Well folks we are just about two months away from the announcement of the 2013 Giller Prize shortlist and I have only read three of the five shortlist nominees from last year. However, I thought that I was actually reading number four on the list this past week and just mere moments ago realized this was not the case. I had been reading The Sentimentalists by Johanna Skibsrud which was in fact a Giller Prize winner but from 2010 not 2012. Womp womp.
So I am no closer to my goal of finishing the five 2012 shortlisted books, but I did end up really enjoying The Sentimentalists so all is not lost.
This story centers around a father-daughter relationship and although is fairly slow moving, is incredibly well-written especially in a few particularly moving moments. The father is a former soldier who in his older age is struggling to deal with the haunting memories of one specific incident he witnessed as a soldier during the Vietnam War, which is actually based on the true story of the author’s father. The narrative also touches upon themes of aging and dying, memory, family, and duty, balling all of these complex issues into a seemingly simple surface story that in actuality hides much deeper meaning.
A good and interesting read, but not one I would recommend if you are looking for an upbeat, easy book.
One section that stuck out to me in particular is below
Overall, I would have to say that it had come as a disappointment to live within the particularities of a life; to find that the simple arithmetic of things — which I thought I had learned by rote, but was now unsure from whom, or what it was that had been learned at all — was not so simple. That it was not, in fact, combination alone that increased the territory of living in the world. And that love did not, on its own accord, increase with time. That it could find itself just as easily divided by things. And that there was nothing to do when it left you but bite your tongue and wait for its return. As though it was a small bird, which sometimes thought to wing itself across the city — but would, almost always, thinking better of it, arrive again in a rush to the sill. Oh, I would have waited like a dog for seven lifetimes for that bird to appear, if I knew that it would continue to come! If I knew that it would continue to look in again with fondness at the small room, which it had thought to leave behind; at a life of knowing; of closeness, and foibles. Of regrets, misdeeds, and small personal ecstasies.
The objects, just as they were — so delicately arranged for it there, all lined up on the shelf — would seem so precious to the little bird, then, that it would wish its heart was not so small, or nailed so closely to its chest.