A drama is on its way, promise…

Book review: ‘Canada’ by Richard Ford

THE best novels use a well-judged balance of drama, characterisation, background, psychology, setting, pace, tension, emotion and conflict. If one or more of those elements is missing, the result leaves the reader uneasy or disappointed.

When Canada was published, it was widely lauded by critics, who hailed it a modern-day coming-of-age novel. Certainly, it is unformulaic.

Indeed, if psychological analysis rather than story is your thing, this is the novel for you. From the very opening, Richard Ford flags up the significant events in the life of Dell, the narrator, (the bank robbery and murder of two men). So the surprise element is removed, and with it, the suspense and tension. Continue reading

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Childhood’s terrible toll

Book review: ‘The Kite Runner’ by Khaled Hosseini

I APPROACHED this book with prejudice. I had not expected to like it, firstly because almost anything that wins universal high praise – books or otherwise – sets up an expectation that very often has the perverse effect of turning me off the subject. Widespread lavish admiration engenders a suspicion in me, justified or not, that it is being prompted by fashion: in other words, hype makes me cynical and rebellious.

I had not read reviews of this novel beyond headlines, partly for this reason. Continue reading

Bleak written all over it: a family feud saga from a dark literary heritage

Book review: ‘The Brothers’ by Asko Sahlberg

LIKE a neat, impressionistic Chekhov story or an arty French film – in which single sounds and close-ups of movements are potent with meaning – ‘The Brothers’ gives an episodic insight into a brief but significant span of time in enclosed world.

This is 19th-century Finland, a beautiful, melancholy snow- and alcohol-filled setting, but the intense love-loathing rivalry between brothers Henrik and Erik, universally readily identifiable, could be transferred to almost any place and time.

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