Sunday, December 12, 2010

Claremont Grade 11 Book club sets · Book of Negroes · Three Day Road · The Gum Thief · English 11 book club

Book of Negroes

The Book of Negroes

Lawrence Hill

ThThe Book of Negroes tells the compelling story of Aminata, an African girl captured by slave traders in the late 18th century. "Meena"'s journey is tragic and remarkable. Readers become completely enthralled with her odyssey. We also learn about Britain's role in the post-Colonial America slave trade and the Black United Empire Loyalists who were awarded a colony in Nova Scotia.

"Unrolling a map of the world, I would put one finger on a dot I had drawn to represent my village of Bayo, put another finger on London and say: "I was born there, and we are here now, and I'm going to tell you all about what happened in between."

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Three Day Road

Joseph Boyden

Joseph Boyden has written a WWI novel of magnificence and splendor. Told alternately by Niska an Oji-Cree medicine woman and her nephew, Xavier Bird we learn of a side of the war of which little has been written.

When the story opens, Niska is traveling from her home in northern Ontario to reclaim her nephew, who has returned from the Great War. During the trip back to her home by canoe, Xavier relates the story of his time overseas alternately with his years growing up with his boyhood friend, Elijah Whiskeyjack. Elijah and Xavier enter the army and serve together. It soon becomes apparent to those in charge that the two are skilled shooters and they are soon utilized as snipers, aiming to eliminate their German counterparts.

Niska, at the same time, tells the story of her life, growing up in Northern Ontario and trying to maintain her life as a Cree living in the bush and depending on the earth for sustenance. Most of her relatives abandon that lifestyle and succumb to the charms of city life, which she finds reprehensible.

The author weaves the story back and forth in time and place. From the war-torn fields of France to the fields and streams of northern Ontario we follow the story of the two life-long friends, whose relationship undergoes tremendous strain as Elijah becomes more and more addicted to both morphine and war. Boyden does a masterful job of creating and nurturing that metaphor. The two friends grow further and further apart as the strains of combat overcome them both. On page 285 Xavier remarks:

“Elijah seems to have no more need for food. He is thin and hard like a rope. He is a shadow that slips in and out of darkness. He is someone I no longer know”

In the end, it is Niska who has to use all her skills to save Xavier from addiction, from loneliness, and from himself. Prose that sings and a compulsively readable narrative combine for a mesmerizing read. Highly recommended.


· 2005Books in Canada First Novel Award – Winner

2006Canada Reads – Shortlisted

· 2006Evergreen Award – Winner

· 2005Governor General's Literary Award: Fiction – Shortlisted

· 2005Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize – Winner

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· The Gum Thief

Douglas Coupland

Douglas Coupland, like Chuck Palahniuk for example, is a ‘Marmite’ author – you either love him or hate him. Those that like his work have to consume everything that he produces and others, like me, avoid everything having never tried it. How could I not enjoy a novel that deals with the delights of working in retail? especially a retailer that provides its employees with red shirts as uniform! Two employees at a Staples superstore develop a friendship through the medium of the written word. Roger, the alcoholic, divorced frustrated novelist and Bethany the confused Goth communicate through a series of diary entries; never acknowledging each other in the real world. This superbly humorous and touching novel deals with the frustrations and disappointments of modern life and shows that friendships can develop even when all seams lost. I now consider myself a convert and will be reading more of his work.

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· 20 Chickens for a Saddle

Robyn Scott


An exquisitely rendered portrait of an African childhood from an astonishing new talent When Robyn Scott ’s parents decide to uproot their young family from New Zealand and move to a converted cowshed in rural Botswana, life for six-year-old Robyn changed forever. In this wild and new landscape excitement can be found around every corner, and with each misadventure she and her family learn more about the quirks, charms, and challenges of living in one of Africa’s most remarkable and beautiful countries as it stands on the brink of an epidemic. When AIDS rears its head, the Scotts witness the early appearances of a disease that will devastate this peaceful and prosperous country. Told with clear-eyed unsentimental affection, Twenty Chickens for a Saddle is about a family’s enthusiasm for each other and the world around them, with the essence of Africa infusing every page.

Wise, intoxicating and poignant. It reminded me very much of one of my favourite books by Gerald Durrell – My Family And Other Animals

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· Funny Boy

Shyam Selvadurai

Set in Sri Lanka, this is a series of events in a young boy's life, looking at politics, race relations and sexuality. At the start of the book, Arjie is very young, so is often overlooked by those around him, so he makes a great observer, though we as the reader often can connect the dots quicker than him as a narrator.

Through Arjie and his extended family, we get a real insider's view on life in Colombo in the late 70s and early 80s, told in hindsight, but from what he saw: Radha Aunty falling in love with a Sinhalese man, the return from Australia of a journalist Daryl Uncle (his Amma's former boyfriend), the arrival of Jeganm the son of his father's childhood friend.

However, we cannot forget Arjie and this important stage in his life, from child to adholescent. In the first chapter, we see a young boy preferring to play with the girls rather than the boys, being called "funny" by his family, as they see his sexuality before he understands it. Through the book, we see him struggling to understand his sexuality, as well as his ethnicity as a Sinhalese-speaking Tamil and his position in the family. This was a really good book to get a look at Sri Lanka, we all see the news with reports of the Tamil Tigers, bombs in Colombo, but this book helped me understand the situation a bit more and inspired me to find out more. ( )

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A Star Called Henry

Roddy Doyle


It's a cry you will read over and over in this book, a childhood expression of someone trying to define his own identity in a society and a family that doesn't take him seriously. Henry's perspective on English Imperialism and the Irish Revolution is magnificent - his realizations about the corrupt nature of leading Irish heroes, and his recognition that as a footsoldier in the revolution he is simply hamburger to his leaders, must be a bit of a shock to Irish patriots. But on many levels it is less about ireland than the corrupting nature of power and adulation. I've read every word Doyle has published. But this one hit me like a ton of bricks. Powerful and poignant.

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·Life of Pi

Yann Martel

A preposterous but utterly enchanting story about a young Indian boy adrift in a lifeboat with his good friend, a Bengal tiger, and some other zoo animals.

·S Stupid White Men

Michael Moore

In the winter of 2002, Stupid White Men took America -- and the world -- by storm. Tired and skeptical of George W. Bush's high approval ating, frightened by the implications of the Enron scandal -- and generally just looking for a voice of honest dissent in the thick atmosphere of jingoism that followed 9/11 -- book buyers from coast to coast swiftly embraced Michael Moore's in-your-face anti-Bush-era manifesto, making it one of the bestselling nonfiction books of the year. With an unerring eye for greed, hypocrisy, and corruption, Michael Moore takes on the whole ugly mess of America at the dawn of the twenty-first century. Whether he's demanding U.N. action to overthrow the Bush Family Junta or calling on African Americans to place whites only signs over the entrances of unfriendly businesses, Stupid White Men is a pitch-perfect skewering of our culture of Malfeasance and Mediocrity.

· Memoirs of a Geisha

Arthur Golden

In this literary tour de force, novelist Arthur Golden enters a remote and shimmeringly exotic world.
For the protagonist of this peerlessly observant first novel is Sayuri, one of Japan's most celebrated geisha, a woman who is both performer and courtesan, slave and goddess.

We follow Sayuri from her childhood in an impoverished fishing village, where in 1929, she is sold to a representative of a geisha house, who is drawn by the child's unusual blue-grey eyes. From there she is taken to Gion, the pleasure district of Kyoto.
..She is nine years old.
In the years that follow, as she works to pay back the price of her purchase, Sayuri will be schooled in music and dance, learn to apply the geisha's elaborate makeup, wear elaborate kimono, and care for a coiffure so fragile that it requires a special pillow.
She will also acquire a magnanimous tutor and a venomous rival.
Surviving the intrigues of her trade and the upheavals of war, the resourceful Sayuri is a romantic heroine on the order of Jane Eyre and Scarlett O'Hara.

And "Memoirs of a Geisha" is a triumphant work - suspenseful, and utterly persuasive.

  • “We lead our lives like water flowing down a hill, going more or less in one direction until we splash into something that forces us to find a new course.”

  • “Being sent out into the world isn't necessarily the same as leaving your home behind you.”

    • “This is why dreams can be such dangerous things: they smolder on like fire does, and sometimes consume us completely”


· Bel Canto

Ann Patchett

Somewhere in South America, at the home of the country's vice president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honor of the powerful businessman Mr. Hosokawa. Roxanne Coss, opera's most revered soprano, has mesmerized the international guests with her singing. It is a perfect evening -- until a band of gunwielding terrorists takes the entire party hostage. But what begins as a panicked, life-threatening scenario slowly evolves into something quite different, a moment of great beauty, as terrorists and hostages forge unexpected bonds and people from different continents become compatriots, intimate friends, and lovers.

“If someone loves you for what you can do then it's flattering, but why do you love them? If someone loves you for who you are then they have to know you, which means you have to know them.”

· Fugitive Pieces

anne Michaels

A New York Times Notable Book of the Year Winner of the Lannan Literary Fiction Award Winner of the Guardian Fiction Award In 1940, Jakob Beer, a seven-year-old boy, bursts from the mud of a war-torn Polish city, where he has buried himself to hide from Nazi soldiers who have killed his family. Though he should have died with his family, he has not only survived but been rescued by a Greek geologist. With this electrifying backdrop, Anne Michaels propels us into her rapturously acclaimed novel of loss, memory, history, and redemption. Michaels lets us witness Jakob's transformation from a half-wild casualty of the Holocaust to an artis who extracts meaning from the abyss. Filled with mysterious symmetries and rendered in heart-stopping prose, Fugitive Pieces is a triumphant work.


    • “The shadow past is shaped by everything that never happened. Invisible it melts the present like rain through karst. A biography of longing. It steers us like magnetism, a spirit torque. This is how one becomes undone by a smell, a word, a place, the photo of a mountain of shoes. By love that closes its moth before calling a name.”

      In Search of April Raintree

      The Two young sisters are taken from their home and family. Powerless to change their fortunes, they are separated, and each put into different foster homes. Yet over the years, the bond between them grows. As they each make their way in a society that is, at times, indifferent, hostile, and violent, one embraces her Metis identity, while the other tries to leave it behind. In the end, out of tragedy, comes an unexpected legacy of triumph and reclamation.

    · A Complicated Kindness

      • Sixteen-year-old Nomi Nickel longs to hang out with Lou Reed and Marianne Faithfull in New York City’s East Village. Instead she’s trapped in East Village, Manitoba, a small town whose population is Mennonite: “the most embarrassing sub-sect of people to belong to if you’re a teenager.” East Village is a town with no train and no bar whose job prospects consist of slaughtering chickens at the Happy Family Farms abattoir or churning butter for tourists at the pioneer village. Ministered with an iron fist by Nomi’s uncle Hans, a.k.a. The Mouth of Darkness, East Village is a town that’s tall on rules and short on fun: no dancing, drinking, rock ’n’ roll, recreational sex, swimming, make-up, jewellery, playing pool, going to cities or staying up past nine o’clock. As the novel begins, Nomi struggles to cope with the back-to-back departures three years earlier of Tash, her beautiful and mouthy sister, and Trudie, her warm and spirited mother. She lives with her father, Ray, a sweet yet hapless schoolteacher whose love is unconditional but whose parenting skills amount to benign neglect. Father and daughter deal with their losses in very different ways. Ray, a committed elder of the church, seeks to create an artificial sense of order by reorganizing the city dump late at night. Nomi, on the other hand, favours chaos as she tries to blunt her pain through “drugs and imagination.”

      • Together they live in a limbo of unanswered questions. Nomi’s first person narrative shifts effortlessly between the present and the past. Within the present, Nomi goes through the motions of finishing high school while flagrantly rebelling against Mennonite tradition. She hangs out on Suicide Hill, hooks up with a boy named Travis, goes on the Pill, wanders around town, skips class and cranks Led Zeppelin. But the past is never far from her mind as she remembers happy times with her mother and sister — as well as the painful events that led them to flee town. Throughout, in a voice both defiant and vulnerable, she offers hilarious and heartbreaking reflections on life, death, family, faith and love. Eventually Nomi’s grief — and a growing sense of hypocrisy — cause her to spiral ever downward to a climax that seems at once startling and inevitable. But even when one more loss is heaped on her piles of losses, Nomi maintains hope and finds the imagination and willingness to envision what lies beyond. Few novels in recent years have generated as much excitement as A Complicated Kindness . Winner of the Governor General’s Award and a Giller Prize Finalist, Miriam Toews’s third novel has earned both critical acclaim and a long and steady position on our national bestseller lists. In the Globe and Mail , author Bill Richardson writes the following: “There is so much that’s accomplished and fine. The momentum of the narrative, the quality of the storytelling, the startling images, the brilliant rendering of a time and place, the observant, cataloguing eye of the writer, her great grace. But if I had to name Miriam Toews’s crowning achievement, it would be the creation of Nomi Nickel, who deserves to take her place beside Daisy Goodwill Flett, Pi Patel and Hagar Shipley as a brilliantly realized character for whom the reader comes to care, okay, comes to love.”

    • “A few weeks ago my uncle came over to borrow my dad’s socket set and when he asked my dad how he was my dad said oh, unexceptional. Living quietly with my disappointments. And how are you?I never know if he’s joking when he says things like that or not.”

    · Water For Elephants

    Sara Gruen

    As a young man, Jacob Jankowski was tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. It was the early part of the Great Depression, and for Jacob, now ninety, the circus world he remembers was both his salvation and a living hell. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he was put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It was there that he met Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. And he met Rosie, an untrainable elephant who was the great gray hope for this third-rate traveling show. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and, ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.

    • “I want her to melt into me, like butter on toast. I want to absorb her and walk around for the rest of my days with her encased in my skin.”
      Jacob about Marlena

    · The Englishman’s Boy

    Guy Vanderhaeghe

    Winner of the Governor General's Award Counterpointing the stories of the legendary Western cowboy Shorty McAdoo and Harry Vincent, the ambitious young screenwriter commissioned to retell his story in 1920s Hollywood, this novel reconstructs an epic journey through Montana into the Canadian plains, by a group of men pursuing their stolen horses. The Englishman's Boy intelligently and creatively depicts an American West where greed and deception are tempered by honor and strength. As Richard Ford has noted, "Vanderhaeghe is simply a wonderful writer. The Englishman's Boy , spanning as it does two countries, two centuries, two views of history — the Canadian Wild West as 'imagined' by Hollywood — is a great accomplishment. Readers, I think, will find this book irresistible."

    · Three Cups of Tea

    One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time

    by Greg Mortenson ,David Oliver Relin

    The astonishing, uplifting story of a real-life Indiana Jones and his humanitarian campaign to use education to combat terrorism in the Taliban’s backyard. Anyone who despairs of the individual’s power to change lives has to read the story of Greg Mortenson, a homeless mountaineer who, following a 1993 climb of Pakistan’s treacherous K2, was inspired by a chance encounter with impoverished mountain villagers and promised to build them a school. Over the next decade he built fifty-five schools—especially for girls—that offer a balanced education in one of the most isolated and dangerous regions on earth. As it chronicles Mortenson’s quest, which has brought him into conflict with both enraged Islamists and uncomprehending Americans, Three Cups of Tea combines adventure with a celebration of the humanitarian spirit.

    “I don't do what I'm doing to fight terror, Mortenson said, measuring his words, trying not to get himself kicked out of the Capitol. I do it because I care about kids. Fighting terror is maybe seventh or eighth on my list of priorities. But working over there, I've learned a few things. I've learned that terror doesn't happen because some group of people somewhere like Pakistan or Afghanistan simply decide to hate us. It happens because children aren't being offered a bright enough future that they have a reason to choose life over death.”

    · The Patron Saint of Liars

    Ann Patchett

    St. Elizabeth's is a home for unwed mothers in the 1960s. Life there is not unpleasant, and for most, it is temporary. Not so for Rose, a beautiful, mysterious woman who comes to the home pregnant but not unwed. She plans to give up her baby because she knows she cannot be the mother it needs. But St. Elizabeth's is near a healing spring, and when Rose's time draws near, she cannot go through with her plans, not all of them. And she cannot remain forever untouched by what she has left behind ... and who she has become in the leaving.

    · Beijing Confidential

    Jan Wong has returned to Beijing. Her quest: to find someone she encountered briefly in 1973, and whose life she was certain she had ruined forever. In the early 70s, Jan Wong travelled from Canada to become one of only two Westerners permitted to study at Beijing University. One day a young stranger, Yin Luoyi, asked for help in getting to the United States. Wong, then a starry-eyed Maoist, immediately reported Yin to the authorities. Thirty-three years on, and more than a decade after the publication of her bestselling Red China Blues, Jan Wong revisits the Chinese capital to begin her search for the person who has haunted her conscience. She wants to apologize, to somehow make amends. At the very least, she wants to discover whether Yin survived. As Jan Wong hunts through the city, she finds herself travelling back through the decades, back to her experiences in the Cultural Revolution, to places that were once of huge importance to her. She has changed, of course, but not as much as Beijing. One of the world’s most ancient cities is now one of its most modern. The neon signs no longer say “Long Live Chairman Mao” but instead tout Mary Kay cosmetics and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Places she once knew have vanished, bulldozed into oblivion and replaced by avant-garde architecture, trendy bars, and sleek condos. The people she once knew have changed, too, for better or for worse. Memories are everywhere. By searching out old friends and acquaintances, Jan Wong uncovers tantalizing clues about the woman she wronged. She realizes her deepest fears and regrets were justified. But Yin herself remains elusive–until the day she phones Jan Wong. Emotionally powerful and rich with detail, Beijing Confidential weaves together three distinct stories–Wong’s journey from remorse to redemption, Yin’s journey from disgrace to respectability, and Beijing’s stunning journey from communism to capitalism.

    · Mao’s Last Dancer

    From a desperately poor village in northeast China, at age eleven, Li Cunxin was chosen by Madame Mao's cultural delegates to be taken from his rural home and brought to Beijing, where he would study ballet. In 1979, the young dancer arrived in Texas as part of a cultural exchange, only to fall in love with America-and with an American woman. Two years later, through a series of events worthy of the most exciting cloak-and-dagger fiction, he defected to the United States, where he quickly became known as one of the greatest ballet dancers in the world. This is his story, told in his own inimitable voice.

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