During November, when I took some time off from blogging, I spent many pleasant hours catching up on some reading. In December, the demands of the holiday season slowed me down some. For Christmas, my niece gave me a book I have been anxious to read and it was the last, the very last book I completed in 2010: Catherine Gildener’s After the Falls. It’s suitable that I finished out the year with this because it is the sequel to Too Close to the Falls, which I reviewed in February. As I predicted at the time, Too Close to the Falls remained one of my favorite books for 2010. I enjoyed the sequel as well. Gildener’s adolescence was certainly more eventful than my own, but as she is just a few years older than I am, many of the societal issues, such as attitudes towards women and the American civil rights movement, brought back memories of the times. Too Close to the Falls has a special poignancy because of the young age of the narrator that After the Falls lacks, and thus stands on its own better than does its sequel. However, Gildiner is a gifted storyteller, and After the Falls is a fast-moving and absorbing read.
In non-fiction, Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely is an interesting look at how our decision-making is shaped without our conscious awareness. Ariely’s book is entertaining and convincing and filled with many examples you will recognise from everyday life. For instance, when shoppers were first asked to bring their own bags to grocery stores, change was slow. However, merely adding a 5 cent per bag charge caused a major change in shopper behaviour. It is now commonplace to see shoppers with their own bags, even though 5 cents is an insignificant sum. Predictably Irrational is easy to read and thought-provoking. Definitely worth a look.
One of the best mysteries I read this year was Denise Mina’s Still Midnight. Mina’s intricate plot revolves around a home invasion in a Glasgow suburb that results in the kidnapping of the elderly head of the household. As DS Alex Morrow investigates, dark family secrets come to light and Alex’s own secrets interfere with her work. A highly recommended read for mystery or suspense fans.
Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson was outstanding. It was perhaps the title that drew me to the book, but the story actually has nothing to do with horses. Trond, now a man of 67, thinks back on painful memories of a summer when he was 15. In 1948, he travelled with his father to their camp in the Norwegian countryside. The events of that summer would change his life, and that of his best friend, forever. The writing is spare but evocative, a wonderful read.
I read a number of books from both the Giller Prize and the Governor General’s short lists, which I will cover together on another day. For now, I’ll conclude with The Mistress of Nothing by Kate Pullinger, which won the Governor General’s Award for Fiction in 2009. This story of Sally, dedicated lady’s maid to Lady Duff Gordon, is loosely based on a true event. Lady Duff Gordon moved to Egypt in an effort to ease the tuberculosis from which she was suffering. Removed from the constraints of rigid Victorian London society, the two women adapt to a different world. However, Sally ultimately learns that her position on the bottom rung of society’s ladder will never change in the view of her mistress. An exotic setting and sympathetic story.