By Caitlin Kelly
Not a day goes by that I’m not reading for hours — newspapers, magazines, websites, blogs…
That’s what I read for pure pleasure.
Here’s some of my recent reading:
Kicking the Sky, Anthony de Sa
Loved this book. Loved!
I grew up in Toronto and, like anyone who knows their hometown or city well, I know its history when I was a teenager there and its urban peculiarities.
Toronto was stunned, in 1977, (I was in my second year at University of Toronto), by the murder of a young boy, a Portuguese immigrant named Emmanuel Jacques. He was raped and murdered and left on a rooftop.
It was ugly and terrifying and the city had never seen anything quite like it, at least not in recent memory.
Toronto is, then as now, very much a city of immigrants, and the Portuguese community was clustered in a few streets downtown. The women would scrub and wash their sidewalks, something I’d never seen anywhere else in the city.
This novel, by a man who grew up in that community himself, is so detailed and nuanced, so filled with moments you know he lived. It’s also set along an alleyway filled with garages, so much a part of Toronto as well.
His characters are indelible, his intimacy with the subject and the city and the backstory utterly compelling, told through the eyes of a 12 year old boy, Antonio Rebelo.
Although the murder is grim, his characters are not — and I highly recommend it.
(If you like or are curious about other novels set in Toronto, I also really enjoyed Cat’s Eye, by Margaret Atwood and In the Skin of a Lion, by Michael Ondaatje, better known as the author of The English Patient.)
The Killer Next Door, Alex Marwood
Wait, more murder and mayhem?
Not even sure where or when I bought this book, as it’s not my genre at all. But it’s very very good and very very scary.
Marwood, a London-based journalist, sets her novel in a seedy London boarding house filled with transients, one of who is very much up to no good.
Her characters, and their individual histories, are wholly believable, and if you know London a bit (as I do), you can totally picture this street and the characters’ English reticence that pervades every scene.
She also describes so well the cultivated anonymity of people who need a huge city to disappear into…until it happens to them in a way they hadn’t planned on at all.
Inside, Alix Ohlin
Whenever I go back to Canada, usually two or three times a year, I drop into a bookstore to see what’s on the shelves there, always finding fiction and non-fiction I just won’t see in an American bookstore, and prominently displayed.
I normally don’t read fiction, as I so often find it disappointing, but am enjoying this one, interlocking portraits of four people.
I enjoy reading stories set in places I know, allowing me to fact-check the work for veracity and detail while being able to picture scenes easily — this 2012 book is partially set in Montreal, where I’ve lived twice, and New York, where I’ve lived (nearby) for more than 20 years.
Her writing is clear, simple, unadorned, but she paints a picture of people who are complicated and private, trying to know themselves and one another, sometimes succeeding, sometimes not.
The New York Times review was savage — but this one, from the Rumpus, was not.
Alligator Candy, David Kushner
Oh, this is a tough one.
I don’t, I promise, automatically reach for books about murder! (Trying to fathom what this inadvertent pattern of mine is saying about my current tastes.)
Yet here’s another, this one a powerful memoir by the older brother of a young boy who was snatched in the woods of Florida, and killed, on his bike, on his way to buy candy.
Jonathan was 11, and it was 1973 — again, a resonant time for me, as it was my adolescence, too, although far from the pine woods of Florida.
I found the book too long and sometimes repetitive, but, like de Sa’s novel, Kushner captures so well a lost sort of innocence, when kids roamed freely outside and they — and their parents –thought nothing of it.
And…on a totally different subject, I’m also reading The Genius of Birds, a new book of natural history by Jennifer Ackerman.
It’s a great read and I’m learning a lot. Our suburban New York balcony is in the tree-tops and we’re happily surrounded by birds, so I’m very curious to learn more about them.
We have swallows fluttering past each morning and evening, hear jays and robins and woodpeckers and crows — and once even had a red-tailed hawk land on our balcony railing. It was amazing!
Last year’s favorite book, by far?
The Goldfinch, a work of fiction by Donna Tartt, which I received as a birthday gift. MUST read that book, (and yes it drags at the end.)
What are you reading right now?
Anything we should pick up?