Winnipeg Free Press Newspaper Archives Apr 11 2015, Page 97

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Winnipeg Free Press (Newspaper) - April 11, 2015, Winnipeg, Manitoba C M Y K PAGE 1 BOOKS D22 Winnipeg Free Press, Saturday, April 11, 2015 SUSPENSE R ACHEL is a mess — a bitterlydivorced alcoholic who rides the train into London every day pretending to have a job, looking out the window and assigning fantasy lives to the people she sees from the train. One day, when something doesn’t look right, she gets off the train and gets involved. That sounds like the umpteenth version of Hitchcock’s Rear Window , but hey, Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train ( Doubleday, 320 pages, $ 25) is something special. The words “ gripping” and “ spellbinding” should be used sparingly, but they’re appropriate here. This debut, told by three troubled women in the first person, is extraordinary. . . . Sgt. Logan McRae is your basic slovenly fictional cop: a plodder living in a dump, eating and drinking appallingly, getting into trouble with his bosses, yet solving the crimes while remaining a staunchly decent bloke. In Stuart MacBride’s The Missing and the Dead ( HarperCollins, 581 pages, $ 33), McRae and his colourful fellow coppers deal with the mundane ne’er- do- wells of the impoverished working- class North Sea towns near Aberdeen, while greater horrors slowly come together in the background. Drug dealers, gangsters, pedophiles — there’s deadly stuff at work here. The Scottish idiom and slang are a delightful bonus, as is his boss, DCI Roberta Steele, with whom McRae has one of detective fiction’s more intriguing relationships — McRae was the sperm donor for Steele and her wife, remains in the picture as a dad, and is her less- than- obedient minion. It’s a great read, full of characters you’ll embrace as real folk. . . . Terrorists have blown up a boat on the Thames in the heart of London, killing hundreds — alert the constabulary and arrest the nearest Muslim. The allusions in Anne Perry’s Blood on the Water ( Ballantine, 321 pages, $ 32) aren’t subtle, but this is police officer William Monk on the case in a terrific period piece. Set in the late 1850s, the working- class sleuth moves among the masses on the riverbanks in search of justice. It may all be tied in to the digging of the Suez Canal, ill- advised foreign invasions, and the empirical ambitions of great nations and greater corporations — couldn’t happen now, right? . . . Hy McAllister is a young version of Miss Marple, living in a fictional P. E. I. village where everyone’s quirky. Hilary MacLeod’s Bodies and Sole ( Acorn Press, 300 pages, $ 23) takes a while to get going ( and longer before a mystery materializes), and you may want to do up a chart to keep track of characters on this corner of the island. Bet on People From Away to be among MacLeod’s leading suspects, of course, though what it is they’ve allegedly done isn’t apparent for quite a while. For those whose taste in mysteries is exceedingly ultralight. . . . Tough Boston homicide cop Lizzie Snow ends up on a small- town police force deep in the northern Maine woods, thanks to a complicated backstory from previous books. Is someone murdering retired cops and making it look like suicide in Sarah Graves’s Winter at the Door ( Random House, 273 pages, $ 31)? Who fathered the grandson of the designated requisite unpleasant rich guy who owns half the town? Who’s living off the land in those woods, and what evil does he bring on his trips into town? Why is Snow’s ex- beau — a world- class cad — lurking seemingly everywhere? A decent premise gets overwhelmed by the backstory updates, and the book moves and ends far too quickly. Even as a Sassenach from Tyneside, education reporter Nick Martin would gladly sit down with Logan and Roberta for a pint of ale and a pork pie. I N an interview with January magazine more than 10 years ago, Jane Urquhart called the process of making art “ redemptive.” “ I always hope that a book will teach me something that I didn’t know I knew,” she said. “ By the time I’m finished I want to know something I didn’t know when I started.” By the time one finishes reading The Night Stages , all kinds of knowledge will have imperceptibly crept up — knowledge about weather, flight and, most of all, the landscape of Ireland’s gorgeous, rugged County Kerry. Urquhart is an Officer of the Order of Canada and the author of seven award- winning novels, including the Trillium awardwinning Away and the Governor General’s award- winning The Underpainter . The Night Stages is, like Urquhart’s previous historical novels, impressionistic and built to carry several interwoven plot lines. Set in Kerry and Gander, N. L., the novel examines the relationship between two brothers, Niall and Kieran, following the premature death of their mother. It’s told largely from the perspective of Tamara ( Tam), a former Second World War English auxiliary pilot and Niall’s lover, as she leaves Ireland — and Niall — to begin a new life in New York. In the 1940s and 1950s, transatlantic flights to and from Scotland, Ireland and other international destinations were routed through the Gander international airport for refuelling. At the opening of The Night Stages , Tam’s plane is grounded by fog in Gander. While waiting for the fog to lift, she considers Canadian painter Kenneth Lochhead’s mural Flight and its Allegories ( which still hangs in the airport) and ponders her life in Ireland, as well as the complicated history between Niall and Kieran. Landscape is integral to The Night Stages : the novel leans heavily on the moody loveliness of its settings to reflect characters’ emotional states. Damaged by his mother’s death, Kieran takes solace in the home of his nanny, Gerry- Annie, and in solitary bicycle rides around Kerry, up mountainous passages overlooking nameless lakes. The landscape of his Irish retreat (“ seven lakes and the sea, the irregular fields, the old walls and the strips of harvested bogs drawn on the landscape by the labours of men long dead”) infuses Kieran’s chapters with quiet drama. Urquhart has first- hand knowledge of this landscape — she has lived part- time in County Kerry for decades. The Night Stages could be subtitled “ broken men and the women who love them,” but such a moniker would do violence to the delicate webs of tension Urquhart draws between Niall and Tam, between Gerry- Annie and Kieran. Kieran is afflicted with “ tantrums” and followed by imagined voices and visions; Niall allows the full weight of his guilty conscience to depress others’ hopes. But none of the relationships, though characterized by anxiety and concealment, feel clichéd, and Urquhart points toward gentleness — rather than self- empowerment, self- actualization — as a remedy for conflict. Readers should not approach Urquhart’s work expecting linearity. Initially, shifts in timelines and storylines are confusing, but patience pays off. Chapters that explore the emotional push and pull between primary characters are balanced by occasional, brief chapters told from Kenneth Lochhead’s perspective as he develops Flight and its Allegories . At one point, Lochhead asks a mentor if he ever achieved peace of mind. “‘ Yes,’ he said, wrapping both hands, one atop the other, around the glass. ‘ Yes, and what a featureless, boring landscape that is.’” Urquhart’s landscapes, in The Night Stages , are far from featureless and boring, awash as they are in conflict and misdirected loves. Under Urquhart’s hands, even the most troubled spaces contain the potential for redemption. Julienne Isaacs is a Winnipeg writer. T HIS novel evokes the same feelings as an old- fashioned children’s tale — while everything comes together a little too easily and feels a little too good to be true, the story contains a good message and leaves you warm and satisfied. Best known for her Globe and Mail columns, McLaren also had a solid hit with her debut novel, The Continuity Girl , a story about a successful 35- year- old woman’s sudden desire to become a mother. Engaging and well- written, A Better Man seems poised to repeat her initial success. McLaren takes on several current and important themes, examining the pressures on today’s marriages, the high expectations on modern mothers and the struggle to balance parenthood with career demands. Refreshingly, she doesn’t restrict that last point just to mothers, portraying her male protagonist facing challenges in this area as well. The novel opens in present- day Toronto, introducing Nick and Maya Wakefield, a wealthy youngish couple who have everything they want, except a fulfilling marriage. After giving up her promising legal career to stay home with their now threeyear- old twins, Maya morphed into the ultimate super mommy, fitness buff and New Age adherent. Her capable demeanour hides her sensitivity and insecurity. Meanwhile, Nick, a workaholic with a wandering eye, finds himself more satisfied with his professional and financial success than with his family. He’s shallow and he enjoys it. Neither feels understood or appreciated by the other, and Nick decides he wants out. He seeks advice from the couple’s close friend Gray, a prominent divorce lawyer, who warns that Nick is in for heavy financial losses if he leaves Maya. Together, they develop a plan: Nick will act like an ideal husband and father for six months, lulling Maya into a false sense of security before springing the divorce on her, in order to get a better financial settlement. “ Just make sure that when you finally drop the bomb, she can no longer reasonably accuse you of being a bad husband,” Gray instructs Nick. “ Not only will this weaken her case financially, but she’ll feel subconsciously indebted.” Nick goes ahead with this cold- hearted plan, but it backfires by working too well. Instead of preparing to leave, he finds himself rediscovering his love for Maya and his children. “ People really can change. They can even pretend to change, and somehow in the pretending, real change occurs. He knows this because it’s happened to him,” McLaren writes of Nick. Just when everything is perfect, Nick’s previous life catches up with him, threatening to destroy his marriage and family after all. Nick’s only chance of salvaging anything is to convince Maya and his children that he really has become a better man. Writing in the third person, McLaren captures both Nick and Maya’s perspectives in alternating chapters, which adds depth and perspective to the story, allowing readers to see the problems from both sides. Her roots as a journalist are reflected in her clear, readable prose style. However, McLaren rushes her character development. Readers may balk at how quickly and easily Nick changes from uncaring, materialistic and ruthless, ( reminiscent of a non- homicidal Patrick Bateman in Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho ) to a genuinely loving and supportive husband and father. Similarly, readers may wonder how former hard- charging divorce lawyer Maya may first have fallen so totally into the role of a fitness- obsessed, New Age- loving super mommy and then later so blindly accepted Nick’s changed ways. Still, McLaren’s message will resonate with readers — and maybe even inspire some to be better people themselves. Kathryne Cardwell is a Winnipeg writer. Reviewed by Kathryne Cardwell McLaren ( mostly) succeeds in telling young Toronto couple’s tale A Better Man By Leah McLaren HarperCollins, 300 pages, $ 20 Reviewed by Julienne Isaacs LUSH landscape Urquhart weaves delicate tension across vivid Irish countryside The Night Stages By Jane Urquhart McLelland & Stewart, 420 pages, $ 33 By Nick Martin Hawkins’ debut a runaway success MARK RAYNES ROBERTS PHOTO Based on sales for the week of April 5 th at McNally Robinson Booksellers HARDCOVER FICTION 1. The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah. Fiction. ¡ Çd Çc . Çf Ça . 2. The Buried Giant, Kazuo Ishiguro. Fiction. ¡ Çc Çj . Çj Çf . 3. The Patriot Threat, Steve Berry. Fiction. ¡ Çd Çc . Çf Ça . 4. Leaving Berlin, Joseph Kanon. Fiction. ¡ Çd Çc . Çf Ça . 5. Mightier Than the Sword, Jeffrey Archer. Fiction. ¡ Çd Çc . Çf Ça . HARDCOVER NON- FICTION 1. .. City Beautiful, Randy Turner. Regional Interest. ¡ Çc Çj . Çj Çf . 2. The Brain’s Way of Healing, Norman Doidge. Neuroscience. ¡ Çd Çe . Çj Çf . 3. The Çc Ça / Çc Ça Diet, Phil McGraw. Diet & Nutrition. ¡ Çc Çi . Ça Ça . 4. .. Winnipeg by Winnipeg, McNally Robinson. Regional Interest. ¡ Çc Çc . Çj Çf . 5. .. Mike Grandmaison’s Ontario, Mike Grandmaison. Canada. ¡ Çe Çj . Ça Ça . PAPERBACK FICTION 1. Ru, Kim Thúy. Fiction. ¡ Çb Çi . Çj Çf . 2. .. All My Puny Sorrows, Miriam Toews. Fiction. ¡ Çc Çc . Ça Ça . 3. The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins. Fiction. ¡ Çc Çe . Çj Çf . 4. The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt. Fiction. ¡ Çc Çc . Ça Ça . 5. .. The Guy Who Pumps Your Gas Hates You, Sean Trinder. Fiction. ¡ Çb Çj . Çj Çf . 1. The Inconvenient Indian, Thomas King. Indigenous Peoples. ¡ Çc Çb . Ça Ça . 2. .. You Might Be From Manitoba If…, Dale Cummings. Humour. ¡ Çb Çj . Çj Çf . 3. .. Extra- Ordinary, Jordan Power. Regional Interest. ¡ Çc Ça . Ça Ça . 4. .. Premonitions of War, Robert J. Young. Regional Interest. ¡ Çc Ça . Ça Ça . 5. .. The Grain Fields, Michael Wilms. Memoir. ¡ Çc Çe . Çj Çf . PAPERBACK NON- FICTION .. Manitoba author Publishers’ list prices shown; retail prices may be lower. BOOKS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE 1. Little Blue Truck, Alice Schertle. Board Book. ¡ Çi . Çj Çj . 2. .. When Everything Feels Like the Movies, Raziel Reid. Canadian Teen Fiction. ¡ Çb Çf . Çj Çf . 3. The Book With No Pictures, B. J. Novak. Picture Book. ¡ Çb Çj . Çj Çj . 4. The Maze Runner | Çb , James Dashner. Teen Science Fiction. ¡ Çj . Çj Çj . 5. Paper Towns, John Green. Teen Fiction. ¡ Çb Ça . Çj Çj . .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 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