And now for a quick review of a duo of novels that I didn't quite love as much as others have -- even if both of their covers are gorgeous. Both feature strong women at midlife and the messiness of mother-child dynamics, friendships, lust/love and much more.
Ellen in Pieces / Caroline Adderson
Toronto: HarperCollins, c2014.
Ellen McGinty is the mother of two grown daughters, and is at the point in her life where she is ready to do whatever she wants. This story takes a brash, opinionated, mature woman who has no more f*ks left to give, and follows her through her relationships - with her children, her father, her new young lover, her long-standing female friends - until she receives a grim diagnosis. You don't often see this kind of woman in fiction, and I appreciated Adderson's skill at character development. The exposure of the faults & fissures of adult friendships was another strong point. I also really loved her style and her writing itself.
However, I didn't really warm to Ellen and while I thought this was a clever and fresh novel, I also felt a bit distanced from it. It feels a little like a novel in stories, which isn't always my own favourite style, and so my final sense of it was that I liked it but I probably won't read it again. Unlike other readers, such as Kerry Clare, who rave about it very eloquently. You'll have to judge for yourself!
(ps - I really loved Adderson's earlier novel, The Sky is Falling, much more)
The Opening Sky / Joan Thomas
Toronto: McLelland & Stewart, c2014.
This is a beautiful cover for a book with a premise that promised much. But it really didn't work for me; a little too long, and a little too uneventful.
It's set in Winnipeg, in a fairly privileged family; a self-satisfied middle-aged couple with the usual middle-aged marriage complaints, a daughter full of promise & just beginning her life as a university student...and her unexpected pregnancy.
This throws the family into turmoil both because it is rather shameful for her therapist father & Sex Ed Resource Centre manager mother, and because Sylvie & her boyfriend are both eco-warriors who had planned never to reproduce.
There are lots of questions to ponder in this book, but the lecture-y feel of some of the ecological themes was a bit distracting, as was the frequent insertion of the meaning of words/ideas etc. that the characters are thinking about. Also, the parents of both Sylvie & her boyfriend are unbearably smug despite the secrets and history they have together. (It's those secrets from the past that were the most interesting part of the story). So while objectively this is an intriguing idea for a book, it was just not the one for me.