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I started to write this post in July and promptly forgot all about it while I dithered over the book pool for this challenge – but never mind, got there in the end!


So I’ve already mentioned elsewhere that I signed up for this challenge, which I have to say I’m really looking forward to as I have been fascinated by Canada and things Canadian since I was quite young; I’ve no idea why, but there you are. Some of my favourite bands are Canadian (Rush, Barenaked Ladies) and I’ve read quite a few authors, most of whom will be represented on my reading list.

The challenge is – starting (well, started) July 1st, 2008 and running to July 1st, 2009 – to read (and write about) 13 Canadian books (by Canadians and/or about Canadians).

I’ve been pondering my booklist, and have come up with the following:

1. A Celibate Season by Carol Shields and Blanche Howard

2. Pilgrim by Timothy Findley

3. Garbo Laughs by Elizabeth Hay

4. The Onion Girl by Charles de Lint

5. Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood

6. For Your Eye Alone: The Letters of Robertson Davies

7. The Glenn Gould Reader

8. After Edgar by Joan Barfoot

9. The Diviners by Margaret Laurence

10. Runaway by Alice Munro

11. Neuromancer by William Gibson

12. Hey Nostradamus by Douglas Coupland

13. Strange Things by Margaret Atwood

These are all books that were kicking around the house, it was just a question of gathering them up. Now all I have to do is start to read!

The Terror is my first Dan Simmons novel, and I have to say that I’m really very impressed. I wasn’t at all sure what to expect, but found the story really gripping and I read what is a fairly chunky book (at over 750 pages) in pretty quick time for me.

So this is based on the true story of Sir John Franklin’s expedition to find the North West Passage in the 1840s, an attempt that failed with the apparent loss of the crews of the two ships involved, The Erebus and The Terror. Over the years it has become clear that the ships had become stuck in the ice and that the men succumbed to scurvy, starvation, botulism and lead poisoning, the latter from the poorly soldered cans in which much of their food was provided. Dan Simmons builds all this into his tale, but adds a little something extra – what if there was also something out on the ice stalking the men, picking them off, something not natural….?

I couldn’t tear myself away from this, picking it up at every spare moment to find out what was going to happen next. The story is told from the viewpoints of several of the main characters, almost all based on real crew members; this works really well. There is a real sense of foreboding in the novel and the sensation that even the widest of wide-open spaces can be oppressive when you can’t get away. I even enjoyed all the detail about ship-board life, the difference between whaleboats and pinnaces, and I now know much more about the effects of scurvy than I probably wanted to! I also know a little bit more about Inuit mythology than I did before. I found the resolution satisfying, and the mixture of historical fiction and horror worked well, so recommended.

This is my first read for the RIP III challenge.

An Incomplete Revenge is the fifth Maisie Dobbs mystery, and maintains the high quality of the series. It is 1931 and Maisie is asked by the son of her former employers to investigate the circumstances around a series of petty thefts and fires in a Kent village where he is intending to buy a brick works. With the help of her assistant who is in the area hop-picking with his family she uncovers the circumstances surrounding a Zeppelin raid in 1916 which has cast a shadow over the community.

I really enjoyed this, as I always do with the Maisie Dobbs stories as I find her such a sympathetic figure. I could see where the story was generally heading, but not the detail around it; this is the second crime novel in recent weeks where that has happened (perhaps I’m reading too many of them) but I don’t mind that really, as long as the novel is well-written and I have an interest in the characters.

I found descriptions of the travelling people (or Romany or gypsies) fascinating, and what we learn about Maisie through her interaction with them really develops her as a character; it is interesting to see how little has changed really in terms of the suspicion and prejudice these people come across wherever they go.

If you haven’t read any of these novels before I wouldn’t start with this one as there is an arc story in the background which reaches a partial conclusion here; they are so lightly written (in a good way) with a lot of compassion and humanity that I would recommend reading the the whole series from the start.

Bride of the Book God

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Scottish, in my fifties, love books but not always able to find the time to read them as much as I would like. I’m based in London and happily married to the Book God.

I also blog at Bride of the Screen God (all about movies and TV) and The Dowager Bride, if you are interested in ramblings about stuff of little consequence

If you would like to get in touch you can contact me at brideofthebookgod (at) btinternet (dot) com.

The Sunday


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September 2008