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Book of the Day: The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

Sunday, Jan 06, 2013 at 9:04am

Juan Gabriel Vasquez is an author to watch. He came onto my radar last year after I heard him speak with Eleanor Wachtel on CBC's Writers and Company. Since then I've had The Informers and The Secret History of Costaquana on my reading list. Now I'm anxious to read The Sound of Things Falling which has recently been released in English translation. I'm particularly keen after reading the Winnipeg Free Press call it a masterpiece in their weekend books pages.

Set in Columbia in 2009 in the city of Bogota, The Sound of Things Falling tells the story of Antonio Yammara who reads in a magazine about the hunting down of a hippopotamus that escaped from Pablo Escobar's zoo in the Magdalena valley. The article takes him back to the mid-1990s and a time when the war between Escobar's Medellin cartel and government forces played out violently in Columbia's streets and forests and in the skies above.

Back then Yammara, a disaffected young lawyer, used to while away long afternoons playing billiards with Ricardo Laverde, a solitary man with a shady past. One day Ricardo shows up with a cassette tape and shortly afterwards is shot dead on the street by an assassin on the back of a motorbike. So begins the mystery that haunts Antonio until it becomes an obsession.

Setting out to understand what happened and why, Antonio discovers that many ways in which his own life has been touched and shaped by his country's recent past. His inquiries lead him all the way back to the 1960s and a world on the brink of change: a time before narco-trafficking trapped a whole generation in a living nightmare of violence and fear.

For those readers who have already discovered Vasquez this new novel appears to live up to high expectations. For new readers, including at least one bookseller at McNally Robinson, the new book does indeed signal another great writer to add to your list.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, New Releases, Literature, Book of the Day

Book of the Day: Born Weird by Andrew Kaufman

Sunday, Jan 06, 2013 at 9:03am

$22.95 Add to Cart

There are quite a few fans of Andrew Kaufman among the booksellers of McNally Robinson. We were impressed with and have been continually recommending both his novels All My Friends are Superheroes and The Waterproof Bible.

You can imagine, then, how excited we are to announce the arrival of Kaufman's new book, Born Weird. The titles of his books are your best clue to what the work of this Toronto writer is all about: it's bizarre, but delightfully so. In Born Weird Annie Weird blesses each one of her five grandchildren with a special power. but over the years these so-called blessings seem more like a curse.

The book was reviewed in several places this past weekend including the Winnipeg Free Press whose reviewer found the new book, well, too weird. The reviewers in both the Globe and Mail and National Post were more positive in their assessments though the former called the book "far too cheery for Canlit" -- that's an interesting and whole different discussion but suffice it to say that I agree with that sentiment. We at McNally Robinson think you should definitely give Andrew Kaufman a try.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, New Releases, Literature, Book of the Day

Book of the Day: Siege 13 by Tamas Dobozy

Friday, Nov 09, 2012 at 9:21pm

$22.95 Add to Cart

A bit of a surprise, at least to me, was the announcement today that Siege 13 by Tamas Dobozy won the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. Despite being the author of more than fifty short stories some of which are included in the earlier collections When X Equals Marylou and Last Notes and Other Stories (which has one of my favourite covers) Dobozy's is not a household name. It soon may be.

In December of 1944, the Red Army entered Budapest to begin one of the bloodiest sieges of the Second World War. By February, the siege was over, but its effects were to be felt for decades afterward

Siege 13 is a collection of thirteen linked stories about this terrible time in history, both its historical moment, but also later, as a legacy of silence, haunting, and trauma that shadows the survivors.Set in both Budapest before and after the siege, and in the present day -- in Canada, the U.S., and parts of Europe -- Siege 13 traces the ripple effect of this time on characters directly involved, and on their friends, associates, sons, daughters, grandchildren, and adoptive countries.

Take a chance on another great young Canadian author.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Literature, Book of the Day

Book of the Day: In Sunlight and in Shadow by Mark Helprin

Tuesday, Nov 06, 2012 at 10:36am

Booksellers each have a number of go-to authors that they can recommend when customers come in looking for something new. One author who is on a number of our lists around here is Mark Helprin. A Soldier of the Great War is a favourite among several readers I know and Winter's Tale is on a few too.

So the news that Mark Helprin had a new book due this Fall was met with plenty of excitement and now that it's arrived we can't wait to read it. In Sunlight and in Shadow takes us back to the Helprin of the historical novel that produced the best of his previous work. It springs from the deceptively simple question, "Can love and honour conquer all?" and from the sight of a beautiful young woman, dressed in white, on the Staten Island Ferry, at the beginning of summer, 1946.

Postwar New York glows with energy. Harry Copeland, an elite paratrooper who fought behind enemy lines in Europe, has returned home to run the family business. Yet his life is upended by a single encounter with the young singer and heiress Catherine Thomas Hale, as they each fall for the other in an instant.

Harry and Catherine pursue one another in a romance played out in Broadway theateres, Long Island mansions, the offices of financiers, and the haunts of gangsters. Catherine's choice of Harry over her longtime fiancÚ endangers Harry's livelihood and eventually threatens his life. In the end, it is Harry's extraordinary wartime experience that gives him the character and means to fight for Catherine, and risk everything.

Take our advice and give Mark Helprin a try.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Literature, Book of the Day

Book of the Day: 419 by Will Ferguson

Thursday, Nov 01, 2012 at 10:01am

$32.00 Add to Cart

Did we realize what a fine writer we had in our midst? Will Ferguson has won the Leacock Medal for Humour three times (first in 2002 for his novel Generica, now called Happiness TM, then in 2005 for Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw, and most recently in 2010 for Beyond Belfast) and now he's won the Giller Prize for his most recent and more serious novel, 419. We have a tendency, I think, to undervalue humourous writing in Canada but Will Ferguson has now established himself in the forefront of Canadian writing with this latest win.

419 takes readers behind the scene of the world's most insidious internet scam. When Laura's father gets caught up in one such swindle and pays with his life, she is forced to leave the comfort of North America to make a journey deep into the dangerous back streets and alleyways of the Lagos underworld to confront her father's killer. What she finds there will change her life forever. 419 is a novel both epic in its sweep and intimate in its portrayal of human suffering. It's a story of love in a time of darkness, of one woman's search for redemption, and of a young boy who will triumph above it all.

Congratulations to Will Ferguson from all of us at McNally Robinson.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Literature, Book of the Day
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