26 March 2013

Library Limelights 26


Worst case scenario: library notification for FIVE books all here at the same time. Trying to calculate the wait times and stagger the reading list arrivals is a lottery.

Linda Svendsen. Sussex Drive, a novel. Toronto: Random House Canada, 2012.
What a romp through the political streets and byways of twenty-first century Ottawa! Heady pleasure, something like eating your decadent way through a box of expensive chocolates or a gateau caramel. Svendsen has nailed recent (real) government hotspots in a story to satisfy mild mystery-lovers as well as anyone feeling humour-bereft these days. But ... you have to be a Canadian in touch with reality to appreciate the references! Behind the scenes at Rideau Hall and 24 Sussex Drive, Svendsen skewers the hapless co-habitants with devilish wit. And clearly did her research to gain insider knowledge.

Greg Leggat is the Conservative Prime Minister. Lise Lavoie is the black, foreign-born Governor General. Sound familiar already? Their backgrounds and personalities might make you think you are consuming non-stop backroom gossip. The PM composes a gospel rock opera in his spare time. The GG worries constantly about her half-Cree son. Their spouses manipulate. Minority governments, elections, coalitions, prorogation, speeches from the throne, staff security, Afghanistan (I almost said Afghanada :) and so on, all threaded into a tale you can't stop reading. More fun than four cats in a bathtub. If you live here, get it!

The PM:
He leaned back and folded his hands in his lap. He kept interlacing his finger different ways, the way he did when he was awkwardly posed in an Asian preschool or gurdwara kindergarten. He looked uncomfortable, as if he were talking to the news anchor he most despised. Then he was faux friendly to her, a warning. "I sat down with our oldest child tonight. Asked if she'd like to perform in Temptations at the 2010 Beijing Olympics."
Adrenalin shot up Becky's stem and her arms were flooded. "And?"
"She fricking lost it."
"How so?"
"Said she didn't deserve to participate in a gospel rock opera." Greg stopped there. (128)

The GG:
Back in Margaret Lee's office, the windows were shuttered and one sole halogen light illuminated her desk, occupied only by a Mac laptop and a nineties phone. A whiteboard exposing Lise's present and future dominated the wall. "I may have located a constitutional advisor," Margaret Lee said. "You don't know him."
"That dog won't hunt," Lise said. "I want one I know."
"They're all in the Caribbean."
"Right, said Lise. "And last September they were all in Muskoka."
"They get around," said Margaret Lee. (244)

Michael Koryta. The Prophet. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2012.
The mystery entails a few shaky premises, un-pursued clues, some quantum leaps in logic, and rather boring characters. Otherwise it's thick with fraternal guilt and detailed descriptions of football gamesfor me, an endurance test. Absolutely everyone involved has an immediate family member in jail or prison. Around page 200 the long-anticipated tension heats up a little. Are two murders, years apart, connected? Is there a good brother and a bad brother? Will the local college team win the championship? Sorry, jaw-cracking yawns here; only pride made me finish the game book.

One shaky premise (a 17-year-old lives under a rock today's world?):
"He explained where he was living," she said. "I feel like I should have been able to find it myself, honestly. I tried on the Internet but I guess I don't know what I'm doing. Anyhow, I'd love it if you'd find the address. All I want to do is respond, right? To let him know that he doesn't need to be afraid of me. I'm not going to ask him to start being a dad." (13-14)

The football coach:
Kent could see the son of a bitch so clearly, the gap-toothed smile. I forgive you, Kent had told him. I want you to understand what you have taken from me, and so many others, but before we begin with that, I need you to understand that I forgive you, and I would also like to say a prayer. (189-190)

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