Friday, 18 April 2014

Reading Emma with Indie Jane

I’ve been in a few book clubs in my time, but have never before joined an internet book chat.  There’s a first time for everything.  I was invited to join the book chat on Emma because I wrote Suspiciously Reserved: A Twist on Jane Austen’s Emma.  Not that you need an invitation.  It’s an open group to anyone that would like to join.  I thought I’d give it a try.
I was delighted.  The chat was filled with intelligent, well-read, Austen addicts.  The online “conversation” was quick, witty and highly entertaining.  

During this read through Emma, I made several new discoveries.  I began writing Jane Austen fan fiction as a way to improve my own writing.  On this read-through I noticed how far I still have to go.  Emma is filled with conversations I would love to be a part of, layered characters and incredible plot twists.  How anyone could make life in a poky village so fascinating is a mystery itself! 

The best conversations occur between Mr. Knightley and Emma.  Austen’s language is so exquisite.  I wonder if our fast-paced life and constant distractions have dismantled my ability to ever turn a sentence like she does.  Some of my favourites:

“It is not to be conceived that a man of three or four-and-twenty should not have liberty of mind or limb to that amount.”

“You are very fond of bending little minds; but where little minds belong to rich people in authority, I think they have a knack of swelling out till they are quite as unmanageable as great ones.”

“Why she did not like Jane Fairfax might be a difficult question to answer; Mr. Knightley had once told her it was because she saw in her the really accomplished young woman which she wanted to be thought herself; and though the accusation had been eagerly refuted at the time, there were moments of self-examination in which her conscience could not quite acquit her.”

And, of course “There was no getting at her real opinion.  Wrapt up in a cloak of politeness, she seemed determined to hazard nothing.  She was disgustingly, was suspiciously, reserved.”

One of my favourite parts of writing Suspiciously Reserved was looking through my book afterward and finding quotations from Emma to name my chapters.  They are the best words in my book.  So, do I give up and give over to reading instead of writing?  This is something I often ask myself.  It wouldn’t be so terrible, except that I can’t seem to stop.  I love to find out what happens next, to live in my head and imagine new people.  So instead of being inspired to quit, I will take Jane Austen’s brilliance as proof that it is possible.  And so, I continue.

Monday, 14 April 2014

A Review of The Bear By Claire Cameron

I heard about this book from one of my favourite shows on CBC Radio – The Next Chapter.  Shelagh Rogers was interviewing author Claire Cameron on writing the book and I was hooked.  The Bear is based on real events in Algonquin Park when a couple out camping were killed and eaten by a bear.  As Cameron says, she added the kids.
Anna, the 5-year-old protagonist, and her brother Alex, whom she calls “Stick” are hidden by their father inside of Coleman (those huge, old coolers that which Cameron tested to make sure was big enough for two small children).  When they escape the attack, their mother begs Anna to save her and her brother by paddling out in a canoe.  She lures her stubborn 2-year-old brother into the boat with cookies.
This book is unique in many ways, one of the most striking being that it is told using Anna’s voice and language.  Cameron painstakingly recreates the language of an ingenious five-year-old in a way which is completely compelling and endearing.  She also brilliantly writes the complex sibling relationship from utter frustration to heart-wrenching love. 
I could not get Anna and Alex out of my mind.  While the subject matter is gruesome and desperate, Anna’s determination and childish imaginings kept me from freaking out.  The characters are utterly believable and I couldn’t help imagining my own daughter and son in this situation.  The ending is beautiful and true.  I loved the grandfather.