The Movie is Here in Thunder Bay. Don't Miss it.

The Movie is Here  in Thunder Bay. Don't Miss it.
Indian Horse, the movie based on the book by Richard Wagamese

Friday, December 12, 2014

God, I love a good book. And 2014 has been a great year even though I read only eighty-six books  rather than the ninety plus.  Here, in no particular order, are my top ten favourites.

1.The Son by Philip Myer. A Texas western with ranches, oil, Comanches, greed, betrayal and violence. This a sweeping book covering two centuries and includes the downfall of the Commanches and the Mexican settlers, the influx of whites, the destruction of the Texas range.  The characters are superb mainly centring on a single family. Peter is the conscience and Eli represents the hard men who triumphed using violence. The character of Jeanne Ann is nuanced, showing the internal pressures on a woman trying to rise in business in a man’s world.

2.  The Shadow Queen by Sandra Gulland. A good straightforward historical. Mme de Montespan becomes King Loius XIV’s mistress and takes in a young  actress from a travelling troupe.  

3.The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith aka J. K. Rowling. I love a good mystery and this is one of the best. What more can you ask than a great plot and fascinating characters, in this case a curmudgeon detective, Cormoront Strike and his sweet secretary, Robin, who also wants to be a detective.  Robin becomes more assertive and this affects her relationship with her selfish boyfriend. Grumpy Cormorant becomes a bit more empathetic.  Danger lurks. Rowling also takes a few good slams at literary critics who romanticize violence and gore.

4. The Train to Warsaw by Gwen Edelman. An elderly couple go to Warsaw.  Both are survivors of the Warsaw ghetto. They are imprisoned in memories and, at first, refuse to go out of the hotel room. He, a writer, invited to speak to a prestigious gathering, lambasts the Polish crowd for their anti-Semitism. The book is written in short vignettes, without an attempt to give each a witty or ironic twist as so often happens in this style of novel.  The vignettes slowly build a picture of their past lives.

5. Sweetland by Michael Crummy Moses Sweetland refuses to leave the Newfoundland island which has been crippled by the loss of the commercial fishery. As the remaining residents take the government compensation package, Sweetland schemes and dreams to stay on in the community where his family has lived for twelve generations but, cut off from the outside world, surrounded by memories, he needs all his guile and strength to survive. This book affected me deeply.  I stayed up until past three to finish it. So be warned. The next day I reread the powerful ending chapter.  A masterpiece.

6.Plainsong by Kent Haruf A mesmerizing book about a few characters in the small prairie town of Holt. Lyrical writing tells great stories in a compassionate manner. I enjoyed this book very much.

7.Hologram for the King by Dave Eggars. Another masterpiece. A 54 year old washed up Death of a Salesman type is in Saudi with his team to sell a hologram to the king. His former jobs were taken over by the Chinese and this one will too. But meanwhile, memorable scenes in which the inept protagonist trys to bolster his confidence and carry on. Sad, sharp, terrifying.

8.A.D. New Orleans After the Deluge by Josh Neufield. A graphic novel. Excellent book which follows several characters as they live through Katrina and the flood. The Convention Centre figures prominently where thousands, including hundreds of children, were placed and left without food or water. The military came by but gave them nothing. Those who tried to leave were turned back at gunpoint.  Finally the gang members broke into local stores, scavenging for supplies and taking the initiative in distributing them. This is a different story from the one unusually told of the streets being controlled by gangs.

9.A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes. This is a classic, written in 1929. It is considered one of the top 100 books written in English.  Children captured by pirates.  Death and fun on the pirate ship.  A sinister pall carries the story from one extraordinary scene to the next. It is an original and amazing work of art. Like the children, I was captivated. 

10. Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood. Marvelous stories, each one a gem. The best is the last, “Torching the Dusties” The world is sick of the old folks who use up too many resources after a lifetime of screwing up the environment. Various groups want to kill them all and the protagonist, a woman in the targeted old people’s home, wryly considers the situation while her beau, an old arthritic romantic Hungarian, plans their escape. Recently an article in the Atlantic suggested one should not live past 75 and a surprising number of readers agree. As usual Atwood touches a nerve.

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