Consolation by Michael Redhill

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This was a really enjoyable read; a story of early Toronto (1850ish if I remember correctly) intertwined a story of another Toronto family in 1997. Each half of the story has a pretty similar weighting and I didn’t mind switching between the two because it didn’t happen too often and both halves were entertaining and written in similar styles.

The modern day story is woven around the death of David Hollis, a historical researcher, and the historical story meets up with his research in a way that’s not too obvious but such that we’re recognisably reading one story rather than two.

The characters were the best aspect of the writing and felt like real people: not always consistent, not always nice, not always understanding what their actions would mean, but not completely ignorant of this either. However for a story that is very much about a place the location didn’t really come alive to me except in a few passages in the historical story. I liked the fact that the story involved early photography though and these bits of the story worked very well, especially as some old photographs are included in the book.

I’m not sure if I think it’s Booker prize winning material, or even shortlist material – although it’s a weighty book it was a quick read and didn’t seem terribly substantial. Definitely a good read though.

More information about this book can be found on goodreads.

Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones

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This is an absolute gem. Thanks to the Booker Prize committee for bringing my attention to it. Of the five longlisted books I’ve read so far it’s the one I’d hand the prize over to.

The story is set on a South Pacific island in 1990, in the midst of some kind of war/uprising/conflict thing. The only white man left on the island takes over the village school and starts reading Charles Dickens classic Great Expectations to the children.

The whole story revolves around Great Expectations and its hero, Pip, one way or another. I knew this before I started reading and expected to either (a) be bored to death because I did Great Expectations for GCSE English Lit and didn’t get on with it at all at the time or (b) get annoyed by needing to know the story of another book to understand this one. As it happens neither expectation was correct. Everything you need to know about Great Expectations is included in this book as the narrator, Matilda, discovers the book herself. And I wasn’t bored to death because it’s not Dickens. Besides I’d probably like Dickens myself now if I tried as I’ve put a couple of decades between myself and my GCSEs.

I also wondered (c) How on earth do you keep the Great Expectations thread going through the entire book? The answer is that it’s very well tied in from the beginning through to the end of the story and beyond. I really don’t want to give away the details – this really felt like a timeless classic to me – just don’t give it to bored schoolchildren to read!

More information about this book can be found on goodreads.
Purchased on 12th August 2007.

links for 2007-08-22