• Books 8-11

    Posted by Matthew McCarthy, 5 years ago

    Michael Ondaatje

    - Book #8: The Diviners by Margaret Laurence

    Margaret Laurence's The Diviners is the last of her Manawaka novels -- and her last novel ever published; with this said, The Diviners is undoubtedly her best.

    The Diviners is told through the memories of Morag Gunn -- an aging writer finishing her last novel -- who's digging up her past through a series of "Memory Bank Movies." Throughout these movies we learn of Morag's tough upbringing in Manawaka and her quest for identity, knowledge and her true home through the following years.

    An ambitious, thoroughly Canadian novel touching on the ideas of memory, home, the challenging of history and post-colonialism. While The Diviners is a thick read and at times boring, I have to say I would recommend it to anyone looking to read one of the very best Canadian novels ever published; a novel that ranks up there with The Edible Woman, The Favourite Game and Fifth Business for me when it comes to great Canadian fiction. [4/5]

    - Book #9: Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

    So this will be the second Atwood novel I've read in about a year -- the first being The Edible Woman. While The Edible Woman is more of a commentary on consumer culture (it almost reminds me of a feminist version of DeLillo's White Noise), Alias Grace is at the other end of the spectrum entirely as it is historical fiction.

    With Grace Marks, Atwood creates a memorable character -- not unlike other protagonists she has created in the past. Alias Grace is a bewildering gothic tale of gender ideology, murder, the historical, and the fictitious. It definitely is a novel that will stay with you long after you have finished it, and offers more questions than answers.

    Great read; I'd recommend it to anyone who is a fan of Atwood, Canadian fiction or historical fiction in general. A good novel for discussion as well. [4/5]

    - Book #10: The Donut: A Canadian History by Steve Penfold

    The Donut is definitely an interesting look at the cultural history of Canada and how studying the donut -- a seemingly banal product -- can be used to explain larger trends in consumer culture. A bit mundane at times, but anyone who loves coffee and donuts (who doesn't?) will find some value in this book. [3/5]

    - Book #11: Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje

    Michael Ondaatje's Running in the Family is definitely not your typical memoir; Ondaatje writes his return to Sri Lanka in such a way that fact and fiction are blended together so perfectly, coupled with a poetic prose and descriptions of an immaculate landscape. Running in the Family may only be 174 pages, but for such a small book it is bursting with life -- almost making you wish it just a bit longer.

    Some people could be a bit turned off by the disjointed nature of the book as it is filled with so many different characters and riddled with poems, notes, and dialogue. However, Ondaatje's ability to depict the world of Sri Lanka makes the reader never want to leave.

    Ondaatje puts other writes to shame. A great read. [4/5]

    - I'm currently reading The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen.

Comments on this post:
  • 5 years ago

    What a feast of Canadian reading! Your reviews are very insightful - I await your thoughts on The Corrections, a book I read several years ago but still remember well.

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  • Kay

    5 years ago

    Interesting reads. The Donut will definitely be on my to read list. I read Alias Grace last year. I must admit that I am always hesitant to pick up one of Atwood`s novels. Her topics variy so much and I have found that it is either a real hit or a give away. Alias Grace was on my list of hits. I am not an Atwood fan but I will continue to read both the old and new because when you find a hit all the give aways are forgotten. I would give Alias Grace 4/5.

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  • ChrisM

    • Top Book Reviewer

    5 years ago

    I'll look forward to hearing your thoughts about The Corrections.

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  • 5 years ago

    I've read a lot of Atwood but not Alias Grace so I will have to add it to my TBR. Being a Manitoba girl, Laurence holds a special place in my heart. I have read the Diviners as well as her other books and do enjoy her insight. A bit of trivia, some of the filming of the Diviners was done in the town where I live. It's a small town so it was a big deal! Thanks for the Canadian content.

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  • Bookmason

    • Top List Publisher

    5 years ago

    Wow three books I haven't read in years, Diviners back in high school 30+.

    One I don't need to read, if every Canadian was like me Tim's would be in receivership as I can't remember last time I had a donut and at 50, have only ever drank coffee very early in the morning when going fishing with my brother. Pardon me that was Bailey's warmed by a little coffee!

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  • 5 years ago

    I know I might be deported for saying this, but I just can’t make myself like any of the Canadian authors listed above. I keep feeling like I should give them another chance, it has been a while since I forced myself to get through them in high school… Thoughts anyone? Does age/maturity lead to a better appreciation of these authors?

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  • Lisa Voss

    • Chapters Employee

    5 years ago

    Alias Grace is one of my favourite Atwood novels. I've read all of Margaret Laurence as well and probably liked The Diviners the best.

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