Five Years Ago This Month: July 2013

Five years ago this month...

...I reviewed A High Wind in Jamaica. This book remains a stand out from The List. I still need to find some more of Richard Hughes' writing, but unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a lot of it out there.

...I was distracted. July 2013 was a continuation of the misery I went through in June 2013, but it does appear that I consumed some good media, some of which (How Did This Get Made?) is still prominently featured in my weekly media consumption. Hard to believe it's been five years since my Pépé's death, too. In some ways it seems like more, in others it feels like less.

A sign of life in a desolate place.

TBR Bingo Update Q2

I'm almost ashamed to show you my second quarterly update of my TBR Bingo card.

Last quarter, I'd read five out of 36 books, and this quarter I've read 10. Ouch.

My excuses are the same as they were last time around: I've been reading long books and book club books. The Golden Bowl took me forever. My current reads are both over 800 pages long. (To be fair, one of them is a trilogy bound in one volume, and we'll see how far I get into it.) I've now run out of List books on the bingo card, too, meaning that my progress next quarter will be even slower.

I'm not even sure I'll manage to get a bingo at all this year!

Lesson learned for a potential TBR bingo next year: dedicate some spaces to book club books.

You can find my previous TBR Bingo Update here.

R61. Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

Year Published: 2012
Pages: 221

First Sentence: My name is Saul Indian Horse.

Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese | Two Hectobooks

Indian Horse is a book I didn't know what to expect from, and that I can't quite figure out how to begin the review of. So I settled on that grammatically painful sentence.

It's quickly become a renowned Canadian novel, and with good reason. Richard Wagamese's book tells the kind of story that has been absent for much too long in CanLit, but that is gaining deserved prominence in the 21st century.

Saul Indian Horse is a young Ojibway man. He is living in a rehab centre at the beginning of the novel, which consists mostly of a recounting of his past. Beginning when he was a young boy living with his family, there is a constant threat that someone will apprehend him and take him away to a residential school. Sure enough, despite his parents' best efforts, Saul ends up in a residential school in Ontario. Residential schools are a national shame for Canada that we are only just starting to come to terms with, and I'd be lying if I said that Saul's story didn't bring up all kinds of weird feelings for me: not only compassion for the indigenous children suffering in the school, but some defensiveness as well.

Being smart and quiet by nature, Saul does his best to survive the school until a priest named Father Leboutilier introduces Saul and the other boys at the school to the game of hockey. Saul falls head over heels for the game, and it turns out that he's also a star player. Soon, he starts playing on a town team, only to be kicked off because the white people in the town are uncomfortable with his success. All of this is facilitated by Father Leboutilier, and given residential schools' reputation and the spectre of Graham James, I didn't have a lot of trust in him, but eventually he finds a way for Saul to leave the school and join a senior hockey team called the Manitouwadge Moose.

As you may imagine from the fact that Saul is in rehab at the beginning of the novel, things unravel, but you'll have to read the book yourself to find out why.

So, I enjoyed this book. Wagamese handles the gruesome residential school setting very adeptly, but his prose really shines when he's describing the natural world. However, I had a few issues that kept me from really loving the book.

First, I found that besides Saul, most of the characters weren't very well-developed. The family that he lives with after moving to Manitouwadge basically becomes his replacement family, but there are so few scenes between Saul and these characters that it's hard to get a handle on them. This is a minor complaint, though, because I think the reason for that is that Saul has trouble connecting with other people, so it makes sense that other characters would feel distant from him and somewhat hollow.

Next, and more importantly, is that this book is all hockey (almost) all the time, and speaking of having trouble connecting, team sports of any kind are not my thing. Not only that, but I have more and more concerns about contact sports and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), and reconciling that with Saul's/Wagamese's waxing poetic about hockey was a struggle that generally landed in favour of the CTE, unfortunately. (I should maybe also note at this point that I grew up knowing very little about hockey except how much my mom hated it.)

Of course, the hockey isn't the point, which is why I ultimately recommend this book.