March 6, 2011

Cool Water - Dianne Warren

This is a book that first hit my radar about a year ago. I was working with a patient who had had her hip replaced, and her local rural librarian was plying her with books during her recovery period. (I used to book extra-long sessions with this patient - we would rush through the physio, and spend the rest of the time talking about books we had read in the past week!) This book came up as one that the librarian had given the patient to read - the patient said that it was one that she probably wouldn't have picked up on her own, but she had loved it and highly recommended it.

Then it made the long list for the Giller Prize last year, and ended up winning the Governor General's prize. Now I don't always like the GG winner (there have been some odd choices made in the past), but I loved this book.

It has an unusual structure. The whole book takes place over a 24 hour period in small town Saskatchewan. There are 5 different stories being told - different characters and family groups - as they move through the day. But rather than being told one after another, they are woven together over time so that the reader is able to follow what is happening in each story as the day progresses. Each chapter covers a period of time, and is broken into several parts according to the different stories being told.

As I said earlier, I loved this book! The characters, while not all likable, were so well drawn and real. They could be real people in just about any small town in Canada. And the setting was so vividly drawn that while I was reading the book, I was there in the hot, dry, southern Saskatchewan summer rather than in snowy northern Ontario in March. And the stories were so engrossing that I couldn't put the book down. Yes, I sprained my ankle badly on Saturday morning so wasn't moving far from my sofa anyways; but I really couldn't put the book down and the sprained ankle just gave me an excuse to keep reading!

Have you ever had the experience of a book being inexorably linked with a place? I know that when I had an opportunity to walk in the Sahara desert, I couldn't stop thinking about The English Patient; walking through the UofT campus screams Robertson Davies at me; and driving through the Muskokas always brings Valancy and The Blue Castle to mind. This book has left such a strong impression on me that I am sure to think of it, and it's characters, if I ever drive through southern Saskatchewan in the heat of summer.


Marcie said...

When I hear Saskatchewan, I think of Sharon Butala's fiction and non-fiction...but I'm looking forward to reading this novel too. Your enthusiasm has nudged it up the TBR list now!

Kate said...

Marcie - I've never read anything by Sharon Butala, though a friend of mine loved The Perfection of the Morning. Are there any of her books that you would recommend?

Melwyk said...

I'm so glad to hear you loved this one.... I adored it. It was my favourite read of the year last year, and I think even the cover is gorgeous :) I have recommended this book to everyone I know, and it is nice to hear that another librarian is doing the same -- and that your patient reader also enjoyed it. I agree with you that the characters and the sense of place are so strong that you couldn't help but think about it in that place once you've read it.

Hurrah for another new "Cool Water" fan :)

Kate said...

Melwyk - LOL! I would love it if Dianne Warren wrote another book in the same town but focusing on different characters... (with maybe some of the characters from this book making cameo appearances.)

Wanda said...

I love it when a book has the power to place you within its setting. Though I've never actually been, I came to love the Prairies through books by Mitchell and Laurence. Cool Water sounds like a great way to get to know Saskatchewan all over again, thanks for the review ... on the list it goes.