Saturday, July 11, 2009

Summer Fiction news 2009

Some suggestions from the Northern Women's Bookshop

The long-awaited second novel by Anne Michaels (author of Fugitive Pieces) is finally here. THE WINTER VAULT “is a stunningly, richly layered, and timeless novel that is everything we could hope for. Set in Canada and Egypt, and with flashbacks to England and Poland, THE WINTER VAULT is a spellbinding love story that juxtaposes momentous historical events with the most intimate moments of individual lives..... Breathtaking, vivid in its exploration of both the physical and emotional worlds of its characters, intensely moving and lyrical, THE WINTER VAULT is a radiant work of fiction and contains all the elements for which Anne Michaels is celebrated.”

Mavis Gallant is one of the greatest short story writers of our time, but I am afraid that younger Canadians know little of her work. Gallant grew up in Montreal and was a leading journalist, but moved to Paris in 1950 to write short stories, which she has done ever since. Still writing at 86 years of age, her latest published book is GOING ASHORE, which reveals a treasure-trove of little known stories, many never before published, and some from books now out of print. Including conventional stories, satirical pieces, long short stories and short-short stories, “[the stories] and their settings, are delineated here with dramatic flair, dazzlingly precise language, dialogue that sounds in the reader’s ear, and above all, a vivid understanding of the human condition.” Fans of Mavis Gallant will love GOING ASHORE. If you haven’t read Gallant before please do so.

Two books of particular interest to Northwestern Ontario readers are: JACKFISH: The Vanishing Village, by Sarah Burns, a thought-provoking and emotionally moving story.
Jackfish may have disappeared from the map, but Burns makes it, and the narrator Clemence, unforgettable. Fort William in the 1940s is the setting for THE FACTORY VOICE, by Jeannette Lynes, and the military aircraft factory, the “lady” engineer, the Red Finns, and the geography are certainly recognizable to all interested in our community’s past. Lynes, a well-respected poet, was a Lakehead University English department faculty member for a number of years. Her most recent poetry collection is The New Blue Distance.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian writer, burst onto the literacy scene with her remarkable debut novel Purple Hibicus, followed by Half of a Yellow Sun, which is now considered a classic. In her most recent book THE THING AROUND YOUR NECK, “her most intimate and seamlessly crafted work to date, Adichie turns her penetrating eye on not only Nigeria but America, in twelve dazzling stories that explore the ties that bind men and women, parents and children, Africa and the United States.
Searing and profound, suffused with beauty, sorrow, and longing, these stories map, with Adichie’s signature emotional wisdom, the collision of two cultures and the deeply human struggle to reconcile them.”

Leona Gom, a British Columbia writer, is author of thirteen books of fiction and poetry. Her latest is THE EXCLUSION PRINCIPLE. Set in Canada and Hawaii, “Gom gives us a privileged window onto the world of astronomy. Sharp and witty, filled with perceptive observance of human nature, THE EXCLUSION PRINCIPLE evokes a singular impression of layered worlds that lingers long after the final page is turned.”

THE TOSS OF A LEMON, by Padma Viswanathan tells the story of Sivakami, a captivating Brahmin girl-child married at ten and a widowed mother of two by eighteen. Drawing inspiration from her own extraordinary family history, Padma Viswanathan takes the reader to the center of a world that was always little known beyond its borders- and is rapidly vanishing. THE TOSS OF A LEMON is heartbreaking and exhilarating, profoundly exotic and yet utterly recognizable in evoking the tensions that change brings to every family’s doorstep. January magazine says “Astonishing. Brilliant. Beautiful... Like the very best novels, at its core, THE TOSS OF A LEMON teaches us about ourselves.” Padma Viswanathan is a fiction writer, playwright and journalist from Edmonton.

Art connoisseurs and readers who were fascinated with Girl in Hyacinth Blue will be interested in Susan Vreeland’s LUNCHEON OF THE BOATING PARTY. Can Renoir’s famous painting be successfully turned into a novel? Yes, say many critics.
In LUNCHEON OF THE BOATING PARTY, Susan Vreeland, an exquisite and passionate chronicler of art throughout history, takes the reader through the process of painting by way of Renoir, the many models in the painting, and the relationships he had with them—a complex mix of paint, color, and texture as well as personalities of the myriad men and women in his life. The progress is always the main issue, revealing the artist’s difficulty and ultimately his triumph, but the models lives display such French cultural issues as the residual trauma of the Franco-Prussian war and the Commune, changes in marriage traditions, the rise of feminism, the decline of old institutions, the yearning for personal expression, and the explosion of creativity in the arts: journalism, music and literature.”

Lauded as a very entertaining and funny book is GODS BEHAVING BADLY, by Marie Phillips. Critics say: “A joyful frolic... Phillips covers all her unlikely bases with a deftly-woven toga of plausibility, making suspension of disbelief both easy and pleasurable”; “Marie Phillips’s first novel places Aphrodite, Artemis, and Apollo in the unique category of gods-who’ve-fallen-on-hard-times, with charming results”...
GODS BEHAVING BADLY is that rare thing: a charming, funny, utterly original novel that satisfies both the head and the heart.”

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