For those looking to escape everyday drama or dive deeper, Hour recommends some daring reads
Sanctuary Line, by Jane Urquhart (McClelland & Stewart), 288 pp.
Set on the shores of Lake Erie, Sanctuary Line is a compelling story of love and betrayal, and the ideal gift for anyone who is a lover of masterful prose and subtle pacing. Liz Crane, an entomologist, has moved back to the family farm where the ghosts from the past speak to her. On the surface, this family drama seems pretty straightforward, but Urquhart has created a slow burn that explodes like a powder keg by the novel’s end.
The Bells, by Richard Harvell (Crown), 384 pp.
Moses Froben was born in a church belfry where his deaf mother was the bell ringer of the loudest bell in the Swiss Alps. Moses’ story of love, music and castratos is deliciously painful. Set in the 18th century, The Bells resonates with a purity that is only matched by the pitch of Moses’ singing voice. Harvell has created a highly entertaining first novel that will keep readers entranced.
On the Proper Use of the Stars, by Dominique Fortier (McClelland & Stewart), 280 pp.
Here’s a bit of chilling Canadiana that will make the coldest of our winter nights seem warm by comparison. Fortier’s postmodern account of the Franklin expedition breathes new life into the tragic story of the Terror and the Erebus, the two ships under Sir John Franklin’s command that ground to a halt when Arctic ice blocked them from their dream of discovering the Northwest Passage.
The Beauty of Humanity Movement, by Camilla Gibb (Doubleday), 304 pp.
Set in contemporary Vietnam, Gibb’s novel drops the reader into the heart of Hanoi, combining three stories: aging street chef Hung, whose clandestine pho stand attracts a loyal following; Tu, a young tour guide bewildered by the expectations of the exotic Western tourists he leads through the city; and Maggie, who returns to Vietnam to find her father. Gibb weaves a beautiful narrative that is both heartfelt and engaging.
Midway, by David Homel (Cormorant Books), 320 pp.
Take a mid-life crisis and add a splash of male hysteria and what you end up with is Midway. Ben Allan, a literature teacher in Montreal, finds himself out on the precipice of temptation. While he narrowly avoids falling into the arms of a young communications officer at the college, he suddenly finds himself playing the role of her father. The ideal holiday reading choice for that 40- or 50-something male in your life whose vacant stares speak volumes about a hunger for escape.