viernes, 26 de febrero de 2010
All Of Us Are Better When We Are Loved (book review)
How to start off this post? I find this quite difficult since no amount of words strung together to describe this novel will do it any justice but I shall try.
The narrator is Alexander MacDonald, a Canadian in his fifties (it is the 1980s) who tells us the story of his family right from the very beginning, when his ancestors emigrated from the Scottish Highlands to the New World in the 18th century.
I knew I was in for a roller coaster of emotions from the very first pages and passages like this one recounting the family dog´s reaction on realising her owners are leaving her behind (bear with me, it is a long one but worthwhile)...
´´ As they waited on the shore, the dog who had worked with them for years and had been left to the care of neighbours ran about in a frenzy, sensing that something was wrong, and rolling in the sand and whining in her agitation. And when they began to wade out to the smaller boat which would take them to the waiting ship, she swam after them, her head cutting a V through the water and her anxious eyes upon the departing family she considered as her own. And as they were rowed towards the anchored ship , she continued to swim, in spite of shouted Gaelic threats and exhortations telling her to go back; swimming farther and farther from the land, until Calum Ruadh, unable to stand it any longer, changed his shouts from threats to calls of encouragement and, reaching over the side, lifted her soaked and chilled and trembling body into the boat.
As she wriggled wetly against his chest and licked his face excitedly, he said to her in Gaelic, ´Little dog, you have been with us all these years and we will not forsake you now. You will come with us´.
Yes, I am a soppy person so reading things like this really move me.
Alexander, known affectionately as gille beag ruadh (the little red-haired boy), recalls many stories from previous generations and the struggles faced by them in unfamiliar territory.
Subjects touched upon in this novel include alcoholism, mining work, national identity, the interactions between inmigrants from different countries and of course, love and friendship.
If someone is reading and thinking ´Ugh... I don´t fancy reading details of misery after misery´ fear not! you won´t :) since the novel is also pervaded by Scottish sense of humour and little jokes so it does have many moments that bring a smile to the reader´s face.
The author is an university professor and peppers the novel with facts not only about Scotland and Canada but also a multitude of other matters.
For instance, I did not know that altitude sickness is also known colloquially as soroche neither that dentists have one of the highest rates of suicide nowadays.
I love it when I finish a book feeling a wee bit wiser.
Beautifully written and well-researched; I took a semester module on Scottish history a few years back at Edinburgh University and I did not spot any inaccuracies at all.
Most importantly for me, it achieved two things that seldom happen to me these days... I read it in one sitting and it brought tears to my eyes.
Negative bits: Almost flawless work of literary fiction. The only people who might wish to skip it are those whose reading staple diet consists mainly of chick lit books. This is way above that in terms of vocabulary and well, let´s just face it... in terms of everything else as well.
Winner of the 2001 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and it got selected five months ago (it was written in 1999) as the greatest Atlantic Canadian book of all time.
No Great Mischief - Alistair MacLeod
Vintage, London (2001)
Rating - 9.25 (A)
P.S I am now reading a YA book in Spanish so I´ll be posting the review sometime this weekend.