Saturday, June 28, 2008

the final two

With only 2 days left in the challenge, it's time to post about my final two novels: All Times Have Been Modern by Elisabeth Harvor and Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay. Only just this minute have I realized that both authors are named Elizabeth. Huh.

So, All Times Have Been Modern. I took this novel to Paris and finished it there, and I remember closing the book and saying to Ragdoll, "well, I'm done." It wasn't that I didn't entirely enjoy it, but I didn't race through it either and I'm not sure I actually cared about any of the characters. I do think another writer would appreciate it more though; the main character is a writer who eventually takes time for herself to write a novel and struggles with the self-imposed task everyday. She enrolls in college again for writing and begins teaching to make ends meet and that entire lifestyle felt very authentic. The other side of the story is the incredible love affair she has with a younger man. I think what I enjoyed most were the ideas about men and women's relationships that the character had at this point in her life. On discussing the affairs both she and her ex-husband had had she says: "But his affairs were so brief and boring, they were nothing. I fell in love much more often than he did and so I was much more unfaithful than he ever was, in my heart." And a statement that just feels so right: "But he could also want more than sex, he could want what men have always wanted from women: consolation, conversation, to be truly seen by the other person." As I sit here and search my dog-eared pages, I realize that I probably enjoyed it more than I have let on, and I do think I will pick up another of Harvor's novels. She was a great find when all I though I had to choose from was David Adams Richards.

On to Late Nights on Air. This novel I flew through, and boy, was I distraught at the end. I liked Hay's writing style, it seemed to be equally sparse and descriptive, if that makes any sense. The characters were wonderfullyl crafted and I cared about them all. And what is so great - and why I think this challenge is so excellent - is that I really got a feeling for Yellowknife and for the landscape beyond. Before this novel, the emptiness and fear of the tundra was beyond my imagination, but Hay has since brought it to life. And the radio station setting was particularly fun for me - having worked in television for ten years I could relate to the technical details and the personality types. This is a novel I will pass along quickly and with high praise.

Now for my final knitting comparisons: I think All Times Have Been Modern felt like a fitted, slightly embellished sweater, much like the Sahara pattern I finished last year. It was promising at first (it seemed like an easy pattern), and it's not that the pattern got very difficult but there were many knitting stages and a few times I wasn't entirely happy with the finishing details. When it was done I knew it was a great garment, but I still haven't worn it because it is just a little too much for me to wear, although as soon as I dye it black I think it will become a favourite. And Late Nights on Air compares to the black cardigan I knit this year. It was a swift knit, I learned many new things along the way and I've ended up with a cardigan that will last for years and years...and be the perfect thing for a trip to Yellowknife (should that ever happen). And even better is that the pattern has lasting power - I'm about to start another in a different colour because it is just that satisfying. Oh, and since the two novels were both written by Elizabeths, it's fitting that both of these knitting patterns came from the same designer, Wendy Bernard.

So that's it - my first reading challenge finished. It was the perfect strategy for forcing myself to read regularly and learn about new authors. I hope the knitting comparisons weren't too off-the-wall, or the reviews too dull. Hopefully I'll get back to some serious "making" over the summer, but I just might join another challenge (or even this one again - there's no such thing as "too much" Canadian literature!) to keep this reading pace up. And for anyone looking to read more, I highly recommend the Canadian Challenge - it starts all over again on Tuesday! There's even going to be a very Canadian toque knit by yours truly as a prize - it's currently half knit and just waiting to be finished.


John Mutford said... [Reply to comment]

Hey, and our Queen's Elizabeth- will wonders never cease?

I haven't read the Harvor book, but I did read Late Nights on Air, and I really enjoyed it. Glad you ended with a book we finally agreed on. I'm moving to Yellowknife in just four days, and Hay's book definitely has me pumped.

I hope you do consider joining the challenge again, I really looked forward to your thoughtful reviews--especially the knitting analogies.

Teddy Rose said... [Reply to comment]

Congrats on finishing the challemnge! I loved 'Late Nights on Air'! I found myself slowing down torwards the end, trying to savour each page.

I hope you join us for the 2nd challenge!

Kristin said... [Reply to comment]

Those books sound intriguing! I may have to check them out soon. Congrats on finishing your challenge! :D