In the Sea There Are Crocodiles – Fabio Geda

In the Sea There Are CrocodilesIn the Sea There Are Crocodiles by Fabio Geda
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5-stars, actually.

Interesting book. There is a preface that states even though Geda wrote this story for Akbari – from listening to his story – the book “must be considered to be a work of fiction, since it is the recreation of Enaiatollah’s experience – a recreation that has allowed him to take possession of his own story.”

The tone is so matter-of-fact. I think this serves to downplay the times of danger Akbari faced but it also serves to emphasize Akbari’s ability to survive and thrive. It is noted a few times during the story that the Akbari feels the people and places don’t matter. What matters is what happened.

Geda has done well to bring Akbari’s story to the world.

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The Virgin Cure – Ami McKay

The Virgin CureThe Virgin Cure by Ami McKay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

McKay knocks this, her 2nd novel, out of the park! Her prose is tight and haunting – giving us settings and characters one can see, hear and nearly touch. I feel this story sheds a light on a time and era in NYC’s history of which little is known.

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Various Positions by Martha Schabas

Various PositionsVarious Positions by Martha Schabas
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Writer Lynn Coady sort of sums this novel up perfectly, with her back cover blurb: “The ever-shifting fault lines between the sex lives and sexual objectification of teenaged girls are traversed with all the artful nuance and precision of the ballet itself…a gripping and unflinching novel.”

This is Shabas’ first novel and it is mostly tight. The first few chapters were overly detail-laden – every bit of minutiae, “I folded the paper back into the envelope” sort of stuff, is noted. This took away momentum very early on but by about page 60…it was worked out and the action and details being written about help propel the story forward.

This novel is fairly dark and twisty. I spent a lot of time in this world so can identify completely and while I felt a lot of the story was well handled, at moments, it felt like a characterization in a spooferific and clichéd way. Hence, the dreaded 3-star rating.

Shabas definitely has talent and I look forward to her next book. She is a bold writer.

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The Finkler Question – Howard Jacobson

The Finkler QuestionThe Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hmm…this is a tricky one to rate with a solid number as the story fluctuated between a 2-star and 5-star rating fairly regularly. For me, this novel read more as a work of creative nonfiction and it has given me pause to think about the essence and structure of a novel. Certainly Jacobson’s style is unique but he has a way with prose that is both apparently straight-forward yet layered in its complexity – a tricky skill to master, I am guessing.

When this book won Jacobson the Man Booker Prize last year, there was a bit of a brouhaha created. The novel has been called “unapologetically comic” and there is definitely some of that wicked British humour within. I have read a few different reviews this morning, and this excerpt from the New Statesman really sums up my amazement with the novel, but also my hesitations about knowing what to do with reviewing what I have read: “Jacobson has occasionally been treated as a one-subject writer, but his accomplishment has been to discover the varied sources of int­erest in the lives of English Jews. The Finkler Question is characterised by his structuring skill and unsimplifying intelligence – this time picking through the connections and differences, hardly unremarked but given fresh treatment here, between vicariousness and parasitism, and between Jewishness, Judaism and Zionism. Even in a strained performance, Jacobson succeeds in generating smart conceits, the best of these – involving a Jew who goes to bed with a Holocaust denier – saved until the end.

The novel has caused me to go on a search for some nonfiction to complement this read.

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Joyner’s Dream by Sylvia Tyson

Joyner's DreamJoyner’s Dream by Sylvia Tyson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was so happily surprised by Tyson’s novel. Cynically, I did wonder how much weight her musical fame carried in securing a publishing path for Tyson’s first novel. Well, I was sucked right in, by page three. Joyner’s Dream tells the multi-generational story of the Joyner-Fitzhelm families.

I shall link to the Globe and Mail‘s review for now, until I compile my own thoughts. Though, I do disagree with the reviewers comparison – likening Tyson to Robertson Davies. !?!?!

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