Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snow Day. . .

Well, maybe for you.  I have to trudge down to the convention centre later today and set up our booth for the Ontario Library Association Conference - to all those resilient librarians who are coming to the show, safe travels and we'll see you there.  For those lucky enough to be able to stay at home - what a great day to hunker down on the couch with a cozy blanket and a good book.  It's definitely better to view the cold and snow from indoors, or inside some fictional pages.  If I could stay at home, here's what I'd be taking down from my shelves and re-reading.

Aurorarama by Jean-Christophe Valtat.  
This was one of my fall Dewey picks and a book completely outside of my usual reading habits, but I absolutely loved it. Set in the far north in a utopian city called New Venice, ice and snow are a constant, but often beautiful part of everyday life. Part steampunk and part fantasy with a very modern sensibility and commentary on contemporary global problems, above all the novel is a great adventure story. Think Philip Pullman for adults (more sex and drugs), and add in suffragettes, a mystical Polar kangaroo and even zombies (former polar explorers who perished trying to find the North Pole and are damned if anyone else will get there).  But most of all, I loved the clever play with language and the sophisticated humour. Can't wait for the sequel.

Alex Good reviewed the book on his blog here.  I found this paragraph particularly interesting.

If I could supply another label of my own to go with some of the others that have been thrown at it, I would like to call Aurorarama a great Canadian novel. Not just because the hero hails from Nova Scotia, or because New Venice itself seems to be located somewhere in our icy waters, but for the book's sensibility. The ménage of Old World and native peoples, the "poletics" of British understatement and noblesse cross-bred with French passive aggression, the survivalist/garrison mentality of New Venice, and the various nods to polar explorers (those giants of our own national unconscious), combined with all of the richness of its mythical thinking, give Valtat's work as much the feel of an imaginative guide to CanLit as an alternative pre-modern history. I think it perfectly fair and justified that we claim this Frenchman writing in English and published in the U.S. as one of our own.
Henning Mankell's YA series:

Most people know Mankell as a great crime writer and count me as a fan too.  But I became completely entranced by his series of YA books set in a small Swedish town and following several years of Joel Gustafson's teenage life.  He's had to grow up fast. His mother abandoned the family and his father, a former sailor has become an alcoholic as a result. Joel has to take care of him and himself as well. But the one thing Joel has is a great imagination - both a gift and a curse.  He can see the magic in the woods surrounding him, in the way that light and shadows fall on the snow, and he makes friends with an odd assortment of characters, usually those shunned by the community. As Joel gets older, he has to evaluate his imaginative gifts and decide if he wants to embrace them, or if they will hold him back from the realities and challenges of impending adulthood.  The writing is superb and very moving.  All the books work as stand-alones, but if you want to read them in chronological order, here is the list:

True Deceiver by Tove Jansson, translated by Thomas Teal
Oh, how I love this short but so compellingly creepy novel,  and a lot of that has to do with the continuous snow that keeps falling on this small community throughout, adding a really sinister touch. It's the story of a complicated relationship between an elderly children's book illustrator and the young woman who comes to help her with errands, and slowly insinuates herself into her life. Even the dog is a bit mad.  Definitely a stay-in, shivery type of book.

1 comment:

Deanna McFadden said...

Agreed. Tove J. book is perfect for a snow day. Love that novel.