The very final Bookerthon 2007 review and though you will read this as one post I'm writing it in two instalments as the reading progresses with Consolation by Michael Redhill.A nice dinky bag-sized hard back, floppy pages, good start.
I hear from several sources that this is a book of two halves, gets off to a great shortlist start but slows down about halfway through and then possibly loses its momentum.
Perhaps I'll see this book differently?
Perhaps the slowing down will be a nice rest for me in the middle?
Two narratives are alternating through the book.
The 1990's and David Hollis, fighting a debilitating illness is researching a theory that precious and historic information about Toronto is buried under a prospective building site about to be submerged in concrete. All this rather then end his life "rotting in a mechanical god-damned bed".
The mid 1850's and Jem Hallam, an apothecary recently emigrated alone from the UK and struggling to make his family's fortunes in this fledgling and upcoming Canadian city, "he thought perhaps he could dream his life into existence by writing it down".
I am anxiously following both stories, one of those books that informs you early on about outcomes and you eat your way through the pages to try and piece it all together and just see how it all happened.
Well yes, this certainly felt like a book of two halves and though I wasn't disappointed by the second half the pace certainly slowed as all the explanations for the first half were played out towards a twist that didn't have the impact with me that it should have done, I know why and perhaps you will spot it too when you read this one.
I've never been to Canada, let alone Toronto but, as someone mentioned here in comments, if this is your city then this is your book and will be a must read.Toronto becomes the central character with its muffled voice.
" There is a vast part of this city with mouths buried in it...Mouths capable of speaking to us. But we stop them up with concrete and build over them and whatever it is they wanted to say gets whispered down empty alleys and turned into wind. People need to be given a reason to listen"
That said, the themes translated well for people like me who have only ever done Canada from our armchairs.I am a huge fan of CanLit.
Consolation a book for me about common themes, helplessness and ultimately disappointments, loneliness and exile and probably a whole lot of meaning to be extracted from the emphasis on the photographic image and its permanence, capturing of the essence of the moment and preserving what is so quickly lost. A good review by a Torontonian here and also an interesting interview with the author.
A book worthy of the attention that Booker longlisting offers and a good read but will it fill one of the last few places on my shortlist? Well that's for me to know and you to guess and I HATE it when people say that to me.
All will be revealed tomorrow.