Considering I am essentially unemployed, and considering we’ve been camping for the past two weekends (with another shorter trip coming up this weekend), I’ve been doing a lot of reading. The past two books have been so night and day I thought I’d write some quick recommendations.
The first book. Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay.
I love Canadian Literature. I’m proud of my fellow Canadians and what we can do with words. Some of my favourite books are written by Canadians who seriously know what they’re doing and make it up as they go if they don’t. But this one? I have no idea why it won the Giller Prize. It’s pretty quintessentially Canadian: the great white north, grizzly bears, canoe trips over icy lakes, and all that. The book took on the exact identity that I was always glad Canadian literature grew out of. I found it dull, the characters boring or annoying, the landscape vast and empty and boring. I suppose if you enjoy man-vs.-nature stories, you might enjoy the second half of the book, anyway. But 20 pages in, the book became a slog and I couldn’t wait to finish it.
White is for Witch by Helen Oyeyemi, on the other hand, is a confusing twist of delight from start to finish.
It’s impossible to understand what’s going on but you don’t care because the characters grab you, the language draws you in, the movement of the story keeps you engaged. Important plot points reveal themselves throughout, information that suddenly sheds new understanding on the 80 pages you’ve already read. I mainly read this book over the weekend, while attending a family campout. I was fortunate that this particular campout was pretty low-key and no one was offended that I spent a large portion of the days with my nose buried in the book. It’s a book that makes you want to be there from start to finish.
To give you an idea of the difference between these two books: it took me almost 2 weeks to finish Late Nights on Air. White is for Witching I started on Wednesday on a subway trip to visit a friend of mine downtown. I finished it this morning — not even a week. And, when I go to the library later this week, I’m going to do something I haven’t done since I was a child: I’m going to find another book by the same author. Who knows, maybe I’ll discover a new answer to the question, “Who’s your favourite author?”