Thursday, July 31, 2008

maria chapdelaine

by Louis Hemon

I'm in the middle of this beautiful little book, set in sparsely populated Quebec, land of Catholic pioneers, loggers, trappers, farmers, and long, long winters. Hemon visited this remote country, living and working with its people, and wrote the book in 1913.

Here are a couple of passages:

"Young Telesphore's depravities supplied this household with its only domestic tragedy. To satisfy her own mind and give him a proper conviction of besetting sin his mother had fashioned for herself a most involved kind of polytheism, had peopled the world with evil spirits and good who influenced him alternately to err or repent. The boy had come to regard himself as a mere battleground where devils who were very sly, and angels of excellent purpose but little experience, waged endless unequal warfare." (p. 28)

"Edwige Legare had worked for the Chapdelaines these eleven summers. That is to say, for wages of twenty dollars a month he was in harness each day from four in the morning till nine at night at any and every job that called for doing, bringing to it a sort of frenzied and inexhaustible enthusiasm; for he was one of those men incapable by his nature of working save at a full pitch of strength and energy, in a series of berserk rages. Short and broad, his eyes were the brightest blue--a thing rare in Quebec--at once piercing and guileless, set in a visage the colour of clay that always showed cruel traces of the razor, topped by hair of nearly the same shade. " (p. 46-47)

The depictions of the brutally cold climate and the courage and back-breaking physical labor necessary to survive in it are compelling. But the simplicity of the Chapdelaines and their friends, their relationships, and their faith in God, are what gives this book its beauty. Their acceptance of their way of life ennobles them.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

out of the blackout

by Robert Barnard

Another Felony & Mayhem selection. A small boy who is evacuated from London during WWII is never reclaimed by his parents. Interesting but forgettable.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

books by patricia carlon

I recently read 3 pretty good books by Patricia Carlon: The Price of an Orphan, Crime of Silence, and Hush, It's a Game. She was Australian and wrote under many pseudonyms. The titles I read were written between 1965-1970. They were compelling and not offensive in the usual way many contemporary books are. But the 4th book, Death by Demonstration, was so dull I didn't finish it. It was concerned with student uprisings and filled with the students' political "thought." Blurbs on the back of the Carlon books indicate I might also enjoy Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell) and Patricia Highsmith, mentioned above.

till we have faces

by CS Lewis

Set in primitive pagan times, the book is a retelling of the myth of Psyche.

About love, how love of self and love of others can be confused for one another. A compelling and unsettling book.