Friday, March 5, 2010

Canada Reads 2010

Yes, it's that time of year again. Canada Reads begins on the 8th, and I cannot wait to discussion to begin.

Here are the books:

Good To A Fault by Marina Endicott. This book is being defended by Simi Sara. Here's the blurb:
Absorbed in her own failings, Clara Purdy crashes her life into a sharp left turn, taking the young family in the other car along with her. When bruises on the mother, Lorraine, prove to be late-stage cancer, Clara—against all habit and comfort—moves the three children and their terrible grandmother into her own house.

We know what is good, but we don’t do it. In Good to a Fault, Clara decides to give it a try, and then has to cope with the consequences: exhaustion, fury, hilarity, and unexpected love. But she must question her own motives. Is she acting out of true goodness, or out of guilt? Most shamefully, has she taken over simply because she wants the baby for her own?

What do we owe in this life, and what do we deserve? This compassionate, funny, and fiercely intelligent novel looks at life and death through grocery-store reading glasses: being good, being at fault, and finding some balance on the precipice.

Nikolski by Nicolas Dickener. This is being defended by Michel V├ęzina. Here's the blurb:
Spring 1989. Three young people - Noah, Joyce and an unnamed narrator - leave their far-flung birthplaces to follow their own personal songs of migration. Each ends up in Montreal, each on a voyage of self-discovery, dealing with the mishaps of heartbreak and the twisted branches of their shared family tree.

With humour, charm and the sure touch of a born storyteller, Nicolas Dickner crafts a tale that shows the surprising links between garbage-obsessed archeologists, pirates past and present, earthquake victims, sea snakes, several very large tuna fish, an illiterate deep-sea diver, a Commodore 64, a mysterious book with no cover, and a broken compass whose needle obstinately points to the Aleutian village of Nikolski.

Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture by Douglas Coupland. The books is being defended by Roland Pemberton (a.k.a. Cadence Weapon). Here's the blurb:
Andy, Claire, and Dag, each in their twenties, have quit "pointless jobs done grudgingly to little applause" in their respective hometowns and cut themselves adrift on the California desert. In search of the drastic changes that will lend meaning to their lives, they've mired themselves in the detritus of American cultural memory. Refugees from history, the three develop an ascetic regime of story-telling, boozing, and working McJobs — "low-pay, low-prestige, low-benefit, no-future jobs in the service industry." They create modern fables of love and death among the cosmetic surgery parlors and cocktail bars of Palm Springs, disturbingly funny tales of nuclear waste, historical overdosing, and mall culture. A dark snapshot of the trio's highly fortressed inner world quickly emerges — landscapes peopled with dead TV shows, "Elvis moments," and semi-disposable Swedish furniture. And from these landscapes, deeper portraits emerge, those of fanatically independent individuals, pathologically ambivalent about the future and brimming with unsatisfied longings for permanence, for love, and for their own home. Andy, Dag, and Claire are underemployed, overeducated, intensely private, and unpredictable. Like the group they mirror, they have nowhere to assuage their fears, and no culture to replace their anomie.

The Jade Peony by Wayson Choy. The book is being defended by Samantha Nutt. Here's the blurb:
Jook-Liang, the family's only girl, and her brothers Jung-Sum and Sek-Lung (nicknamed Sekky) were all born in Canada, but their parents and the rest of the family are recent immigrants. The children grow up torn between the reality of their lives outside the family circle and the old-world traditions that prevail at home.

The children are drawn to figures from North American popular culture, from cowboys to Shirley Temple, but they're also captivated by the magical stories told by Poh-Poh, their grandmother. Her mythic tales feature ghosts, dragons and characters from Chinese folklore such as the Monkey King and the scary Fox Lady.

The three have very different experiences of life in their family and the world at large. Sekky, the youngest, witnesses a love affair between his Chinese-Canadian babysitter and a young man of Japanese heritage, which plays out against the backdrop of the racism that flourished during the Second World War.

The Jade Peony is a sensitive depiction of the collision between cultures that all newcomers experience — and the conflicts within families that can arise as a result. It's also a vivid evocation of the division between the world of adults and the world of childhood, rendered with insight, humour and grace.

Fall On Your Knees by Ann-Marie McDonald. This book is being defended by Perdita Felicien. Here's the blurb:
Fall on Your Knees begins in a small mining community in Nova Scotia in the early 1900s and moves to the battlefields of the First World War and then to Harlem during the Jazz Age and the Depression.
It all begins when James elopes with his 13-year-old bride, Materia Mahmoud, whose Lebanese father then casts her out and curses her.

Four sisters are born into the family: beautiful Kathleen, who sings like an angel, self-sacrificing and obedient Mercedes, naughty, rebellious Frances and pure-hearted Lily. There is hope, talent and passion in each of them, but each is affected in her own way by their father's hold on their lives.

Fall on Your Knees has been translated into more than 20 languages and has won numerous awards and accolades, including the Canadian Authors' Association Literary Award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book and the Canadian Booksellers Association Libris Award. It was also a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and was selected for Oprah's Book Club in 2002.

Of the five books I've only read one, Fall on Your Knees years ago. It may be time to re-read it.


Kailana said...

I have actually all ready read three of these this time around: The Jade Peony, Generation X, and Fall On Your Knees. I keep meaning to read the other two, but haven't got around to it yet.

John Mutford said...

I've read two (MacDonald's and Coupland's). I have Jade Peony and Nikolski but have yet to read them. That'll change if one of them win.