Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Student of the Weather

I might as well admit this right off the top- I didn't like this novel. Not that Elizabeth Hay isn't a good writer, she has crafted some nice pieces of prose, written some well-rounded, relatable characters; it just wasn't my cup of tea.

I like to meander my way through novels, discover connections on my own, feel proud of myself for getting a reference to another book or another point in this story. She makes it too easy, points out all those connections. For example, in one scene Norma Joyce, the novels heroine, discovers some lost art of her mother's and she affixes it to her wall, with a growing collection of things. This addition leads to the observation "it occurred to her that, again, she was reconstructing her childhood corner." I felt like the author was tapping me on the shoulder saying "hey, hey, don't you get it, she is reverting to her childhood home." But I had got it, I had already made the connection. And as often as I felt her doing this, spoiling my fun, I felt as though she was writing for the lowest common denominator.

The story itself is a good idea- a small family (2 daughters and a father) find their way from growing up in small town Saskatchewan to living in Ottawa, venturing to New York, through lovers, children, friends, jobs, etc. Naturally, one daughter is more favoured, the older, prettier, more responsible Lucinda. Norma Joyce, the younger, wilder sister, falls in love with Maurice who visits Saskatchewan from Ottawa. The trouble is, Maurice is in love with Lucinda (and Lucinda with Maurice). As the story unfolds, things fall apart between Maurice and Lucinda, largely because of some undelivered letters by a jealous Norma Joyce. The family moves from Saskatchewan to Ottawa and Norma Joyce continues her obsession. She actually continues this obsession throughout the novel. A plot point I got a bit weary of. She never seems to learn her lesson. Her and Maurice do have an affair, she has his child, but is still rejected by him time and time again. But she persists.

Truthfully, I was more intrigued by the character of Lucinda. After losing her love to her younger sister, she moves on (sort of), develops a business, remains responsible for her father. Her story is tragic and compelling. I could sympathize with her, whereas my sympathy with Norma Joyce waned fairly quickly.

So, all in all, unfortunately my first disappointing read. Not a bad novel, just not my thing.

I have also read Dracula, which I was trying to think of ways to make count as a Canadian novel. No such luck, although I did hear that one of his (great?) grandsons IS Canadian and has written some sort of sequel to Dracula- might be a bit of a stretch though.

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