Has anyone out there ever heard of Anthony de Sa? I never have. I found this book on my bookshelf (it is new, 2008) and it is from Random House, so I assume I was graciously given the book by a friend of mine who works at Random House. But I have NEVER heard of this author. Apparently, this is his first novel and after some digging, I discovered it was short-listed for the Giller. But the whole time I was reading Barnacle Love, I felt like I was missing something, some reason why I was the only one who knew about this writer. Even though I liked it a lot, I kept trying to find a reason why it would have bombed and floated into oblivion.
Despite my digging for faults, Barnacle Love was a surprisingly great book. I really enjoyed it. The writing was excellent, the language great and while the plot wore a little thin after awhile, it was an intriguing story.
Barnacle Love is the story of Manuel, a Portuguese immigrant to Canada and his story as he arrived (by jumping off a fishing boat and swimming to Newfoundland) and then built a life in Canada (mostly in Toronto). The point of view shifts from Manuel to his son, Antonio (Tony), though it is still about Manuel. Manuel has a struggling relationship with his mother, who is back home in Portugal, and his role in the family he left behind. As is usual (it seems) with immigrant stories, Manuel (though he tries very hard) has a difficult time succeeding and prospering in his new country.
Interesting part about this book- once in Toronto, Manuel and his family settle on Palmerston Avenue, which is where Katy lived for awhile! And take my word for it- there are many many Portuguese still there. I loved being able to picture the setting and really know the places that Tony describes. I am sending this over to Katy soon- I know she will enjoy reading about her old hood.
I look forward to more from de Sa, this book was a surprising and delightful find from my bookshelf!
Katy wrote about Rohinton Mistry a few posts ago and I think we will have much more experience with immigrant writing as we continue with our challenge. It plays such a large role in Canadian society, so I am sure the same can be said of Can Lit.
Next, while waiting for my Canada Reads books to come in at the library (I know, I am way behind Katy), I am reading Wayson Choy’s Not Yet. This is an autobiography about Choy’s near-death experience and should prove interesting!
Update: Just got an email, my first Canada Reads book is in, so as soon as I finish up Choy, I will be getting started with Generation X. Better get reading….