Thursday, August 16, 2007

LIPSTICK JUNGLE by Candace Bushnell (2005)

The SEX AND THE CITY guru has spun a similar tale of powerful 40-something women in this novel essentially about greed. Nico is a publishing maven having an affair with a Calvin Klein underwear model at least a decade younger than she is; Victory, a hot fashion designer dating a billionaire and Wendy a movie mogul and wannabe supermom whose handsome husband stays at home to raise the kids and spend her money on essentials like a pony from the Palm Beach Polo Club for their twelve year old daughter.

I had at least hoped for wit in LIPSTICK JUNGLE, like some of the bantering between Samantha and Miranda on the HBO series that made Bushnell a millionaire, but there was nary a guffaw.

I'm not sure I'll even bother tuning in to the upcoming tv series starring Brooke Shields to see if the screenwriters have doctored the script.

BE NEAR ME by Andrew O'Hagan (2006)

I've been a fan of O'Hagan's fiction since OUR FATHERS and quickly grabbed PERSONALITY when it was released and now BE NEAR ME which is the most sophisticated narrative of the three. It is O'Hagan's deftness with diction, dialogue and character development that makes BE NEAR ME such a compelling read.

Middle-aged RC priest Father David Anderton has a small parish in Scotland where he is viewed as an outsider, having been raised in Yorkshire and schooled at Oxford. He befriends local troublemaking teens Mark and Lisa and tries to open up their world by guiding them through unimaginable experiences (to them) like taking a boat to Ailsa Craig, a bird sanctuary beyond their ken.

Father David is haunted by his past sadness and in a daring moment of a kiss, time bends in on itself and he finds himself struggling for belief in a faithless age.

Monday, August 13, 2007

DIVISADERO by Michael Ondaatje (2007)

Anna and her foundling "twin" Claire are raised by their father alongside Coop, an orphan from a neighbouring farm in California in the 1950s. When a brutal act of violence splits the makeshift family, Anna reinvents herself and it is her story we follow primarily to the present where she is researching the life work of a French writer Lucien Segura in a rural village in the south of France. Time folds in on itself and bends backwards.

Coop[er] also skips town and becomes a talented gambler, but his life in such a fast lane is problematic. It is only Claire who seems to truly move forward in her life trajectory as an assistant to a criminal lawyer.

BIrds are everywhere in DIVISADERO, symbols of wish fulfilment and the dream of escape.

BY THE TIME YOU READ THIS by Giles Blunt (2006)

Giles Blunt's most recent Detective Cardinal mystery raises the stakes when Cardinal is called to the scene of an apparent suicide and discovers his wife Catherine was the jumper. A talented photographer and a woman who has suffered and struggled with depression, in some ways it is not surprising, albeit truly a shock, that she has killed herself. However, something does not sit right with Cardinal. In spite of his grief he resolves to find out who could have pushed Catherine over the edge both literally and metaphorically. What he discovers through forensics and common sense is a whole new terrifying kind of criminal.


I saw this loopy mystery advertised in the Sunday New York Times and had to pick it up because I loved Kaplow's earlier book ME AND ORSON WELLES. His latest offering is high satire and ripe parody of the storytelling styles of Danielle Steel, Curtis Sittenfeld, Tom Clancy, Sue Grafton and Stephen King. Each writer is swiftly murdered in a manner typically endured by victims in their own novels. Kaplow playfully skewers Steve Martin, Gerard Depardieu, Cole Porter and Michiko Kakatani, among other pop cultural icons. If you're ready for distraction and laugh out loud capers, pick up WHO'S KILLING THE GREAT WRITERS OF AMERICA.

HOME SCHOOLING by Carol Windley (2006)

This short story collection made it to last year's shortlist for the Giller Prize, and having read all of the stories I find it difficult to believe that the book didn't win. Windley's stories are haunting and in each narrative characters confront sorrow and longing. The descriptive detail is exquisite and evocative and Windley's ability to honor the ordinariness of life puts her in league with Carol Shields and Alice Munro.