This installment: half-breeds in Canada (f); a charming BBC series (DVD), a morality play in the backwoods (f); and a very smart novel about the paradox of existence.
The Break by Katherine Vermette
The title refers to a field in which Stella helplessly witnesses an attack. But it also describes the experience of Metis (half breeds) caught between two worlds in Canada. It’s a hard-scrabble life for the characters we meet, plagued by drugs, crime, and brutality. Phoenix, a tough runaway, is especially marred. A pull between the city and the bush, where things feel cleaner but are even rougher economically. Family love and loyalty counteract some of the depredation, but what a struggle. Eye-opening.
The Durrells in Corfu (DVD)
This fell into my hands when I wanted to be transported and entertained and it did both delightfully. A BBC series based on Gerald’s Corfu Trilogy, we see this hard-pressed family of eccentrics trying to make their way on the island far from home. Indomitable Mum, teenage sister in dramatic adolescence, one thick brother who loves to shoot, Larry whose writing precludes any practical participation, in household chores, and winsome little Jerry with his burgeoning menagerie. I watched both seasons, started to recognize some soap-opera strains, but ignored my inner critic to continue the fun.
Elmet by Fiona Mozley
A family of three. Daddy is a man mountain who’s bringing up Cathy and David to be self- sufficient in the woods. He earns money in fights. Price owns the land all around them and exploits the populace. David, the narrator, tells a tense and tragic tale: an attempt at an uprising, a fight to end all fights, Price’s son dead, dad accused, and David alone on the run. The book feels timeless and epic though it’s placed in the now. Cathy is powerful and tough, David slight, with domestic yearnings. A morality play (Good vs Evil) but full of the details that make for a rich reading experience.
Happiness by Aminata Foreman
What an intelligent book about the paradox of existence. Attila, a psychiatrist from Ghana specializing in trauma, literally runs into Jean, a wildlife biologist, in London. She’s tracking urban foxes and also has a side profession, creating rooftop gardens. He’s there for a conference but gets sucked into locating a lost grand-nephew and looking after an old colleague (they’d once been lovers) in the throes of early onset dementia. Jean helps track the boy and a relationship develops in fits and starts. So many fascinating details, like the way Attila loves to dance when he’s alone. Extremely satisfying and thought-provoking.
Back next week