Tag Archives: wonder

Book Review: Wonder by Dominque Fortier

01.22.2014

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

Wonder bk cvr

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Category: Literary Fiction

Author: Dominique Fortier

Translator: Sheila Fischman

Format: Trade Paperback,  299 pages

Publisher: McClelland & Stewart

ISBN: 978-0-7710-4769-5

Pub Date: January 7, 2014

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Summary from Publisher:

This second work from critically acclaimed Quebec novelist Dominique Fortier, whose debut was shortlisted for a Governor General’s Award in both French and English, is an enthralling shell-game of a novel. Composed of three stories linked by theme and image, it brings alive a captivating cast of characters both historical and fictional. For lovers of boldly original literary fiction such as David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, Peter Carey’s Oscar and Lucinda, and Michael Cunningham’s The Hours. In Wonder past and present, science and emotion, speak to each other to create a brilliant whole from three distinct parts. Readers are swept from a devastating volcanic eruption in 1902 to today’s Montreal by way of a scientific love story in Victorian England. Along the way we follow Baptiste Cyparis, “The Man who Lived Through Doomsday,” who traveled the length and breadth of the United States with Barnum & Bailey’s circus, and meet Edward Love, the mathematician who discovered the mysterious waves that shake the earth. This luminous novel confirms Fortier as both a first-rate storyteller and as a master stylist. From the Chapters-Indigo website.

Book Review by Zara from The Bibliotaphe Closet:

Wonder by Dominique Fortier is a storytelling delight, both in its imaginative scope and its absurdity, yet thoughtful depth. The is divided into separate parts: Monsters and Marvels, Harmony of the Spheres, and Love Waves, which together form a narrative that will carry its reader to visual and thoughtful depths.

While the book opens to a formal and opulent narrative, the ease in which the reader will connect the story through its main characters will slowly emerge from the interesting, comical, yet almost sad, and grotesque plot movements. In Monsters and Marvels, we’re introduced to the unfortunate place which Baptiste, a man of various trades, begins as an impersonating socialite on the eve of Carnival in Saint-Pierre where for one evening, the roles between the rich and its servants are reversed as a testament to Carnival’s rebellious joviality and re-enactment of play. Baptiste, who has renamed himself on various occasions, in his nomadic nature, ends up in an unlikely place after a gallant move to defend a prostitute, which without even a graceful thank you, becomes both a form of suffering and salvation.

In the apocalyptic fate of Mount Pelee and its surrounding village, Baptiste, is asked to join a travelling circus in which his “phenomenal” survival, as well as his cultural heritage, both become a palpable form of voyeuristic entertainment. While Baptiste finds some quiet solace in both a woman and her son, his uncontrollable desire becomes both his punishment and demise.

In the Harmony of the Spheres, the style of writing is effortlessly precise as it is poetic. And its characters, Edward and Garance, are an eccentric couple whose giftedness is both superior as it is strange. While the characters’ uniqueness give the story its interest, it’s the same talents that both elucidate an academic frequency and freedom, as it does hinder the characters’ chance at a “normal” life.

In Edward’s case, his mistrust of fiction and compulsion for numbers, equations, and the possibility of solving the essence of life in its most complex, fundamental state, drives Edward to the point of blind obsession and introspective loneliness. Yet, it is in numbers that Edward finds solace and understanding, a gift that carries him through the bewildering secrets that compel him to investigate and quantify.

The Harmony of the Spheres, is in its own way, a puzzle the reader must contemplate, unsolvable until the end, but rather in its reading, a process in the joy of attempting to understand Edward, the character, as much as he attempts to understand theorems.

But, the novel all comes to together in the last part of the book, Love Waves, a story about a young woman and a man, whose serendipitous meeting becomes a quiet courtship based on the comfort of routine and solace. The woman, like the man is unnamed for most of the story, a woman who walks dogs up and down a winter mountain to discover a kindred and mysterious person who leaves rocks under a birch tree in the shape of an Inukshuk. Like play, she responds to each new finding with her own creation and interpretation of rocks. The two eventually meet face-to-face, first unknowingly hostile, and then resolute in simple acts of kindness.

Nature, history, ideas, all become the backdrop in which they meet. Their conversations slowly piece together small hints of their history and their eventual involvement. Like the story’s title, their love and their meeting-of-the-minds seem to lull together as naturally as the tide. The three parts of the book, though in themselves seem disjointed, are rather a microcosm of personal stories that reveal six degrees of separation. While Fortier’s writing is exquisitely lyrical, her characters are rich and eccentric, hidden within them a multitude of history and connection.

The book, Wonder, is a literary specimen that will coerce readers to read actively and carefully, as well as wonder quietly its outcome.

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Characters: 4 stars

Pacing: 3 stars

Cover Design: 3.5 stars

Plot: 3.5 stars

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Zara’s Rating

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A special thanks to Random House of Canada on behalf of McClelland & Stewart for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Author:

From Random House of Canada website. http://www.randomhouse.ca/authors/121487/dominique-fortier
From Random House of Canada website. http://www.randomhouse.ca/authors/121487/dominique-fortier

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DOMINIQUE FORTIER was born in 1972. She holds a Ph.D. in literature from McGill University and is a respected editor and literary translator. On the Proper Use of Stars, her debut novel, was first published in Quebec in 2008 as Du bon usage des étoiles and was shortlisted for the French language Governor General’s Award for Fiction, the Prix des libraires du Québec, the Grand Prix littéraire Archambault, and the Prix Senghor. It is being adapted for the screen by Jean-Marc Vallée (C.R.A.Z.Y., The Young Victoria). Dominique lives in Montreal.

-From The Random House of Canada website.

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Have you ever read any work by Dominque Fortier? If so, what did you think?

What is the most eccentric character you’ve ever come across in fiction?

What do you think is the purpose of someone like Baptiste Cyparis in being the only human survivor of the eruption of Mount Pelee in 1902?

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zara cat stamp

Stuffing the Bibliotaphe Closet. 01.20.2014

01.20.2014

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

This blog, The Bibliotaphe Closet, was birthed from a robust passion for the written word and its printed page. What started as a small collection of three to four books that belonged to a teenager who didn’t have the means to purchase an entire library, a lot of my reading was done through high school English class assignments, public library generosity, and a few finds from local garage sales. By my completion of university with a BA in Creative Writing and English Literature, my book collection grew to a whopping 300 books. As the years passed, the bookstores also grew larger, as did my income, and my consistent love of books. Ten bookshelves later, I’m at a personal best of 3000+ books in my collection.

I then discovered the word, bibliotaphe, which means book hoarder. I’ve moved a total of eight times and while I’ve lost no sleep over selling artifacts on hand through the accessibility of Kijiji, I have always mourned the loss of a good book. I’ve lent some to family members, friends, classmates, never to see them return. I’ve lost a few books while on trips abroad. I’ve even lost books by simply forgetting them at a local café. Which has made me quite vigilant in keeping an up-to-date database of all my “pretties” as I receive them publishers for review, purchase them on my own, or receive them as gifts from my thoughtful, bibliotaphe counterparts.

And what was inspired by the “Stacking the Shelves” blog meme, “Stuffing the Bibliotaphe Closet” was generated to feature the latest additions to my perpetually growing library.

While others may have “skeletons” in their closets, the only things in mine—are books. Well-loved books.

Here’s this week’s Stuffing the Bibliotaphe Closet edition. Not a bad start to the New Year.

Books for Review:

books for review - jan 20 2014

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A special thanks to Random House of Canada

for providing me with the following copies for review:

Wonder by Dominque Fortier

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

All the Broken Things by Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer

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I just recently completed a review on Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs and am thrilled to have received Hollow City, its sequel, in the mail as soon as it hit the bookshelves. I trust it’s just as eerie and imaginative as the original Peregrine story and I can’t wait to turn its pages as soon as I complete my read and review of the translated novel by Dominique Fortier, Wonder, which is what I’m currently reading now. Soon after that, I will be privileged to read All the Broken Things, a tender story about a 14-year-old boy named Bo, a refugee from Vietnam, who lives in a small house in Toronto with his sister, Rose, a girl severely disfigured by the affects of Agent Orange.

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Books I Bought:

books bought Jan 20 2014

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Hellgoing by Lynn Coady, published by Astoria, an imprint of House of Anansi

11/22/63 by Stephen King, published by Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster

An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin, published by Grand Central Publishing, Hachette Book Group

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While I’ve read and reviewed a number of Lynn Coady’s work, such as “The Antagonist,” which was nominated for the Giller Prize in 2011, I could not help but cheer for the success of her latest work, Hellgoing, which was not only nominated for the Giller, but its Grand Prize Winner in 2013. As a short story writer, I can certainly appreciate the craftsmanship of the short story, which is the collection held within the pages of Hellgoing and something I look forward to reading as I’ve heard Coady’s ability to create true and humorous dialogue is something to wonder at and applaud.

11/22/63 is a massive mountain of a book, totalling 849 pages in trade paperback, it is not only about the assassination of JFK, but time travel, which are topics King usually steers away from when his usual works feature the darkest of our fears when roused in his works of fiction that belong to the genre of horror. Stephen King is much beloved as he is idolized, a storyteller known to engage his readers in the dark of his stories.

And while I didn’t love Shop Girl, I congratulate Steve Martin for expanding his resume to include “creative writer” when he’s already a famous actor and comedian. Why write unless you actually have a story to tell and a voice to tell it in? And this novel also includes colourful graphics of art reproductions to accompany the story of fine art collecting. This is certainly a book I will check into as soon as I complete a few of my scheduled reviews.

Books I Won:

books won jan 20

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An ARC of Some Thing Real by Heather Demetrios, published by Henry Holt

A copy of Under the Jeweled Sky by Alison McQueen, published by Source Books

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I was lucky enough to win a copy of Some Thing Real and Under the Jeweled Sky both from contests on Facebook hosted by the books’ publishers. Thanks to Henry Holy and Source Books for these additions to my collection!

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What does your Bibliotaphe Closet look like this year?

What book are you most looking forward to reading right now?

Of the books listed above, which are you most interested in reading?

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Saturday Snapshot. 09.08.2012

Saturday Snapshot

09.08.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post. Please see the linky at AT HOME WITH BOOKS.

Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

 

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He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed. – Albert Einstein

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I own copyright to all photos posted and request that any use of my photos be first cleared by permission from me with the use of an appropriate credit line, which I will specify and provide, as well as a link back to my webpage.

Copyright requests may be sent to me via email.

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