Friday, October 28, 2005

ALLIGATOR by Lisa Moore

Lisa Moore's first novel is as filmic as her short story collection OPEN. Her training as a visual artist is obvious in her acute attention to sensory detail. She inhabits each of the characters in ALLIGATOR with absolute credibility, which means she's as equally convincing as a teenaged eco-terrorist wannabe and as a middle-aged filmmaker ignoring heart trouble.

Nominated once again for the GILLER PRIZE for the best Canadian book of fiction in English, Lisa Moore's fresh style may turn the heads of this year's prize jury: Warren Cariou, Elizabeth Hay and Richard Wright.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

WOMAN IN BRONZE by Antanas Sileika

Set in Lithuania pre-WWI and then in Paris of the 1920s, the novel traces the progress of a young sculptor who wants to make his way among the talent in Montparnasse. It is an accurate portrayal of a spare artist's life and beautifully depicts the process of creating a bronze. You meet real people from that time including the fantastic Josephine Baker and the hugely talented Jacques Lipschitz (who had a solo show in Toronto at the AGO in 1989).

Monday, October 24, 2005


Leon Rooke's new book is a magical realist marvel of a novel. THE BEAUTIFUL WIFE is such a multi-layered treat-- part political expose of the Marcos regime in the Phillipines, part treatise on love and its pursuit. If you like the whimsy of Jasper Fforde (THE EYRE AFFAIR and LOST IN A GOOD BOOK), pick up this readerly romp penned by one of Canada's national treasures.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

26A by Diana Evans

26A by Diana Evans is also fabulous. It is her first novel. She uses magic realism to frame the story of identical twins Georgia and Bessie who live in London with their family. Evans wrote the book after her own identical twin committed suicide in 1998. She was looking for books that explored the special bond that twins have--couldn't find any, so wrote her own. This book won the Orange Prize for New Fiction.

Sunday, October 16, 2005


Well, I ploughed my way through DIGITAL FORTRESS this weekend. It's formulaic like Dan Brown's other novels (ANGELS AND DEMONS and THE DA VINCI CODE) and the writing is pretty ordinary, but, boy does he know how to pace a plot and tell a story! Thanks to Frank Martin who suggested I read it in the first place. It's a little like a palate cleansing sorbet. Now I'm ready to tackle Tolstoy.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Shyam Selvadurai's new novel SWIMMING IN THE MONSOON SEA explores cultural differences experienced by a Sri Lankan teenager who feels like an outsider, partially because he is orphaned and partially because he is worried about belonging at an all boys' school. His is a fresh approach to the coming of age novel tradition for YA readers.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

THE ICARUS GIRL by Helen Oyeyemi

THE ICARUS GIRL (finished by Nigerian-born Cambridge-eductated Helen Oyeyemi before her 19th birthday!) explores the split that people feel when they straddle two cultures--always outsiders. In this case, the main character Jessamy (who is 8 or 9 years old) invents a perfect companion for herself, a doppleganger of sorts, called Tilly-Tilly. Tilly-Tilly pushes Jess to behave in ways she otherwise wouldn't. I think it gestures to mental illness quite cleverly. (The myth of Icarus which lends its name to the book's title shows Icarus building wings fashioned with wax--when he flies too close to the sun, they melt and he plumets to his watery grave.) I met Helen Oyeyemi at the PEN fall benefit in October. She is charming and modest. All the more reason to read her book.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


Michael Helm's recent novel IN THE PLACE OF LAST THINGS explores one man's journey after the death of his father. Russ Littlebury travels tremendous distances both geographically and psychologically in this profound story. Helm "explores the nature of violence, conversion and loss and the uneasy consolations of faith and love."

Saturday, October 01, 2005


Gibb's new novel takes place in politically unstable Ethiopia in the 70s and conservative Thatcherite London of the 80s. It is a rich cultural tale of protagonist Lilly, a white Muslim woman, who is always an outsider. Gibb recounts the horror that unfolds in Ethiopia with Haile Selassie's dethroning and the famine that envelops the country. Later, an exile in London, Lilly advocates for refugees while refusing to face truths about herself. This story of cultural displacement and assimilation rings true. SWEETNESS IN THE BELLY is short-listed for this year's Scotiabank Giller Prize.