BOUCHARD’S SALT OF THE SEA FLOWS SMOOTHLY WITH A CREW OF MEMORABLE CHARACTERS.

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We Are Salt Of Sea CvrAccording to the Canadian author John Ralston Saul, “In European tradition, rivers are seen as divisions between peoples. But in Aboriginal tradition, rivers are seen as the glue, the highway, the linkeage between people, not the separation. And that’s the history of Canada: our rivers and lakes were our highways…”.  Without Rivers and lakes, Canadians would never have found the sea and what lies beyond the horizons, or for that matter, the beautiful Gaspe Penisula on the southern shores of the St. Laurence river.

The author of this months book discovered the peninsula  ten years ago when she took up sailing. It’s where  this month’s book is set and all but one of the characters come and go by water to it. The book is “We Were The Salt Of The  Sea” by Roxanne Bouchard, published by Orenda Books (www.Orendabooks.co.uk) Last April.

Montreal woman Catherine Day is advised by her doctor to take some much needed time out, so she packs her bags, boards her beloved boat and sets sail up the coast to Caplan on the Gaspe Peninsula. There, according a letter posted in  Key West, she’ll find her lost mother, the woman who gave her up for adoption thirty years ago.  Shortly after she arrives in the remote fishing village, a body of is found tangled in fishing nets off the coast. It’s Marie Garant, her birth mother. The local police launch an investigation headed by newly arrived former Quebec detective Joaquim Morales, who’s moved to the area at the behest of his artist wife, believing their struggling marriage needs nurturing in the quiet and relaxed tempo of life on the peninsula. But poor Joaquim has literally no time to enjoy the surroundings or sedate pace of life, let alone unpack. As, he is thrust headlong into the investigation to find the cause of Marie Garant’s death, a woman who was even more mysterious in life than in death. As the search for answers by both parties moves forward, helped and hindered by the local characters, Catherine tries to find out more about her mother and where she went on her regular voyages from the safe-haven of Caplan’s harbour and about the identity of her father. Morales like Catherine, is also on a journey of personal discovery . Can they find the answers to their own personal quests and will new love and new starts be the answers?

Numerous other readers have praised Bouchard’s poetic style of writing, and this style is very much apparent from the opening page. I felt it wasn’t so much poetic, but smooth flowing prose like the current of a river, that gradually takes the reader on a journey from start to finish.

On top of that, credit must surely go to David Warriner’s translation, without whose excellent skill, the afore mention flowing prose would have been lost in translation and left the book high and dry on this side of the Atlantic.  I did wonder after finishing it – if the characters were actually speaking French or English but written by a francaphone author, as it never says in the book, but assumes the reader automatically knows. According to Wikipedia, French is the primary language of the region, so that answers that.

Roxanne Bouchard

Roxanne Bouchard (Le Devoir)

One of the best things about this book is its characters. If the prose is the current moving the story forward, then the characters are the boats on which the reader is transported. I’ve read numerous books where the story is told by stereotypical cardboard cutout characters, that any writer can half-heartedly fit into the story like a jigsaw piece. But a true storyteller uses unique standout characters who embrace you from your first meeting till your last and this is what you get with the plethora of individual characters in We We The Salt Of The Sea.

As for the two lead characters there are some stereo typical sides to them, Morales, theGaspe Peninsula middle aged detective attempting to deal with  his mid-life crisis , marital problems and the investigation. He’s unique in that one really wonders how many Mexican cops there are in Montreal? I did feel for him and the way he was treated by the locals. He also, it appears, will be a recurring character. Maybe he’s supposed to be the main one in this book, although this isn’t really clear. But I understand Bouchard is working on her next book which will also be set is the Gaspie Region and will also feature Morales.

As for Catherine, we see characters like hers popping up regularly in literature. A mid thirties woman ,discovering their wanderlust and the truth behind her estranged mother – is a theme in  many books these days. But the real characters are the local fishermen and townsfolk, each one is unique in their own way.

This is Canadian Author Roxanne Bouchard’s (www.roxannebouchard.com) fifth book and the first to be translated into English – her others include Whiskey And Parables, The Slap and Crematorium Circus. She’s also written two essays on Canadian Military and a love monologue for the theatre. She’s a graduate of the University of Montreal and has been teaching literature at Cegep De Jliette a college in the Lanaudiere region of Canada since 1994. Inspiration for the book came ten years ago when Bouchard decided to find her sea legs and learned to sail on the St. Laurence and then the open waters off the Gaspe Peninsula.

So if you are looking for a heart warming book, full of well rounded and loveable characters, then this is the book to upload on your kindle or stow in your carry-on luggage for a great summer read.

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Sorry if we’ve been a bit quite at the Library Door for the past month, but we suffered a technical issue behind the door (The Laptop Died). We’re back now and normal service has resumed, with book reviews and blog tours winging their way to you over next couple of months.

Adrian

 

REICHS MAKES NO BONES ABOUT HER PLACE AT THE TOP

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Bones to Ashes cvrThey say “you should never mix business with pleasure”. This doesn’t seem to have been a problem for Kathy Reichs. By day she’s a respected Forensic Anthropologist in both North Carolina and Quebec and by night she’s the best selling author of nine books featuring her heroine Temperance Brennan. Not forgetting, also being the executive producer of the highly acclaimed TV series “Bones”. God where does she find time to work 9-5 let alone get eight hours sleep!!!

Her latest book is Bones to Ashes. It’s begins with Tempe relating the sudden disappearance of Evangeline Landry when they were both kids, growing up in North Carolina. Evangeline originally came from Tracadie in New Brunswick, Canada. Push forward to the present where Tempe is a forensic Anthropologist for the Coroner in Quebec, when the body of a fourteen-year-old girl, who appears to have been dead for a number of years is reluctantly handed over to her by the coroner in Tracadie. Is this her long lost childhood friend? Or are they ancient burial bones as the coroner is so eager to write them off as. On top of that, her erratic love life takes a sudden downward spiral when her long-term boyfriend, Detective Andrew Ryan decides to dump her. But still requests her help on a number of missing children cases (finally a character I can relate to in the romance stakes). Reeling from the train wreck of her relationship, her sister Harriet flies in with moral support and they both re-enact a similar search for Evangeline they embarked on all those years ago as kids. But this time the consequences and what they discover will threaten both their lives and Tempe’s professional one.

The book is pacey and well researched, the dialogue between the central characters lively and Tempe’s own inner thoughts are witty, coming straight from the hip. As with the previous books there is a healthy smattering of French all the way through, which adds a nice dimension and really brings the Québec inhabitants to life. Thus putting the series above the norm for this style of Thriller.

Kathy_Reichs

Writers are told to write about what they know and this is where Reichs has succeeded. It’s amazing to think that a little under ten years ago, the undisputed queen of slicem-and-dicem’s was Patricia Cornwell. That was until Kathy came on the scene. She hasn’t just left Cornwell behind, but signed her toe tag too. It shows in her cutting-edge medical knowledge and scapel sharp attention to detail. That this is written by a professional not the local coroners IT administrator.

I definitely recommend this book, but be warned have a bowl of Prof. Marie Cassidyoranges or a bottle of high strength vitamin pills nearby. The workload of both these women factually and fictionally will have you feeling run down after the first couple of pages. Me I’ll watch the boxette of “Bones” season two, while awaiting Prof. Marie Cassidy (Irish State Pathologist) to step up to the plate..

(first published in http://www.murphysview.blogspot.com  in 2009)