January 4, 2009

The Boys in the Trees - Mary Swan

This is the 3rd book in my Giller read-athon, but it left me feeling very disappointed.  The basic story is about a small Ontario town in the late 1880's, and how it reacts to one of its town member murdering his family, and then being hanged for it.  (No spoilers here - this is all revealed in the first couple of chapters.)

Initially, I found the book very hard to get into - nothing grabbed me in the first couple of chapters, and it took me a while to figure out what was going on.  Each chapter is told by a different townsperson, for the most part describing their own reaction to the murder and hanging.  So the first couple of pages of each chapter are spent trying to figure out who you are hearing from now.  But then each person's story is so compelling that it left me wanting to know more about that person, and what happened to them.  Almost like a series of linked short stories, but with each story lacking a real ending (with the exception of one).

So combine a depressing plot with unsatisfying stories, and you have, in my opinion, a disappointing book.

An endorsement from Alice Munro (an author that I really enjoy - in small doses) is printed on the cover:  "This is a mesmerizing novel - it can truly claim to be filled with a 'terrible beauty.'"  I disagree with both of the descriptions:  "mesmerizing"  as well as "beauty".

2 more nominees left to go - I hope that the next one is better than this one.

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