Friday, February 19, 2010

King Leary

I figured it would be a good idea to read last year's Canada Reads winner. Now that I have finished those from this year, it would give be a good bar to judge them by. It also seemed like an appropriate moment, as Paul Quarrington tragically passed away last month.

King Leary is the story of the retired hockey star Percival Leary. He is invited to Toronto to participate in a ginger ale ad. He leaves the retirement home, bringing with him Blue Hermann, the alcoholic sports journalist from Leary's heyday and Iain, an equally alcoholic young aide from the retirement home. The three are joined by Leary's son Clifford; the ad exec responsible for the ginger ale ad; and Duane the young hockey whiz that is the new 'king' of the game (not to mention the numerous ghosts from Leary's past, who make side appearances as Leary's grasp on reality loosens).

The story is a mix of Leary's present trip to Toronto and his memories of his hockey player days. The novel is hilarious and I often caught myself laughing out loud on the subway. The writing carries the novel, along with the strength of the characters. The plot is neither here nor there and is more a vehicle for characterization, than to move things along; but it works well enough. I can see why it was chosen for Canada Reads, it is very readable by anyone from the snobbiest reader (me) to the everyday hockey fan. It is not an epic Canadian novel, but it is very enjoyable.

If I had to compare it to another novel I have read, it would have to be Horn of the Lamb, which had a similar mix of hockey and humour and that equally drew on the strength of the main character. I will definitely be adding Quarrington to my list of author's to read more of.


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