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Monday, January 08, 2018

Bellevue Square by Michael Redhill | Book Review


Description: Bellevue Square is a much lauded novel, but it wasn’t my cup of tea. The writing was interesting, but I didn’t care about the characters. As the protagonist Jean Mason goes off the rails so did my attention. But this is a novel I should have loved. I like psychological thrillers and mysteries. Jean works in a bookstore near Kensington Market and apparently has a doppelganger. She tries to seek out her lookalike by hanging around in Bellevue Square, where “Ingrid” has been spotted. But in the end she mostly meets drug addicts, scam artists, vagrants, and some locals who are no strangers to the nearby mental health services.

Here are a few of the accolades:
• Winner of the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize
• #1 National Bestseller
• Globe and Mail Best Book of 2017
• National Post Best Book of 2017
• CBC Best Book of 2017
• Kobo Best Book of 2017

Spoiler Alert: The novel starts out great, interesting story, but as Jean becomes more and more obsessed with finding Ingrid, it’s clear that Ingrid is not real. Jean has functional delusions and as the novel nears its end, the delusions get more and more elaborate. In some ways the novel reminded me of Roddy Doyle’s Smile, where you’re not certain what is real or not. But for me, I was happy to get to the end of Bellevue Square.

Perfect Read for fans of CanLit. The setting is Kensington Market in Toronto, there are lots of nice nuances to the feel of that place. Plus Michael Redhill’s previous novels have been finalists or longlisted for major prizes so if you like writing that throws you off the trace then this is well-written but tame thriller.

Favourite Moment: Jean and her mother-in-law have some little abrasive moments that are a bit funny; and most of the scenes with her husband Ian and the kids provide light-hearted humour. “Ian’s mother drops the kids after lunch Sunday. They have enjoyed their weekend at the Condo of No Rules. If you want to see what a hangover looks like on a ten-year-old, let him stay up until the middle of the night two nights in a row.” 

Bellevue Square by Michael Redhill
Published by Doubleday Canada

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Smile by Roddy Doyle | Book Review


Smile by Roddy Doyle (published by Knopf Canada)

Description: Victor Forde is down on his luck and out on his ear. He’s recently split from his wife, has moved into a subpar apartment, and is looking for some social time (without too many attachments). He finds himself down at the local pub where he runs into a former school mate named Fitzpatrick. Victor doesn’t quite remember this guy as a lad he hung out with, but Fitzpatrick knows a lot about their time together at school. The chance encounter gets Victor thinking about their school days at a Christian Brothers school. There was bullying, taunts about being queer, and the ever-present authority of the Brothers.

Disclaimer: There’s a psycho-thriller element to this story and not everything is as it seems.

Smile is the perfect book for Roddy Doyle fans. If you are drawn to dark, gritty dramas then this is a great read, although an unsettling subject.

Favourite Moment: An early scene in the novel sets the stage and provides context for the title of the novel. The boys are in French class and want to get out of their weekend homework. Victor is goaded into making the request on their behalf. Brother Murphy turns from the board and says “Victor Forde, I can never resist your smile.” Creepy!