Canadian Fiction

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How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa: ‘They’d had to begin all over again, as if the life they led before didn’t count’

It was that title that attracted me to this collection of stories about immigrants and refugees, cleverly exemplifying the many idiosyncratic challenges English throws at those for whom it’s a second language. Born in a refugee camp in Thailand, Laotian writer Souvankham Thammavongsa is a poet whose own facility for language is demonstrated throughout this …

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French Exit by Patrick deWitt: Squewering the rich

I’ve been a keen fan of Patrick deWitt’s fiction since reading his darkly comic ripping yarn, The Sisters Brothers. His last novel, Undermajordomo Minor, was entirely different having more than a touch of the Gothic fairy tale about it. French Exit takes yet another turn with its caustic caricature of the wealthy upper classes, taking …

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Brother by David Chariandy: ‘Complicated grief’

David Chariandy’s Brother is the second novel I’ve reviewed this year that I first spotted on Naomi’s Consumed by Ink, hoping that it would buck the British publishing trend of ignoring Canadian gems. The first was Katherena Vermette’s The Break, which lived up to the Margaret Atwood plaudit adorning its cover. Fingers crossed there’ll be more …

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The Postman’s Fiancée by Denis Thériault (transl. John Cullen): Bilodo redux

I reviewed The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman here three years ago. It often pops up in my top posts which pleases me no end. It’s a little gem: funny, endearing and sufficiently wacky to steer itself well clear of the twee. I ended the review by mentioning that there was a second volume …

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Stranger by David Bergen: Crossing the North/South divide

I was attracted to David Bergen’s Stranger for two reasons: firstly, its premise and secondly by the author’s previous winning of the Scotiabank Giller Prize which I’ve found to be a very reliable indicator, much more so than the Man Booker. Bergen’s novel explores themes of entitlement and deprivation through a young Guatemalan woman left …

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The Hidden Keys by André Alexis: A hugely enjoyable, sophisticated caper

This is the first book I’ve read by André Alexis. His last novel  was narrated in the voices of its titular dogs which brought back memories of Paul Auster’s Timbuktu, and not happy ones. That said Fifteen Dogs went on to win the Scotiabank Giller prize in 2015 so what do I know? This latest …

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