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Book of the Day: Waiting for Sunrise by William Boyd

Monday, Apr 30, 2012 at 10:20am

William Boyd is one of my favourite authors. He achieves that combination of literary quality and plot-driven story that Lev Grossman, in a Time Magazine story about Michael Chabon, described as "[T]he highbrow and the lowbrow, once kept chastely separate ... now hooking up, [and] you can almost see the future of literature coming." My favourite William Boyd novel is Any Human Heart, the fictional biography of Logan Mountstuart who inhabits the arts, books and spy circles of the early twentieth century and who meets many of the big names associated with those worlds. Boyd also wrote the screenplay for the TV adaptation of Any Human Heart, which I also recommend.

His new novel, Waiting for Sunrise, is set in Vienna in 1913. Lysander Rief, a young English actor in town seeking psychotherapy for a troubling ailment, becomes caught up in a feverish affair with a beautiful, enigmatic woman. When she presses rape charges, however, he is mystified. Only a carefully plotted escape with the help of two mysterious British diplomats saves him from trial.

The frenzied getaway sets off a chain of events that dismantles Rief's life as he knows it. He returns to London hoping to banish from memory his traumatic ordeals abroad, but soon the men who helped coordinate his escape recruit him to carry out the murder of a complete stranger. His lover from Vienna shows up nonchalantly at a party, ready to resume their liaison, and before he knows where his new life has taken him, Rief soon finds himself on the trail of a traitor a man whose bizarre connection to his own family proves a cruel twist of fate.

Watch in May, when William Boyd will be featured as our Author of the Month.

Categories: New Releases, Literature, Book of the Day

Patrick DeWitt Wins Stephen Leacock Medal

Friday, Apr 27, 2012 at 12:41pm

The 2012 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour has been awarded to Patrick DeWitt, for his quirky western novel The Sisters Brothers. This is Mr. DeWitt's third major award, joining the Governor-General's Award for Fiction and the Roger's Writers Trust Prize on his mantel.

April also sees the re-release of Mr. DeWitt's first novel, Ablutions (Anansi Press).

Categories: Awards, Literature

Book of the Day: The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam

Tuesday, Apr 24, 2012 at 8:56am

I'm very excited to tell you about Vincent Lam's new novel. You may recall that Lam surprised us all when he won the Giller Prize in 2006 for his collection of short stories, Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures. That was a very good collection of short stories but "The Giller?" we all thought, "Really?"

Well the talents of Vincent Lam as well as his win are now fully established in my mind after reading The Headmaster's Wager. This novel tells the story of Percival Chen, the headmaster of the most respected English school in Saigon. He is also a bon vivant, a compulsive gambler and an incorrigible womanizer. He is well accustomed to bribing a forever-changing list of government officials in order to maintain the elite status of the Chen Academy. He is fiercely proud of his Chinese heritage, and quick to spot the business opportunities rife in a divided country. He devotedly ignores all news of the fighting that swirls around him, choosing instead to read the faces of his opponents at high-stakes mahjong tables. But when his only son gets in trouble with the Vietnamese authorities, Percival faces the limits of his connections and wealth and is forced to send him away. In the loneliness that follows, Percival finds solace in Jacqueline, a beautiful woman of mixed French and Vietnamese heritage, and Laing Jai, a son born to them on the eve of the Tet offensive. Percival's new-found happiness is precarious, and as the complexities of war encroach further and further into his world, he must confront the tragedy of all he has refused to see.

The Globe and Mail has already reported that The Headmaster's Wager "has [the] makings of a masterpiece." I don't use that word very much but I can confirm that Lam's new novel is a powerful work and one of the best Canadian novels I've read in a while.

Categories: New Releases, Literature, Book of the Day

Book of the Day: The Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler

Sunday, Apr 15, 2012 at 7:47am

In The Beginner's Goodbye Anne Tyler gives us a wise and haunting new novel in which she explores how a middle-aged man, ripped apart by the death of his wife, is gradually restored by her frequent appearances -- in their house, on the roadway, in the market.

Crippled in his right arm and leg, Aaron spent his childhood fending off a sister who wants to manage him. So when he meets Dorothy, a plain, outspoken, self-dependent young woman, she is like a breath of fresh air. Unhesitatingly he marries her, and they have a relatively happy, unremarkable marriage. But when a tree crashes into their house and Dorothy is killed, Aaron feels as though he has been erased forever. Only Dorothy's unexpected appearances from the dead help him to live in the moment and to find some peace.

Gradually he discovers, as he works in the family's vanity-publishing business, turning out titles that presume to guide beginners through the trials of life, that maybe for this beginner there is a way of saying goodbye.

A beautiful, subtle exploration of loss and recovery, pierced throughout with Anne Tyler's humour, wisdom, and always penetrating look at human foibles.

Check out the very positive review from last weekend's Winnipeg Free Press.

Categories: New Releases, Literature, Book of the Day

Shortlist Announced for the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction

Wednesday, Apr 18, 2012 at 11:25am

The Orange Prize for Fiction, the UK's only annual book award for fiction written by a woman, announced yesterday the 2012 shortlist. Now in its seventeenth year, the Prize celebrates excellence, originality and accessibility in women's writing throughout the world.

This year's shortlist honours both new and well-established authors, including a debut novelist and a previous Orange Prize winner; Ann Patchett, who won the Orange Prize for Fiction ten years ago for Bel Canto (2002).

The Nominees Are

Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan, Thomas Allen Publishers

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett, Harper Collins Publishers

Foreign Bodies, by Cynthia Ozick, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

The Song of Achilles by Madeleine Miller, Harper Collins Publishers

The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright, McClelland & Stewart

Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding, Bloomsbury

Categories: Awards, Literature
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