent The Woman Upstairs, about the relationships of a mature woman. In this new novel, Messud has turned her perceptive gaze to a coming-of-age story of two girls, best friends since nursery school whose lives begin to diverge in middle school. What does friendship entail? What stories do we create for others and for ourselves? This is a beautifully poignant book.

Hunger – Roxane Gay

Hunger - Roxane GayPreviously, I used the words “brutally honest and uncomfortably candid” to describe Camilla Gibbs’s memoir This Is Happy, and the same descriptors can be applied emphatically to this memoir by Roxane Gay. Gay is subjected to a brutal sexual assault at age 12; she discusses being both a survivor and a victim. There are two dramatic aspects to the aftermath: her silence and her reaction to eating, to become fat and undesirable in order to be safe. Gay vividly describes living in a wildly undisciplined body as she becomes categorized as morbidly obese. The cruelty of public opinion of her appearance (i.e. fat shaming) is tragic. Her own analysis of her psychology is self-loathing. This is a deeply personal memoir that is often disturbing but occasionally comic as she describes how much she hates exercise. An amazing story.

Nutshell – Ian McEwan

Nutshell - Ian McEwanFirst, a confession – my opinion on McEwan books runs hot and cold: there are great books (Atonement, Amsterdam, On Chesil Beach) but many are not so great, in my opinion. This new novel belongs firmly in the great category. First, there is a unique point-of-view; the narrator is an 8-month fetus. The description of his acquisition of consciousness is fantastic, and sage commentaries on placenta-filtered wines are provided. And then there is the great prose: “Long ago, many weeks ago, my neural groove closed upon itself to become my spine and my many million young neutrons, busy as silkworms, spun and wove from their trailing axons the gorgeous golden fabric of my first idea, a notion so simple that it partly eludes me now”. Exquisite writing.

The Excellent Lombards by Jane Hamilton

26031214Hamilton is a great writer (A Map Of The World, The Book Of Ruth, etc.). This new book is a very fine addition to her list of novels, a book about complex family relationships but mainly a coming-of-age story about a young girl who doesn’t want to grow up. Consequently, at times her behaviour is wildly erratic, both frustrating and endearing. Highly recommended.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26031214-the-excellent-lombards

Leaving Tomorrow – David Bergen

Leaving Tomorrow - David BergenThis is an insightful and introspective book, typical of Bergen’s novels. The first part of the book is a perfect recounting of growing up in rural Alberta. Arthur describes his influences: isolation, books and school, religion, sibling rivalry, and conversations that leave much more unsaid than stated explicitly. The latter part of the book is a coming-of-age story in Paris. Just an excellent read.

The Wondrous Woo – Carrianne KY Leung

he Wondrous Woo - Carrianne KY LeungThis is a really excellent coming-of-age story of a Chinese-Canadian family in the late 1980s-early 90s. It is essentially a story of sibling relationships with strong emotions like alienation and grief with some magic was well. An intriguing story line: after the death of their father, two of the children acquire special gifts/abilities, but the third sibling does not. This “magic” is accepted without explanation or even much discussion: it is what it is, and this is very satisfying to the reader. (thanks Steph, for this recommendation).

Holding Still For As Long As Possible by Zoe Whittall

9780887843013Another book from the CBC list; also Whittall was at a Walrus Talks panel discussion at Blue Metropolis. This is a relationship book about 20-somethings that is not preoccupied by drugs. Notably, there is a central trans-gender character, and this characteristic is treated without emphasis, just as it should be.

 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6606825-holding-still-for-as-long-as-possible?from_search=true