The idea of this blog is to facilitate the love of reading by collecting news about new books, or sometimes good old books. It is also dedicated to stamping out the scourge of e-books, Kindles, Kobo's, i-Pads, and all other such abominations.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Sally Vickers, Dede Crane, James Lasdun, Jonathan Harr and a Magical Experience

Hi Raincoaster:

I think we may need to hear more about The Forsythe Saga--I suspect I missed out on it along the way. I do agree with you about Bill Gaston--he is very special--more about that later.

I walked into the Vancouver Public Library in July. I spent a good deal of my time in Vancouver at the Library wondering how to approach writing a blog. On the way to my favorite corner, I passed by the New Book Shelf and found an old friend, Sally Vickers,
in the form of her new novel The Other Side of You. A few years ago just as we were about to leave for Venice, I discovered Miss Garnet's Angel and I loved it. Because we don't have interlog yet (interlibrary borrowing), I stashed the book and returned to read it the next day. Alas, I had barely begun before we had to return to Nanaimo. , I immediately ordered it from the Vancouver Island Regional Library. It has arrived and not only have I read it but I have had the magical experience of reading it in conjunction with three other books that build one upon the other.

Sometime ago, I talked about The Lost Painting by Jonathan Harr. This is the mesmerizing tale of the discovery of a Caravaggio painting, The Taking of Christ, that had been missing for over 200 years. Harr introduced me to Carvaggio and his life.
Caravaggio and many of his works particularly the "Emmaus" paintings as well as "David" and others are at the centre of The Other Side of You by Sally Vickers. It's astonishing how Vickers has brought Caravaggio to life.
David McBride, a psychiatrist, has as his patient Elizabeth Cruickshank. Elizabeth is suicidal and non-communicative. It is only when she mentions Caravaggio that McBride finds a way to interact with her and discover her great loss. McBride is also haunted by death. As a youngster, he witnessed the death of his six-year old brother and has carried the emotional baggage all his life. It is through the remarkable Thomas Carrington, an art historian, that Carvaggio's paintings and their meanings come alive for the characters in the book and for the reader. Vickers explores the power of art, passion, love and truth. As an added bonus she sets much of the book in Rome where we accompany her characters as they experiencence the art, sculpture and history of this glorious city.

I was reminded of Dede Crane's splendid book Sympathy just released this year. At the heart of this story is the relationship between a physician Dr. Michael Myatt and Kerry Taylor, a severly damaged woman. Kerry's life is shattered when her husband and son are killed in an automobile accident. Kerry, a retired ballet dancer, is in a catatonic state. Dr. Myatt's therapy is considered controversial and some of his colleagues are suspicious of his methods of treatment but his work has produced positive results. Myatt has much to learn about his life as he comes to terms with a childhood trauma that puts him at risk. In addition to dealing with the death of her husband and son, Kerry has to work through a difficult mother-daughter relationship. It is in a diary to her great friend Hugo, former dancing partner, that we learn about Kerry's life and her struggles.
Crane has peopled her book with wonderful characters; the belligerent Marcus, Johnny B, the victim of a terrible anxiety, and obsessed with Kerry, and Norma who is grieving the death of her daughter from breast cancer.
This is a story about the relationship between the mind and the body and how the wisdom of the body can aid in the healing of the mind. Crane's intimate knowledge of the world of dance informs the book and its structure. As in Sally Vicker's book, as both doctor and patient became aware of hidden secrets they are better able to heal. Dede Crane writes with humour and compassion.

In the midst of all this reading, the library called to let me know that Seven Lies by James
Lasdun had arrived. The book has had wonderful reviews and is on the Booker Prize long list.
What a startling contrast to all of the above. The title is taken from a quote by Martin Luther
"Every lie must begat seven more lies if it is to resemble the truth and adopt truth's aura."
Stefan Vogel grows up in East Germany. As a very young man he finds himself in a situation where the first lie takes hold. He longs to live in America and fantasizes about what his life might become. Through a series of dangerous maneuvers, he realizes his dream and makes his way to America with the wife he adores. His life begins to unravel when secrets he thought were locked away behind the Berlin Wall surface after the Wall comes down. Most of my favorite novels are ones in which I can find at least one character I like. This is not that kind of book, but it is deeply engaging. Just as Sally Vickers' The Other Side of You is concerned with finding
truth, Seven Lies, is about the destruction of a human being when lie builds upon lie.

It's not often that the books I read at any one time, build so beautifully on one another.
I have found that I have become preoccupied with how the stories compliment one another.
When that happens for me it's magical.

This blog began with " a woman walked into the library-- In the new Martha Grimes
"a man walked into a pub" but that's for another day.

The Lost Painting Jonathan Harr available in paperback this fall
The Other Side of You Sally Vickers harcover available from the library
Sympathy Dede Crane paperback available now
Seven Lies James Lasdun hardcover available from the library


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