Nikolski by Nicolas Dickner may look a little fishy at first, but it’s an excellent book, even for somebody like me who gets confused easily. In the beginning it felt like I was reading three completely unrelated stories, but eventually it all comes together as the paths of the characters intersect, although they never really connect for long with each other.
Spring 1989. Three young people leave their far-flung birthplaces to follow their own songs of migration. Each ends up in Montreal, each on a voyage of self-discovery, dealing with the mishaps of heartbreak and the twisted branches of their shared family tree.
Filled with humor, charm, and good storytelling, this novel shows the surprising links between cartography, garbage-obsessed archeologists, pirates past and present, a mysterious book with no cover, and a broken compass whose needle obstinately points to the Aleutian village of Nikolski. (Goodreads)
Nikolski won the Governor General’s Literary Award for French to English Translation. It certainly doesn’t read like a translation, so that could be a big reason why it won.
I was interrupted in the middle of reading this by the arrival of my new Kindle. The breaking of the previous Kindle also interrupted a half read book, so I was torn in two trying to decide where my loyalties lay. Yep, everyone should have such pressing problems and decisions keeping them awake at night.
So by going back and forth from book to e-reader, I have also finished The Death of Bees, by Lisa O’Donnell. Here’s the great first paragraph and delightful hook for this one.
Today is Christmas Eve. Today is my birthday. Today I am fifteen. Today I buried my parents in the backyard. Neither of them were beloved.
I think you can appreciate my dilemma. The paper white Kindle is great and I couldn’t wait to use it. It’s smaller and lighter, with easier to see print. I’m loving the touch screen except for all my dirty finger prints. I’m also living dangerously by not yet having purchased a protective cover for it, but I didn’t drop the other one for a couple of years, so maybe this one has some time left accident free. I’ll get one today.
Sorry, back to the bee book – it deserves a few more praises. It is a dark comedy about two sisters in Glasgow who could write the book on dysfunctional families. The story touches on homosexuality, child neglect, child abuse, drug use, drug dealing, drinking, smoking, promiscuity, mental illness, cancer, poverty, being orphaned, social services, and of course the problems that come up when your parents are buried in your back yard.
Since it’s written from the point of view of each sister and a kind but nosy neighbor, it felt like reading the secret journals of each one and thus getting an over view of the big picture. You would imagine that a book starting out like this one could not possibly end well. But at the same time you wonder how things could possibly get any worse. It will keep you reading right to the end to find out what becomes of them all.
I don’t recommend reading books in this helter-skelter manner, but I do recommend both of these titles and both of their authors. They are two very different styles and stories, both with unexpected twists and turns. Maybe they won’t be quite so unexpected if you read them one at a time.