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Posts Tagged ‘The Deep’

Twenty days into Novellas in November. The reading was a bit slower over the past ten days. I blame work. However, I did still manage to get 3 books finished. First, I picked up The Book of Proper Names by Amelie Nothomb, because it had been recommended on Twitter by Dan Rhodes (author of Gold, Little Hands Clapping, This is Life, and many more) whose books I adore. The Book of Proper Names is a darkly comic book about names, family, and destiny. The protagonist is a girl named Plectrude who has a tragic start to life, but is adopted by her aunt and uncle, and dreams of being a ballet dancer. I enjoyed the book, but I still prefer Dan Rhodes, who is a master at blending the odd, the funny, and the melancholy. You should all read Gold. 4 Stars to The Book of Proper Names.

Then my order of Mary Swan’s The Deep arrived, and I dove right in. This early novella of Swan’s uses the same polyvocal technique that she uses in her 2008 novel The Boys in the Trees. That book breaks my heart. It is an incredible meditation on community, family, and despair: a discourse on the things we can never know about each other. This novella is the story of twin sisters volunteering near the front lines in France in 1918. Swan uses the polyvocal narrative to create suspense, as the narratives of the sisters are basically contemporary to their war experience or recollections of their earlier lives, but the narratives of the others are memories told of the sisters. The story is interesting, but I found the sisters to be less compelling than they should have been. Swan has an incredible way with imagery, but (unsurprisingly, as this is an earlier work) the story doesn’t pack as much emotional punch as The Boys in the Trees. I would recommend that one as my favourite of her works. 4 stars to The Deep.

And finally, I decided to reread Shopgirl by Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin). It’s been almost 15 years since I first read the book, but I am still surprised at the skill with which Martin manages to distill emotional meaning into the smallest details. The story is charming, but it also addresses complex questions in terms of the growth of its characters. I love the fact that each of the characters comes to (sometimes unpleasant) realizations about the way they treat themselves and other people. It was an absolute joy to return to this novella. Of course, before it’s time for the next reread, I will definitely be watching the film again.

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