Archive for March, 2011

Water for Elephants

People have been recommending this book to me for ages. But I thought I wouldn’t like it because I hate circuses. But I decided to give it a go, and what do you know… Water for Elephants  by Sara Gruen (published by HarperCollins) is a fantastic book. Mea Culpa! I never once wanted to put it down without finishing it. (And I seem to do that alot these days, give up on a book before I’m finished.) Jacob Jankowski is a veterinary student at Cornell University who is forced to give up his dream of working with his father when his parents are killed in an accident and he has to quit medical school. This is the depression era and Jacob discovers that his parents put all their money into sending him to school so there’s no money left for anything, even the house he lived in is now owned by the bank. He walks away from the life he knows and ends up hitching a ride on a circus train where he manages to prove himself as a Vet, becoming an integral part of this rag-tag bunch of misfits. It’s a rough, dirty life and there’s no end of infighting and hatred among the workers and the performers as they move from town to town trying to make a buck and stay employed so they can have 3 meals a day. And Jacob will do anything for his 2 loves – Rosie the elephant and Marlena the star of the show’s equestrian act. Part of the story is told by Jacob when he’s 90 or 93 (he’s not exactly sure how old he is) and it confined to a wheel chair in a nursing home. When he learns that the circus is going to perform just down the street from the home, memories of travelling with the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth surface and he’s determined to get to the show to relive a few precious moments of his past. Gruen has written a really great book, and hey – she went to university in Ottawa. How about that. And they’ve made a movie out of the book for those of you who are interested. Will I go see it – no way. I hate movies based on books almost as much as I hate circuses.

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Finally! – A new book by Robert Rotenberg

I’ve been waiting for ages to read another book by Robert Rotenberg. Remember he wrote that great mystery set in Toronto called Old City Hall. Well apparently I don’t have to wait much longer. His new book, The Guilty Plea, is set to hit bookstores at the beginning of May.  I can’t wait!

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One Day

One Day by David Nicholls (published by Vintage Contemporaries) is a huge sleeper hit in Britain. Apparently everyone, young and old, is reading it on the tube, in coffee shops, just about everywhere. I knew nothing about this book before reading about it in the newspaper. I ventured out to my favourite local bookshop and was able to get one of the only two remaining copies. Apparently it was flying off the shelf. My book is print run #11. That alone says something. This is the story of Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew, two young Brits who spend one day together, July 15, 1988. Even though they just met, they can’t stop thinking about each other. The story unfolds from there, with every chapter being what happens in their lives on July 15th for the next 20 years. They loose touch with each other, reunite and become best friends, part again, have squabbles and fights, (it’s a real on-again off-again friendship) and eventually… I’m not going to tell you any more, simply because I hate it when people review a book and give it all away. It’s a very, very touching story. Nicholls is a great writer, and it’s interesting how someone so young (he looks young in the cover photo) can write a story that appeals to readers of every age. Loved it!

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Started Early, Took My Dog

I love everything about Started Early, Took My Dog: A Novel (published by Random House)… the title (it’s fantastic!), the cover (it’s beautiful), the deckle edge of the paper, and especially the writing. Kate Atkinson is a favourite author of mine. When I heard she had a new book out there I couldn’t wait to get it. But I didn’t want to read it right away because I wanted to savour the fact that it was sitting waiting to be read (weird yes, but I’ve discovered lots of avid readers do this). I finally decided that the time was right (it could have had something to do with mid-winter doldrums). Inspector Jackson Brodie is back again – and he’s the one with the dog. He stole the dog. That’s all I’ll say about the dog. Add to this, Tracy Waterhouse (recently retired from the police force), currently security chief at the Merrion Centre in Leeds. She buys a child with a wad of cash she just took out of the bank that was destined for the contractor who’s redoing her kitchen. So Brodie steels a dog and Tracey buys a child. Both witness terrible acts of brutality against their new found “possessions”. Their consciences wouldn’t allow them to bypass the events without doing something, something very unconventional I’ll say for 2 former police officers. Anyway, this sets the tone for the story that unfolds – Brodie is on a trail, with his new pooch, trying to track down the birth parents of a client he has who currently lives in Australia. And Tracy’s life changes on a dime the minute she takes Courtney’s little hand and leads her away from a nasty piece of business who Tracy didn’t think was fit to be anywhere near a child. Tracy is on the lam, and Brodie in on the hunt. It sounds weird, but it’s not. It’s exceptionally creative. Atkinson is such a great writer, her stories are always amazingly well crafted. And her exceptionally dry British wit shines through so often in this book – I actually laughed out loud at times.  All I can say is … read this book! And then read her others that star Jackson Brodie. They’re all fantastic.

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Thought Du Jour

From the column Social Studies by Michael Kesterton in The Globe & Mail a wonderful quote:

When I was 10, I read fairy tales in secret… Now that I am 50 I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things including the fear of childishness.”

British author C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)

Read this daily column if you can find it online. It’s a potpourri of interesting info that is a welcome diversion from all that nasty news out there. And his “Thought du Jour” is always good.

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