A Short Love Story

July 22, 2013

A recent edition of The Globe & Mail, in a little feature called “Book Lovers”, asked Janet E. Cameron (author of Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World) the question:

What book has the most romantic significance for you?

Her answer:

“In 2002 I was on a plane from Tokyo to Dublin – off to see my Irish boyfriend, whom I’d met at the soccer World Cup and known less than a week. I was terrified I’d made a mistake. What if it turned out we had nothing in common? The book I was reading on the flight was How to be Good by Nick Hornby, an entertaining novel about a profoundly unhappy couple, and it wasn’t helping my nerves. Then the plane touched down, and I saw him in Arrivals, waiting for me. He was holding a copy of the same book; in fact, I could tell he was practically on the same page. Three years later we got married.”

How to be Good by Nick Hornby

Anyone else want to share a “romantically significant” book title with us? (back story required, of course!)

Dear Janet E. Cameron:

July 22, 2013

17335097

Dear Janet,

I promised I’d write when I’d finished your book, Cinnamon Toast at the End of the World. Your web scouting let you know it was featured on my summer reading list and you were curious, as I imagine every writer must be, to learn how your work would be received. Lots of pressure for both of us there! What if I’d promised, and then abhorred the book? What if I couldn’t finish it, even? Fortunately, neither of those scenarios applies.

Let’s start at the very beginning ( a very good place to start, tra la,la) What led me to selecting your book from among the many vying for attention on the shelves of my neighbourhood book shop? The cover of the book is enchanting – pastel tones with a portly little toaster popping up toast. Intriguingly, said toaster seems to be sitting at the beach. I had beach books on my mind so this must have been a subliminal draw. (I’m none the wiser after finishing the story as to why the toaster is at the beach but really not an issue. I also understand that most authors have little to no say in the appearance of the book.) The “Cinnamon Toast” in the title evokes cosy nostalgia and simple traditions … a waft of burnt toast always reminds me of breakfasts with my late Grandmother who preferred her bread charred … “The End of the World” had me a bit confused but I was convinced there was humorous hyperbole involved – a good thing in my mind.  I flipped to the opening paragraph and found immediate clarification:

‘It’s not the end of the world.’ That’s what people will tell you. That’s what people will tell you when they want to say, ‘Your problems are stupid, your reaction to them laughable, and I would like you to go away now.’

‘Oh, Stephen, for God’s sake, it’s not the end of the world,’ my mother will say, over and over, in tones of sympathy or distraction. Or sometimes plain impatience. 

So of course if she’s ever running around looking for her keys and cursing, I’ll always tell her, ‘It’s not the end of the world, Mom.’ And if she’s really been pissing me off, I’ll scoop the keys up from wherever she’s left them and stick them in my coat pocket. Then I’ll settle back to watch with a sympathetic expression while she tears the house apart looking. Lost keys? Not the end of the world.

You had me, right there. Fantastic! This Stephen seemed a bit of a scamp and I wanted to get to know him.  As an ’85 Grad myself, the promise of a nostalgic tour through the era in his company seemed inviting too … So Writer, I purchased your book.

In this modern era, a quick trip to the author’s website is often a worthy venture. Sometimes, you’ll find out she/he is a wit, a charmer, friendly to fans … and sometimes, not so much. You, Ms. Cameron, come across as the former: personable and fantastically fun. And thoughtful too – an 80’s music soundtrack to accompany a reader is kindly provided on your site along with photos of the setting’s inspiration.

And so, all of this pastel and perkiness had me ready to ease myself into a light and airy read …

Alas, I was hoodwinked!

As I merrily started in, it soon became clear that this journey was going deeper than a mere trip to the beach. I won’t expose the tale but let’s just say as I compulsively turned pages, my heart broke and then was pieced back together with optimism and then out loud laughter (OLL?) – repeatedly;  tears ran down my cheeks on several occasions. You took me so convincingly to small town Nova Scotia and the era with wonderfully evocative details like  a “Welcome to Town” sign with a “Thanks for Visiting” message on the reverse and a Grandmother sporting those crocheted slippers with the pom poms on the toes.

I am astonished by your compelling ability to write from the perspective of a teenaged boy – an awkward, tormented teenaged boy. Frankly, I wouldn’t normally be drawn to a character exhibiting tormented traits and you might have lost me (especially as I had toast at the beach in mind) but you imbued him with the most lovely optimistic spirit despite his situation in life. He’s a character who will linger with me. Beyond Stephen, the story illuminates the importance of family, whatever it may look like, and friends, whatever they may look like. Vital values indeed. One reviewer declared this “an important book” and I couldn’t agree more.

And so, I thank you for the positive experience of Cinnamon Toast and The End of the World. As your publisher, Hachette Ireland, fittingly included on the last page of your book:

“Reading is so much more than the act of moving from page to page. It’s the exploration of new worlds; the pursuit of adventure; the forging of friendships; the breaking of hearts; and the chance to begin to live through a new story each time the first sentence is devoured.”

Your story succeeded in doing all of those things for this reader. I already look forward to reading your next endeavour … perhaps a love story featuring a Nick Hornby book? (Blog readers will be let in on the joke in the next post)

All the best to you, Janet. Do hope you are happily writing your way through a lovely summer!

Susan

Beach Bag Books

June 2, 2013

Beach Reading by Colin Page

As the month of June and a whiff of a promise of summer arrives, book columns inevitably turn to “The Beach List”. Summer reading seems to have a sensibility all its own – an excuse to read something lighter in most cases; I think perhaps fresh and light does feel more right. Last summer I read Beautiful Ruins and it was a perfect sunny days experience – I may not have been on the Italian coast but I felt its warmth just the same. Add that one to your list if you haven’t enjoyed it yet. (You can visit previous years’ lists here and here.) This summer, my list seems to embrace fresh characters … and primary coloured Primary art work if the covers are any indication! I didn’t notice the trend in quirky cover art until I started positioning the images for you. Is this a greater trend or am I just drawn to drawing? Let us know what your own reading recommendations are and if you have anything fresh and light on your list.

0be1bcb667efa6da21d1e7d3de38f16f This story was recommended by the well-read manager of my favourite local bookstore. She seemed to have been enchanted so I was won over.  “A novel as creative, brave, and pitch-perfect as its narrator, an imaginary friend named Budo, who reminds us that bravery comes in the most unlikely forms. It has been a long time since I read a book that has captured me so completely, and has wowed me with its unique vision. You’ve never read a book like this before. As Budo himself might say: Believe me.” —Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of Sing You Home

17335097  There are a few hits on my shelf with a Canadian/Irish connection – Janet E. Cameron is a Canadian (a Maritimer) living in Ireland. Her author Bio and Website entries confirm she’s witty and warm and evidently a nice blend of both her cultures. When asked to describe “Cinnamon Toast” she wrote:  “It’s funny, it’s sad, and we’ve all been there. Plus there are drunken house parties, midnight confrontations, the Cold War, hippies in cabins, pick-up trucks, cherry-vanilla ice-cream, bar fights, prom night, Star Trek, a roll in the hay (literally), gratuitous 80s song references, and a happy ending, even after the end of the world. What more could you want?”

the-knot Author Mark Watson is an English stand-up comedian though from reviews I’ve read this isn’t an entirely comic piece and, in fact, features a “dark secret”. Perhaps I’ve been hoodwinked by the pastel cover?! The story of a Wedding Photographer who captures moments in families’ lives explores his own family experiences. ‘A pitch-perfect tragicomedy of ordinary – and not so ordinary – family life‘ –Jonathan Coe

9781443422666 This story almost had a blog entry of its very own. I’ve been waiting for its Canadian release ever since reading Australian and English rave reviews. It’s been called ” The feel-good novel of 2013.”  The Harper Collins description: A first-date dud, socially awkward and overly fond of quick-dry clothes, genetics professor Don Tillman has given up on love, until a chance encounter gives him an idea. He will design a questionnaire—a sixteen-page, scientifically researched questionnaire—to uncover the perfect partner. She will most definitely not be a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker or a late-arriver. Rosie is all these things. She is also fiery and intelligent, strangely beguiling, and looking for her biological father a search that a DNA expert might just be able to help her with.

The Rosie Project is a romantic comedy like no other. It is arrestingly endearing and entirely unconventional, and it will make you want to drink cocktails.” Summer cocktails I presume 

9780393345094_custom-776b617a76b6da1e9a68ffe00a05ca33c989d1a5-s6-c30  Capital is a modern day tale, featuring a cast of many – a creative peek behind the curtains in London in 2008.  “John Lanchester’s new book Capital tells the story of the residents of Pepys Road, and how their lives are changed by the global financial crisis; a post-crash, state-of-the-nation novel told with compassion, humour and truth.” This one brings the recent headlines to life and may not be as light as the others but offers fresh (fictional) insight.

images-154 I have been increasingly curious about The Fault in Our Stars as I’ve watched it become cult-like in status. The writing has been described as “exquisite” and “devastatingly beautiful”. The premise seems less than cheery, two cancer-stricken teens form a romantic relationship, but it is apparently a study in how we live life, love, and leave legacies. While categorized as a YA (Young Adult) novel, it has gained a huge following among adults as well. Reviews indicate the tears flow but the story sticks with you in a most inspiring way. Pop on your biggest sunglasses and enjoy.

So that’s a little list I’ll be working through.  The sun is shining this morning and I’m off to travel back to Nigeria in Will Ferguson’s 419 for a while … Happy Reading!

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