Winner of 2017 Giller Prize

Winner of 2017 Giller Prize
Michael Redhill for his novel Bellevue Square

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

My notso books of 2012


I read a lot this year and alas, ran into several clunkers,  books that just did not grab me and yet I slugged away at them, always hopeful, on and on.  A couple of these novels won awards and most were well reviewed, but somehow that mystical connection between the reader and the page did not occur..As well, I started several other books but slammed them shut after a good try, at least 50 pages.  These latter shall remain nameless. 

 1. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver.  I love Kingsolver’s novels including her latest, “Flight Behaviour.”  The ‘Poisonwood Bible” remains an all time favourites. But sorry to say, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” was tedium unleashed. The gushing over every shoot and vegetable, the self righteous drone of “we grow our own food,” (and you don’t, is the implication), the lack of information about what they eat for breakfast, the rosy beauty of a rhubarb stalk and so on.  The eggs hatch.  Oh the high drama. O please.  We have lost touch with our food, pontificates Barbara. Few know that food comes from the ground. I lost touch with this book from the second page. 

2. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes A long meditation about an old girl friend, (Veronica) a friend (Adrian) who committed suicide and a long ago sexual muddle where the mother of the girl friend has an affair with Adrian and produces a son who is developmentally delayed. Subsequently Adrian commits suicide.  Why the narrator is involved years later is not clear and why the former girl friend is so angry is not clear either. As I tried to piece together the plot, it dissolved and faded away.

 3. Infrared by Nancy Huston I put this book aside close to the end after several long sex scenes and some violent sex.  I found the round heeled protagonist uninteresting and not believable.

4. The House at Riverton by Kate Morton Nothing can exceed the tedium of this book, the slow pace and the attention to mind-numbing details of every sort, including the minute steps necessary to turn on a tape recorder.  There is no plot, just plod.  A few hints of family secrets are tossed out as crumbs to lead us on. But after a tsunami of details about the village butcher shop, I closed the covers forever.

5. The Pleasures of Men by Kate Williams.  Hard to describe how bad this book is.  I was led on by the colourful writing and the hints to a dark secret in the protagonist’s past but then it all melts into blurble, blood madness, stupid coincidences, ruinous and silly psychological states, little if any sensible conversation and no closure as hint after hint is dropped into a morass of historical inaccuracy. 

6. Texas Lucky by Sandra Brown.  Brown churns out the romance and sells book after book.  This book, the first in her Texas trilogy, is notable for its steamy sex scenes, its pitiful plot, its easily solved mystery and its conservative take on marriage, adultery. Phrases such as “rough masculine laughter” etc. made me laugh and wince at the same time. 

7. The Purchase by Linda Spalding Another GG which left me cold.  I would love to read this story if I had not to wade knee deep in Can lit blurble.  People stop and think a lot even when they are starving.  Just not believable.

8. Bride of New France by Suzanne Desrochers  Perhaps it was the translation.  The main character is poorly defined. We are told she is brave but her actions are all passive and weak.  The moaning and wailing never let up.  Not one good thing happens to this frail frail.

9. The Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollinghurst. I loved Hollinghurst's novel “The Line of Beauty,” but this one is much slower.  A lot slower.  The long first section details a dreary Brit snobbish dinner. Deadly. A Brideshead Revisited feel hangs over the thing like an evil cloud.  The conservative outlook, the harking back to better times, the aristocratic Downton Abbey snobbery, all there, annoyingly.  The author drops little hints of future events into each chapter and so you keep reading chapter after chapter, decade after decade,  to find out – what? Something. Anything.


 

 

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