Of course, I've been reading lots of mysteries.
I recently finished Paula Hawkins' new book Into the Water. I read one review that enthused this second book was even better than Hawkins' hugely successful Girl on a Train. But I tend to agree with the somewhat less breathless praise in Alison Flood's Guardian review , or Tara Henley's review in The Toronto Star.
|Paula Hawkins source|
In this latest novel, Hawkins deals with the mystery surrounding a series of deaths by drowning, all taking place at the infamous "drowning pool," a part of the river that flows through the fictional town of Beckford, in the north of England. The latest death is the possible suicide of a woman who was obsessed with all the previous deaths, who was writing a book about them, and who lived in the old mill which straddles the river that so fascinated her. Hawkins uses her considerable writing skills to paint a vivid picture of the setting and the characters. But the plot, told from multiple points of view, all eleven narrators as utterly unreliable as the three she used to such good effect in Girl on a Train, becomes too confusing. As Flood says in her review, "there are more unreliable narrators than you can shake a stick at." Yep. Too many. The technique of using a first-person, unreliable narrator can be really effective, and suspenseful, if used wisely, as Hawkins did in Girl on a Train, which I loved. But while I liked the ideas behind this new book, Hawkins' take on historic and not so historic misogyny, for instance, I didn't love the book. Still, it is worth reading, so don't dismiss it altogether.
I've also been catching up on some of the newer books by my favourite mystery writers. I love Peter Robinson's Inspector Banks series. And When the Music's Over did not disappoint. If you're not familiar with Robinson, he's a Canadian writer, who sets his mysteries in Yorkshire where he was born. Actually, he didn't move to Canada until he had finished his undergrad degree at the University of Leeds... but he's Canadian now. And we're proud to claim him.
I love this shot of him with singer Judi Collins below. Robinson's Inspector Banks character is a great music lover. You can read a review of this latest in the Banks series here. And if you've never read Robinson, and you love well written mysteries, well... you have a treat in store for you. Actually lots of treats. This one is number twenty-three in the series. Happy reading.
|Peter Robinson with Judi Collins source|
I also finally got my hands on Ann Cleeves' newest Shetland mystery Cold Earth. I've really enjoyed all of Cleeves' novels, her Jimmy Perez stories set in Shetland, and the Vera Stanhope books set in Northumberland. I don't think her novels are as brilliant as those of Peter May; his Lewis trilogy are among my favourites. But I'm still a huge Cleeves fan. You can read an interesting interview with Ann Cleeves here, where she talks about this latest book, both of her fictional detectives, her writing career, and why she is glad that her success "did not come early."
The other book that I want to tell you about is not a mystery. It's one I read a while ago. And one that I found deeply affecting. In fact, Indian Horse by Canadian Ojibway writer Richard Wagamese is one of the best books I've read. Ever. It's a difficult book, and not one I was sure I wanted to read. But I'm so glad that I did. I think it's an important book. And one that every Canadian should read. Wagamese tells the story of a young Ojibway man named Saul Indianhorse who begins life in the northern bush. Who suffers in the residential school system that we've been hearing so much about these last few years, but about which many of us know so little beyond the headlines. And who finds escape, at least for a time, through the game of hockey. Wagamese's descriptions of Saul on the ice are sheer poetry. Of course Saul's story does not end with his success on the ice. But you should read the book yourself to find out. Wagamese writes beautifully. Indian Horse is about suffering, alcoholism, and cruelty. And it's also about friendship, love, solace, indomitable spirit, and, ultimately, redemption.
Richard Wagamese was a gifted storyteller who lived a difficult life. He battled homelessness, and alcoholism, among other things. He died this past March at age sixty-one. You can read about his life here. His books are not about politics, but they are political. Of course they are; everyone has an opinion on the situation surrounding indigenous people in our country. In his books, Wagamese makes the political personal, from a perspective that few of us non-indigenous people can understand. But we can learn at least something about that perspective if we read his books, or the books of other indigenous writers.
|Richard Wagamese source|
Countries like mine which were colonized by European settlers all have a dark past when it comes to the treatment of the indigenous peoples those settlers encountered. I think it behooves us all to know more about that distant past, and the not so distant past, the ramifications of which are very much with us today. I'm not an expert on any of this. I've toyed with the idea of writing this post for a month now. Trying to get my thoughts in order. I didn't want to get anything wrong. And if I've underplayed the tragedy in Wagamese's life, or in the lives of his characters, it's because I can't really do any of this justice. You simply have to read his words for yourself. Should read his words... for yourself.
That's what I've been up to, my friends. Reading, reading, reading. I've read some other books which I won't recommend. Some of them I didn't finish. Gasp. I know! Heresy, one might even say hypocrisy, from someone who chided kids for so many years to finish the novels I'd assigned.
But as I've grown older, I've come to the conclusion that I'm too old to read books I'm not enjoying. So. No guilt. No apologies. Back to the library they go.
You might say that I remain untucked, sometimes unread, and unrepentant. Ha.
Right now, I'm taking a break from murder and mayhem... and serious issues. I'm reading a book by Elizabeth Taylor... no, not that one. An English novelist, Taylor wrote back in the mid-twentieth century. She's kind of Barbara Pym-ish, and a bit Dorothy Whipple-ish. What's not to love? I discovered her on the Persephone Books website. You can read an article about Taylor here.
Now it's your turn... as midsummer approaches, what are you reading, my friends?