Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Book Review: River City

I started the Canadian Book Challenge on a strong note: two book reviews in the first month, and two books that I thoroughly enjoyed.  I foolishly thought I could keep that momentum going, regardless of whichever book I picked up next.

How wrong I was.

The reason I have not yet posted another review is because I chose River City by John Farrow as my next read.  It sounded intriguing: set in Montreal in the 1950s and starting with the Rocket Richard riots, it's about the mysterious Cartier Dagger (Jacques Cartier, that is) and its involvement in a murder during the riots.  Now, I like hockey and I like murder mysteries and I've not read many books set in la belle province so this piqued my interest.  However, I made one huge mistake: I bought the e-book for my Kobo.

Now, I love reading on my Kobo and I've bought many books for it.  The problem is that I don't look at the page count of the books I buy, mostly because it's not listed in the Kobo store but also because it doesn't much matter; one book page does not equal one Kobo page.  This has never tripped me up before but then I've never bought an e-book that is over 700 pages in hard copy.

That's a lotta pages, yo.

I'm not afraid of long books (I have, after all, read The Stand) but if I'm going to read a long book I would like it to be a good book.  And that is where River City falls down - it's not that good.

This is a book that would have benefited greatly from a braver editor, someone who was willing to slash and trash.  My Kobo pages aren't big, but I don't need 100+ page chapters.  There is a great story to tell here, but there's too much meandering.  It reminded me of all the things I dislike about Victorian literature.

Oh, I forgot to mention that the book also switches back and forth between 1950s Montreal and the original settlement of Quebec and Montreal by French explorers, starting with Cartier and going through Champlain, Montmagny and I'm sure others that I just haven't got to.  I think this is part of the
"hook" of the book but I just find it annoying.  I read Susannah Moodie's Roughing It in the Bush in university and never wanted to revisit it again; this book brought me right back there.  Also, I didn't feel like the two story lines from "then" and "now" worked together fluidly; it was like reading two different novels spliced together.

One last irritant in the book: Farrow jumps from one scene/situation to the next too suddenly.  I'm reading along and hit a scene where two people are chatting in a cafe and in the next paragraph, one of those people is down by the docks roughing someone up.  Maybe it's bad digital formatting and not bad writing, but it's still irritating.

So I put the book down and picked up Agatha Christie, who I have decided is like literary amuse bouche.  Once my palate is properly cleansed I'll get back on the Canadian Book Challenge horse, though I'm not sure what I'll read next - any recommendations?

(I'm also not counting this as a full review, so I'm still at 2/13.  Perhaps I'll feel sorry for this book and pick it up again, finish it and properly review it - though that doesn't feel likely.)

1 comment:

Shonna said...

Interesting take. I know what you mean about some of this. I'm more than halfway through the hardcopy and some parts were definitely a slog and could have used better editing. I think the stories are coming together now and that makes it better.