This fabulous and long (670 pages) book concludes a trilogy: previous books were Beartown and Us Against You. Backman’s writing is both heart-warming and heart-wrenching. Two remote forest towns (in Sweden but could be Canada) are intense rivals in hockey and politics. There are two funerals, impending violence and intimidation, and a ferocious summer storm. Backman’s writing is often philosophical: what it means to experience fear, for example. Be warned, the story is very emotional with complicated relationships, especially within families; expect to experience extreme sadness (and tears) when confronting loyalty, friendship and loss.
Sam and Sadie first meet at ages 11/12 over a shared love of video games. Ten years later, they are creating video games. This is an insightful relationship book: a profound friendship is often complicated by human frailties. Sadie describes herself as “a dervish of selfishness, resentment and insecurity”, clearly significant barriers to having successful relationships. Creative ambitions, disability, success, and failure are all themes.
Simply put, this is a wonderful book about compelling and complex women in Montreal at the end of the 19th century. Men in the story are mostly inconsequential, despite some appallingly boorish behaviour. Marie and Sadie are best friends as children, but theirs is a classic love-hate relationship (“Every decent friendship comes with a drop of hatred. But that hatred is like honey in the tea. It makes it addictive”). Marie is spoiled and entitled; Sadie is subversive and dangerous. Ms. O’Neill‘s writing is enchanting with exquisite similes describing disparate worlds: life in a brothel, exploitive factory work (the Squalid Mile). Female relationships are infinitely complex with righteous anger, pettiness and jealousy, and a self-absorbed woman who has no empathy toward other women. Powerful feminist themes abound: the invisibility of marriage, sexual awareness leading to female empowerment. And finally, anticipate a late plot twist and an extraordinary ending. This is O’Neill at her best, a Montreal noir story.
Ms. Patchett is one of my favourite novelists (The Patron Saint of Liars, Bel Canto) but she also writes essays that previously were collected into the wonderful book This is a Story of a Happy Marriage. This is her second book of essays, some published previously in Harpers and the Atlantic. All are insightful glimpses into her life, from childhood to the current time. A favourite for me is the first essay about her three fathers, all different experiences, all with positive and negatives. Her writing is clear, focused, and honest – highly recommended.
(Amy seconds all of this!)
A superb relationship book: Allan and Byron have married the Winter sisters, Peggy and Annie, respectively. What is love and friendship in the face of manipulation? What is memory when confronted with dementia and suppressed recall? How much wilful disbelief accompanies work for someone who has criminal activities? This is a cracking good psychological thriller – highly recommended.
Simply put – this is a remarkable book, one that must be read slowly and savoured. First, a definition: an apeirogon is a shape with a countably infinite number of sides. Thus, a perfect title for a book addressing the complex many-faceted Israel-Palestine situation. Bassam is Palestinian; his daughter Abir was killed by a rubber bullet fired by an Israeli border guard. Rami is Israeli; his daughter Smadar was killed by Palestinian suicide bombers. They separately deal with perceptions of revenge and justice, and the many versions of truth. And unexpectedly, they become friends. Their stories unfold in a non-linear manner with incredible detail. Overall, a breathtaking narrative that merges fact with imagination, violence and grief.
Another delightful Thursday Murder Club mystery: Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron, and Ibrahim investigate missing diamonds and then several murders. As before, this is a warm and clever story, in large part about friendships. It is also deeply philosophical about aging – a real pleasure to read.
Ms. Rooney’s new book is about four 30-year-olds: Alice and Eileen, Simon and Felix. Although older than the teenagers in Normal People, these adults are no more successful in their relationships. Despite deep friendships and yes, love, they can be frustratingly emotionally distant, deflecting a question with a question as the rejoinder. Overall, a fabulous examination of the modern world. Desire is complicated with delusion; perceptions of happiness are clouded by anxiety and uncertainty. A brilliant book – highly recommended.
This is a cracking good political thriller involving terrorist threats, combining the crime writing expertise of Louise Penny with the real-world political expertise of Hillary Clinton. The politics and drama of trying to prevent nuclear bomb explosions is portrayed brilliantly, with geopolitical actions in Frankfurt, Iran, Pakistan, Russia and in Washington DC. The book features strong feminist characters and the power of (female) friendships.