Bestseller? Really?

I stated to read The Girl on the Train with the high hopes that it would be a good book. Mistake number one. I kept on reading because I assumed it would get better, mistake number two. I finished the book thinking there’s no way the end could be rubbish, I’m clearly a fool.

The Girl on the Train is about a young woman, Rachel Watson, who develops an unhealthy obsession with a young couple that she sees on the train everyday. She creates names for them, imagines what their life is like and thoroughly invests her time in imagining that they have an ideal marriage. After her own failed marriage, Rachel is desperate (I use this word kindly because what I really want to say is psychotic) to hang on to hope that love does exist. You find out early on that Rachel is an alcoholic and a self-destructive human being. In situations where a normal person would walk away Rachel hurtles forward as if reason and rationality are foreign to her. When Megan, one half of the couple she obsesses over, goes missing, Rachel appoints herself the Nancy Drew of the case. To make things even more murky, Rachel was drunk the night Megan went missing and she also happened to be in the area where Megan was last seen, thus leading the reader into a never ending pity party of self-doubt, angst and “omg did I do it?”.

There are a few reasons I despised this book:

– The character is unbelievable. I get it, Rachel is a drunk and drunks can be irrational. However, throughout the whole book I found myself thinking that she is just not believable as a person or a character. No one behaves that way, no one thinks that way. It made for a cringe worthy read.

– The pathetic female role goes to Rachel for sure but if her drunken crap wasn’t enough to make you want to rip up the book the author did you the courtesy of adding two more nauseating female roles.

– I don’t know why, maybe it’s because the novel was written in diary form but there was something about it that reminded me of Gone Girl, which if you read my review last year you would know I also hated.

In conclusion, maybe I’m a book snob or maybe as I grow older I’ve become sick of the weak female role but this book was a waste of reading time. The only redeeming quality it had is that I was fired up to write this review and warn you all.

In the dead of winter, there is Louise Penny, Armand Gamache and Three Pines

The Nature of the Beast is a stellar novel and once again Louise Penny outdoes herself. In this latest instalment, Armand Gamache is faced with the death of a little boy from the village. Known for crying wolf and claiming that monsters and aliens lurk in the woods, the murder comes as a shock to the quiet community of Three Pines. The murder of Laurent is further complicated by the appearance of a giant gun in the woods. Who built it and why is it hidden in a quiet Quebec village?

There is a simple reason why I love the Armand Gamache series; the imagery is brilliant. It doesn’t get very cold in Vancouver and it snows only sporadically so when winter rolls around I crave snow, a fireplace and below zero temperature, and Louise Penny delivers every-time. The characters invite you into their lives, serve you a steaming cup of apple cider with a chocolate croissant and tell you about their latest troubles. It’s a brilliant series and I cannot wait to read more. This book, this series, is a must read for any book lover looking to get lost in a small village in the middle of winter. 

Let’s be frank about this: A review and a dialogue

Talking about religion let alone Islam is a contentious issue, has been ever since 9/11 and will be in the years to come. When I began to read Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s account of her life in her novel Infidel, I didn’t realize the depth of the islamophobia and political upheaval I would be exposed to. I thought I would be reading an account of a life turned upside down by civil war but this memoir is more than that, it’s a look at the failure of various political systems and the wayward beliefs of religious crusaders that brought us to this point in history.   
The novel follows Ayaan’s journey as a young Somalian woman ingrained with the beliefs of Islam and her transformation into a refuge turned political activist in Holand. I’m not Muslim and I don’t follow Islam so it would be wrong for me to act as if this book has taught me everything I need to know about Islam. While I won’t make such a large assertion I will say this; Ayaan’s account of Islam dislodged a prominent myth that I’ve perpetuated when discussing religion and particularly Islam; that the text itself does not condone violence and yet that is exactly what Ayaan is saying in her novel. According to her, Islam is written in Arabic and not every Muslim speaks Arabic, the Quran is therefore translated and taught to its followers and this is where the problem lies, the interpretation focuses on peace but the text itself, written in an era where war and oppression were prevalent speaks the opposite. War on unbelievers is encouraged and oppressing women is acceptable. I don’t think that this is true only for Islam, in the Sikh religion the holy book is written in Punjabi and for the generations that cannot read the text it is translated. How do we know that the translation is a correct depiction of the meaning behind the words? We can interpret things however we want but that doesn’t make us right and I think that’s what Ayaan is saying in her novel, some interpretations have become holy word when they’re not and because of this we find ourselves in a very unnecessary holy war.

I don’t want to start a religious debate but I do want to articulate that reading this book as someone who believes in God and prays daily it was interesting to see Ayaan’s arguments for not believing and for becoming atheist. If we believe that everything in life is preordained because there is a God then we live life reactively, we don’t try, we think hey it’s meant to happen and therefore it will. I can see why it would have been so liberating for Ayaan to let go of this mentality, shed her identity as a Muslim woman and decide that walking left, right or going straight hasn’t already been decided but will be decided by her alone. 

When I first picked up this book I remember being asked “have you heard about her?”, “do you know her story?”. I recall looking at the picture on the cover and thinking what did she do? I get it now. She received refugee status in Holland by misrepresenting herself. It’s a horrible thing to do when you think of the fact that someone more deserving might have gotten her spot instead. Honestly though, I don’t care. I read this book and at the end of it I admired her. I admire her wit, her strength, her story, the intelligent way she presents her arguments. Yes, she did lie, but in her circumstances wouldn’t you have done the same?

A remarkable book and a must read. 

Saint Mazie by Jami Attenberg

  
I thought I would take a break from reviewing books but then I read Saint Mazie and I just had to tell you all about it. Saint Mazie is a seriously wonderful book. 
The story is about a young girl growing up in New York City. She lives a privileged life and you would think that she would enjoy her privilege, marry, have kids and be stereotypically happy but no, Mazie is different. She roams the streets of New York during the Great Depression helping the men, women and children she can. Giving all of the spare change in her pockets, her time and anything else she has to offer. During the day she runs the local movie theatre, sitting in a cage and selling tickets but at night she’s Saint Mazie. The story is beautiful and the characters are beautifully flushed. Mazie has all of the privilege that comes with money but instead of living the life people expect her to live she commits to no man, she cares for her sick sister and she gives selflessly. The story is interwoven with memories of those who remember Mazie and the story that Mazie is telling herself. I can’t say this enough, but it’s so beautiful. A must read!