January 10th, 2013
Because it’s my book club selection for this month, I picked up How to Be a Woman by Caitlyn Moran with a certain amount of whimsy. Not really knowing what to expect but seeing the book sell like hotcakes over the last few months, I wasn’t sure it was going to be a book for me. It’s funny, irreverent, honest, and ballsy, and there were parts that I earmarked because I found them so compelling (in particular how everyone, man, woman, child, needs to stand on a chair and scream: I AM A STRIDENT FEMINIST; and that the biggest fault of humanity at the moment is that we’re simply just not polite enough full stop), but overall, I have some reservations about the book (I mean, of course I do).
Moran is a natural writer–you feel like her thoughts flow so smoothly from her mind to her fingers, and that they don’t get all caught up in between as mine sometimes do. And she has convincing arguments, namely about the fact that feminism has gotten lost in terms of the idea of equality–or, rather, the perception of the “achievement” of equality, and young women left, right and centre, are declaring themselves “not” feminists primarily because they have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about. She also rails against sexism, the lack of hair on female anatomy, revolutions in music (and then back again), and much, much more. There are obvious holes to her arguments, that come across more like opinions than rational, thought-out perspectives, but that doesn’t make the book any less impactful.
I like smart, sassy women who aren’t afraid to use words that make me blush even thinking about them. I like strong, opinionated women, too. But to say this is a book about ‘feminism’ might just be a bit of a misnomer. It’s a book about Moran’s own brand of feminism, about conclusions she’s drawn, and the hopes and opportunities she has for our gender. Throwing in statistics and quoting the hell out of Germaine Greer doesn’t necessarily a feminist tome make. I laughed out loud in many places, especially during the beginning bits of the book–the fevered pitch of her writing is charming, and her early life’s eccentric enough to make for truly entertaining reading. Yet, as I turned page after page, I kept thinking that Moran’s a woman who knows her own mind extremely well. She’s confident in her decisions, in her thoughts, in her position in the world–it’s a feminist position, absolutely, and as a feminist myself, I appreciate every word she says. Knowing your own mind is one thing, but it’s not a universal thing, and I guess that’s what was missing from this book–feminism as it relates to Moran isn’t necessarily a prescription to fix many of the problems in the world, but it’s most certainly not a bad place to start, either…
February 5th, 2012
When the book arrived in the mail for my upcoming book club with a thunk, I thought, “there’s no way I can make it through 650+ pages before Saturday.” And then, magically, I did. And then, no so magically, I didn’t even get to go to book club because the RRBB was terrifically sick (104 fever, oh my!), and he basically used me as a couch from Thursday to Sunday, which was one of the hardest parenting weekends I’d had in a long time.
Annywaay, Skippy. Oh, the poor soul, so troubled, so riddled with angst, so deliciously in love with an unworthy girl. And then, it happens, he dies and the whole world that he leaves behind can’t seem to cope with the loss. Paul Murray’s Skippy Dies would have made for excellent book club discussion had I been able to participate. And, from the sounds of things, it did. One would imagine that many threads of a 600+ page novel would get lost, but Murray manages to keep a handle on the sprawling story for the most part. Sure, there were parts that I would have excised, but, on the whole, the book’s utterly readable and incredibly well-paced from beginning to end. (more…)
May 31st, 2011
I have spent three days this week at various doctors appointments and sitting waiting for blood work, and managed to read three books in five days. It’s almost like I’m breastfeeding at all hours again, only I’m not. Actually, it’s nothing like that at all. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite. Regardless, here are some short reviews of books I’ve read lately.
#44 – Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Allan Sillitoe
Sometimes, when you see the filmed version of a book first, it’s almost impossible not to replay the movie in your head as you read. In the case of Allan Sillitoe’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, this was entirely the case. Luckily, both the book and the film are excellent, so I wasn’t disappointed by anything happening in my own head as I read. Sillitoe’s portrait of a young man, a working class, philandering, hard-drinking, impulse-driven, anti-hero remains captivating over 50 years since its publication. I found myself violently engrossed in the film, at times disgusted by Arthur Seaton’s behaviour, his attitude towards women, his own selfishness, and yet utterly thrilled by his voice, his hard-driving anger, and his youth.
Set in a working class section of Nottingham (and forgive me if it’s all working class; I am not familiar with the geography), Seaton works at a bicycle factory, where he gets paid by the piece. Work too fast, and you make too much money, the big bosses will come down on you; work too slow and it isn’t worth your while to get up in the morning. There’s a tender balance Seaton strikes between boredom, completely shutting off to the redundancy of his tasks and letting his mind wander (usually to the state of his love life, which is complex, and full of many married ladies). He served in the army but has no faith in it; he drinks not just because it’s the only thing to do but because it IS the thing to do; and all of his relationships with women are based on lying, cheating and his own awkward concepts of love. Yet, as a character, I couldn’t help but adore him — a prototypical bad boy when it still meant something to buck the system, and the dichotomy of the two parts of Seaton’s life: the Saturday nights spent drinking and with his hand up the shirt of his many married lovers; and the Sunday morning when he goes fishing and perhaps decides upon one girl, nicely contrast the tenor of life in England after the war. Everyone needing to find their footing, their voice, after the collective “pulling together” (Keep Calm and Carry On) as a universal decree. All in all, it’s an excellent novel. (Also exciting is that it’s on the 1001 Books list, whee!).
#45 – State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
Ann Patchett is one of my favourite American novelists. I adored Run, enjoyed Bel Canto, and had my heart broken over Truth & Beauty. But State of Wonder is in an entirely different class — if I had to find a comp, like someone (I can’t remember who) mentioned on Twitter, I’d too suggest Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. But, truly, the unbridled success of this novel lies in Patchett’s almost post-colonial “talking back” to Joseph Conrad’s classic Heart of Darkness. Now, I read Conrad’s book in first year university and haven’t revisited it since, so it’s hazy, to say the least in my memory. I recall more of Apocalypse Now than I do the novel itself but that doesn’t mean that I can’t theorize that Patchett set out to write back to Heart of Darkness, tackling not necessarily themes of colonialism and “going native” (shuddering to write that sentence) but more so the toll and cost of medical research takes from on our “modern” world.
When Dr. Marina Singh’s workmate and lab partner, Dr. Eckman, is pronounced dead in a far flung letter from Dr. Annick Swenson, a research doctor who has been in the field for almost decades developing and studying a very particular tribe in order to create a fertility drug that could revolutionize women’s reproductive health, she (Dr. Singh) is sent out to retrieve the true story and maybe, just maybe, bring both the body and a report of where the work actually is back to the company for whom they all work. Things go wrong for Marina right from the start — her suitcase is lost, her clothes taken by the Lakashi tribe when she arrives in camp, and soon every vestige of Western life has disappeared from around her. She wears her hair plaited by the Lakashi women, the only dress she has comes from them as well, and without sun protection, the half-Indian Marina’s skin bronzes so deeply that even she notices how different she looks than when at home suffering through a long, terrible Minnesota winter.
Classically trained as a OBGYN, Marina gave up her medical practice due to a terrible accident, and has been a pharmacologist ever since. Yet, once she finds Dr. Swenson (and the path that got her there was no less than difficult), her skills as a doctor are called upon — an in unclean, unhygienic and utterly disorganized (in terms of performing surgeries), and Marina’s life takes a turn in a direction she never imagined. The novel’s ending, both spectacular and breathtaking, has perfect pacing — I couldn’t put it down, and it brought me to my knees. I found myself reading and reading, any chance I could get, morning, deep into the night, just to find out what happens. And the last sentences, just like the amazing ones that end The Poisonwood Bible, stayed with me for days. Highly recommended; it’s perfect summer reading in my humble opinion.
#46 – Faith by Jennifer Haigh
I’m going to be honest — the subject matter of this novel remains difficult for many reasons — the church and its history/current struggle with pedophilia doesn’t necessarily equate “light,” “breezy” read. Yet, the tone and undercurrent of Jennifer Haigh’s novel, while neither light nor breezy, is both generous and kind, a difficult balance to achieve when discussing Catholic priests and the matter of faith in general. The narrator of the story, a self-proclaimed (at the beginning of the novel) modern-day “spinster,” Sheila McGann retells a story her half-brother Art, a priest who has found himself embroiled in a scandal that threatens not only his livelihood but also his life, and his core beliefs.
Sheila returns to Boston to help her family in the time of crisis. Art, accused of an unspeakable act with a young boy, the grandson of the rectory’s housekeeper, with whom he has a parental-like relationship, shakes everyone to their cores. I know it’s a cliche — family comes upon tragedy, novel unravels whether or not the accusations are true — but Haigh has a gift for character, and while this novel remains very traditional in its narrative format, I was impressed at how she tackled the subject matter. Haigh never shies away from the difficult nature of it, and I like how faith as a concept remains interwoven throughout the narrative. Arthur has never questioned his calling. But, like anyone, it’s impossible to know when something might happen to rock your beliefs, earthquake-like, and send you reeling in another direction. Innocent, even naive, to the ways of the world, Art finds himself questioning everything he has ever known: the church, his ministry, the idea of love, when he comes to face to face with Kath, the mother of the young boy he is accused of abusing. It takes the entire novel to truly find out what happened. And no one is left unscathed, not even the reader. Faith is a novel that forces one to evaluate one’s own relationship to God, to the church, even if you’re a non-believer. It’s impossible to stand in judgment, of anyone’s life, and I think that is the eloquent point that Haigh makes throughout this book. It’s one that definitely got me thinking. And I’m a girl who got the majority of her religious schooling from Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret? when she was a child. Of course, I read more widely about religion in university. (I still remember sitting with a particularly obnoxious Religion major at Queen’s who honestly said to me, “You know, it’s not as if I’m totally obsessed with God or anything, I just think Jesus was a really cool guy.” Seriously. That was her take on her entire degree. Good grief.) Regardless, the kind of storytelling that Haigh purports in this novel usually drives me crazy (the retelling of a story when one could choose just to tell the damn story) but it’s subtly balances nicely with the seriousness of the subject matter and I don’t think she could have written it another way. By the end, I was a little heartbroken, which, for me, is always the sign of a very good novel indeed.
#47 – Every Time We Say Goodbye by Jamie Zeppa
This is a Vicious Circle book club book, and I’m so pleased that I’ll get to discuss it with a great group of women. It’s a women’s novel (as you can see from the awful cover [I’m sorry but it really, really isn’t reflective of the book]) rather than dreamy chicklit as the cover suggests. I know what it’s going for — there’s a pair of siblings that the novel centres around, but the cover adds a layer of Hallmark Movie of the Week that dumbs down Zeppa’s sharp, instinctive and eager writing.
Told from multiple perspectives, the book follows three generations of Turner women, some blood, some married to blood, who each struggle with the idea of family, what it means to be a mother, and the difficult restrictions society, at different times over the last 50 years, for people of my gender. I fell particularly in love with Grace, a woman forced to leave her son behind to make a better life for herself in the city. Her strength, ability and the way she came into her own was particularly breathtaking. There’s a lot in the novel that isn’t necessarily fresh (troubled fathers, difficult women that seem cut from Lawrence, “women’s” troubles) but Zeppa finds a way in that is both refreshing and real — and I enjoyed this book immensely. I just have one tiny criticism — there’s a main character, Vera, a matriarchal figure, that we never hear from, she’s only portrayed through other people’s stories. I would have enjoyed knowing more about her point of view, her perspective, but I understand how too many voices could also ruin this novel. Regardless, it too is a perfect summer read. Funny how that works out, isn’t it?
May 15th, 2011
Before sitting down to write about Emily St. John Mandel’s first novel, Last Night in Montreal, I wanted to do a pros and cons list of my own pre-conceived notions about fiction in general. My innate likes and dislikes, if you will. There are cliches in writing that I just can’t stand — easy things that authors fall back on because they are such a part of our collective unconscious, if you will, that even if one doesn’t realize you’re writing a trope, you’re still writing a trope.
Circus performers. The idea of running away to the circus. And as prevalent and innovative, even successful as the modern day Cirque du Soleil might be in Canada and around the world, sentences like, ‘they were part of a circus family when that was still something that could be done,’ or the like, make me cringe, just a little (read: a lot). It’s not that good books can’t be written and/or good stories can’t be told about circuses (case in point: Water for Elephants, which I have not read, but has been on bestseller lists for almost four years) or great drama created out of the idea of someone walking a tightrope (case in point: the excellent Colum McCann novel, Let the Great World Spin). Yet, in this novel, when the circus performer characters are dropped in, it feels forced and full of anguish — like an imagination that’s had too much caffeine and is trying to finish an all nighter — something just isn’t right and someone probably should have started cramming earlier.
Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. Lilia, a distinct but also wispy and beautiful young woman, has trouble staying in one place. She was raised by her father who kidnapped her away from her mother one cold winter’s evening and she hasn’t stopped running since. Lilia’s an interesting character — she’s bright, can speak several languages (taught to her by her father on the road) and has to work through her past by constantly moving on to the next location. She doesn’t normally give her lovers any warning. She simply packs up her stuff, stashes it away, and then leaves when she feels she can’t stay any longer. Her safety — mentally, physically — is at risk, and so she must go. Eli, her current Brooklyn-living boyfriend, can’t accept that she’s gone, so he goes on the road to try and find her. He doesn’t necessarily want her to come back. No, he just wants an explanation, and to know that she’s okay. So off Eli goes to Montreal. Why Montreal? Well, Eli receives a missive from someone named Michaela, who claims to know where Lilia is…
In tandem with the current-day storyline that follows Lilia, Elia and Michaela, the novel drifts back in time via different characters to fill out the novel. The most engaging parts of the book take place on the road with Lilia and her father — there’s a wonderful dynamic between the two, and even if I do find Lilia kind of twee for my liking, I can see how kidnapping her both saved and damaged her at the same time. But here’s also where the book goes off the rails a little bit, there’s a private detective, Christopher (paid by whom, who knows? It’s never explained.) who becomes obsessed by the case (he’s Michaela’s father; this is the circus stock family). These two families are now intertwined, and their complex relationship forms the crux of the novel.
There’s no doubt that St. John Mandel is a terrific writer. She has a gift for description and the book hums along — it’s just not, from my point of view, entirely believable. There’s a ‘movie of the week’ element to it that I just couldn’t shake and I will hold any “damaged” girls up to Baby in Lullabies for Little Criminals and always find them wanting. And the circus performers. Of the entire novel, I appreciated the ending, but the penultimate scenes and resulting action, well, that also falls into the “tired” category — to spell it out would be to completely spoil the novel, so I’m not going to do that here, as per usual. On the whole, it’s a terrifically uneven first novel, but it’s also just that — a first novel, and I do actually look forward to reading more from St. John Mandel in the future.
WHAT’S UP NEXT: The last of my library books for a while — Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. Then it’s back to the shelves for sure — I am very behind in my challenge, and by alphabetized books are just mocking me, mocking me!
April 28th, 2011
Because we had been reading a lot of Can Lit in our book club, and a lot of short stories to boot, I put forth Chinua Achebe‘s Anthills of the Savannah as our April selection. Over the years, my post-colonial reading has declined dramatically, and it was one of the goals of having an Around the World in 52 Books challenge — to end up reading more non-Canadian fiction. Alas, it was probably a good thing that I decided to actually make dinner for The Vicious Circle Book Club, if only so they’d forgive me for choosing such a dense, complex novel.
It took me six tries just to get passed the first few chapters, and we decided as a club that once you got to page 40, the book became readable, and you were somewhat home free. With respect to construction, it’s the most post-modern novel I’ve read in a long time: perspective switches from first, to third, from character to character, and the narrative often circles around events, moving back and forth in time, just assuming the reader will keep up. Here’s where we bring out that old po-co staple — that a lot of African fiction follows more oral than narrative traditions, but I’m not sure I’d make the sweeping generalization that Achebe was setting out to prove that — maybe it more like he was trying to reflect the impossibility of telling a story, a straight forward, this happened, and then this happened, and then this happened, kind of story, when your world is in utter chaos.
Set in the fictional West African nation, Kangon, three old school friends, Sam, Chris and Ikem, Western-educated men living among the upper echelons of society, must redefine their relationships now that Sam has become His Excellency — the country’s dictator. As Chris, one of the main characters says, “I have thought of all of this as a game that began innocently enough and then went suddenly strange and poisonous.” As the rest of the novel unravels, the story is strong: Sam wants to stay in power, and even though there’s an uprising “in the north” against him (which is a product of deep misunderstanding and miscommunication), lifelong friends Chris and Ikem, now the Minister for Information and the editor of the national newspaper respectively, bear the brunt of Sam’s fall from grace and are fired, forced into hiding and fighting for their lives.
Because characters are “witnesses,” the novel changes form on the drop of a hat — you can be in the first person with Chris in a meeting, then be reading some whimsical treatise by Ikem, listening to Beatrice, Chris’s girlfriend, speak pidgin English with Elewa, Ikem’s girlfriend, and then be in the middle of some strange scene involving non-doctors and other visiting dignitaries from all of their time in London. Structurally, narratively, the novel makes little sense, but the story is so powerful and the writing so excellent that instead of writing the book off as “bad” per se, I spent a long time trying to unravel why Achebe chose to tell it this way.
There are moments of pure grief in this novel. Acts of senseless violence, struggles that seem utterly relevant now, especially in light of what’s happening in the Middle East and in Northern Africa. There’s also an element of futility to the story, and the strength, the power in the continuation of life comes from the female characters. This was not something that went unnoticed by our book club — we all really loved the character of Beatrice, and I even went so far as to suggest that I probably would have found the novel easier if the entire book was written from her point of view. But easy isn’t the point, life itself isn’t easy, and living in a nation that’s having violent growing pains isn’t a story that can be told in traditional ways. In a sense, Achebe’s novel proves that our “canon,” the Western tradition, isn’t necessarily up to scratch when it comes to the complex and difficult “isms” surrounding the characters in this novel. I could think about it for weeks and not unpack it completely. And, if I were still in school, I think I’d be very happy to write a long, complex paper about it.
What’s Up Next: I’m devouring The Elegance of the Hedgehog. It’s delicious and delightful and utterly engaging. I’m almost through and I only started last night! And then I’ve got a long list of library books AND a beautiful friend who knows me so well sent me Roddy Doyle’s latest book of short stories — I couldn’t resist, I’ve already read the first 5 pages and can’t wait to read the rest. I adore him. So, I’ve abandoned Off the Shelf for now, but only because I needed a break. I was reading far, far too many mediocre books (with the exception of Julian Barnes, natch) and needed a breather. But I will go back. I am determined to read every single damn book that’s perched there, just to say that I did. Stubborn, yes. I know.
March 19th, 2011
Light Lifting, Alexander MacLeod’s remarkable book of short stories, was our book club selection this month. I have to admit I did complain a little about reading yet another short story collection. In my mind, I’d grown a bit weary of the format and wanted something a little juicier, a little longer, to dig my teeth into. The women in my club are the smartest book people around and we have amazing discussions about books but this was our third story collection in a row and I had very mixed feelings about the other two.
But I’ve come to a very different conclusion after reading Light Lifting. I’m not tired of the short story. I’m tired of reading uneven collections where the stories are too dependent on quirks for them to be plausible and/or plot-worthy. With Light Lifting, and like The Lemon Table, I was ridiculously impressed, not only by the quality of the writing, but also by the cohesiveness of the stories themselves within the book. MacLeod hasn’t written a linked book of short stories but each of the pieces includes are complete in a way that many lesser writers, some of whom we’ve read over the last few months in our book club, fail to achieve with any consistency.
There are real people between the pages of Light Lifting and while they all undergo some sort of life changing event, the writing around it remains subtle, metaphors don’t stick out like sore thumbs, nothing supernatural happens, there’s nothing ‘put-upon’ in terms of their suffering — things just happen. Neighbourhoods change. Plants shut down. Fights break out in bars. But it’s the intersection of these events and the places where his characters in his stories are in their lives that combine to create a remarkable moment. Someone at book club described it as pivotal — something you don’t realize at the time, or you do but it takes some time to reflect — and one is forever changed.
I would hate to single out one story as my favourite among such rich bedfellows. But, as I always read so personally, the last story, “The Number Three,” about a man who killed his wife and son in a tragic car accident, ripped open my heart and splayed it out — I bawled. I mean, of course I did, even from the very first sentence, I knew I didn’t have an emotional chance against this story: “The single fried egg might be life’s loneliest meal.” The psychological ramifications of the accident, regardless of whether or not it was his fault, are deep. And ironic, as he was a career man working for GM, and story’s title plays on ideas of the big three, and the decline of the industry in general. So much is taken away from this protagonist, and even when there’s a moment where he might take a step forward, the palpable pain that prevents the step is achingly apparent. It’s just damn fine writing.
And in another bit of fine “life equals art” moments: there’s a part in “Wonder About Parents” where the dad takes the baby, five months old or so, into the change room and discovers she’s pooped so much that it’s easier just to throw her outfit into the trash and carry on. They’re on a road trip, heading home for the holidays, and the baby isn’t well. His wife makes him go back and retrieve the clothes, they were a gift, they can be washed — clothes are expensive. He does. Well, we were discussing that particular moment when the RRBB had his own, ahem, explosion at book club and I contemplated throwing all of his clothes out, but didn’t, because he was wearing a pair of pants that I adore, that were also a gift. But, goodness, the child had poo IN HIS HAIR.
Overall, it was a wonderful book club brunch, and every single one of us loved the book. It’s up there in terms of one of the best I’ve read so far this year (but The Illumination still holds the crown thus far, I think). But I’d highly, highly recommend this book — in fact, I’d be happy to pass my copy along to anyone who might want to read it, I loved it that much. Light Lifting needs to be shared, discussed, and celebrated — it’s that good.
November 30th, 2010
Trying to read more books published by NYRB remains one of the never-ending “should-do’s” on my reading life. I admire just about everything about the publishers: the packages they create, the books they choose to publish, the authors they choose, and the quality of the writing. Yet, I never seem to get around to reading, well, ANY of them. So, I was pleased when our book club, The Vicious Circle, picked Tove Jansson’s The True Believer as a monthly pick.
Tove Jansson was born in Helsinki, and she was an illustrator as well as an author. She grew up spending the summers on the Gulf of Finland, in a small fishing cabin, and the setting of The True Deceiver seems absolutely informed by the time she spent in that kind of an environment. The setting is stark, snow-filled, cold, and austere. The novel opens, “It was an ordinary dark winter morning, and snow was still falling.” The darkness isn’t frightening, it’s not meant to create the Let the Right One In kind of environment, it’s a fact of life, a season to get through — life still goes on, groceries need to be delivered, dogs need to be walked, boats need to built. I like how Jansson creates the setting, it informs and layers the story but it doesn’t overwhelm the novel.
The story revolves around two women who live in the small village. A strange, awkward girl named Katri Kling who lives above the general store with her brother, Mats (whom everyone thinks is simple but is truly just quiet and introverted). And Anna Aemelin, a relatively wealthy (as compared to the people in the rest of the village) children’s artist who is a bit of a recluse. From the beginning of the novel Katri has a plan — she wants to gain an “in” with Anna, she has a very specific, calculated plan to ingratiate herself into her life, and nothing will stop her from getting her way. The entire village thinks the girl is strange. She has a gift with numbers and with honesty, and so many people come to her for problems: is so-and-so cheating on me, was I charged too much by the grocer, is blah-de-blah taking advantage — the villagers are ashamed to ask for Katri’s help but they continually do it. With this premise, she begins to be helpful to Anna. There’s just one difference, Anna didn’t ask for Katri’s help, and doesn’t necessarily want it. She lives in her own kind of blissful ignorance, like the dark of winter, Anna closes herself up in her house, illustrates her woodland characters, idealizes the childish way she has of creating a world in the undergrowth of the forest, and wishes she could do it differently, but change isn’t something that comes naturally to Anna.
Eventually, Katri and her brother move in with Anna, into her house. Gossip starts. But as with anyone who sets out with a plan, things go astray. And the spareness, the sparsity of Jansson’s prose nicely echoes the setting. Her words are cruel when they need to be, sparingly kind in places, but always clean, if that makes any sense — she’s an incredibly clean, crisp writer, she sort of writes like the snow itself, cold, but melts when the temperature reaches a certain point. The title refers, naturally, to Katri, but it’s also pointedly about Anna, as well — deception when it comes to yourself, deception concerning another person, they are both themes that run from beginning to end. What’s simple doesn’t always seem so, and telling the truth, and then recognizing the truth about yourself, both happen to these characters by the end. Overall, I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this novel, I read it quickly, in every spare moment I had, and I do have them these days, not necessarily to write long blog posts, but to read at 2 AM when the RRBB is breastfeeding. It’s very easy to balance a book on The Breast Friend, let me tell you, as long as it’s a teeny paperback. I’m having a little more trouble with my giant hardcover copy of The Man from Beijing by Henning Mankell.
Also, Jansson was born in Finland, which means I can use this book for the Around the World in 52 Days challenge I do every year. I am sure I have managed about six weeks in total, but, still, I don’t think I’ve ever read a Finnish author before. And I am sure I would read more of her books in a heartbeat considering how much I loved this one.