Friday, November 16, 2012

Head in the Clouds

One of the first forms of imaginative play we develop is simply looking into the sky and imagine what mysteries take place in the clouds. Whether a cloud looks like a dinosaur, bunny, or like giants bowling in the sky during the thunder storms, it is all part of using our childhood imagination. Authors use their imaginations in many ways and we are blessed with the creative results of the following books:

Cloud Atlas (M) is a movie that everyone seems to be talking about. I have not seen it so I am not going to judge it, yet. The book by David Mitchell is amazing. It won the British Book Award for Literary Fiction, the Richard and Judy Book of the Year Award in 2004 and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, The Nebula Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Awards and many others. The story takes place in six different but related plots. It brings the reader from the remote South Pacific in the nineteenth century to a distant post-apocalyptic future. It is a bit dizzying to try to explain but what I got from it was that the world (and in this case) time is a very small place and all things are related. Is it all a matter of fate? What do you think, dear Reader?

Cloudsplitter (M) by Russell Banks is a 1998 PEN/Faulkner and Pulitzer Prize finalist. The novel is a loosely based historical novel about the abolitionist John Brown. I must admit that I knew very little about this man, only the line; “Old John Brown is laying in his grave” or something like that. Brown is the “hero” of the song “Battle Hymn of the Republic”. The novel is told from the point of view of John's son, Owen. Owen tells the tale of his family in the years before the American Civil War. In doing so he also presents the social and political landscape of the time. John Brown believed he had direct orders from God. With a band of men, he conducted a terrorist attack on Harper’s Ferry, Virginia in 1859 which helped spark the Civil War. Banks spent five years researching this topic and it resulted in a wonderful novel.

Another historical novel is Dark Clouds of the Morning (M) by Janet C. Burrill This one cloud is familiar to those familiar with local history, the Halifax Explosion. Family conflict shakes Jennie Grayson's life. She finds it almost impossible to live up to her mother's expectation and as a result they are almost always fighting. So when she goes to nurse a terminally ill great aunt in Truro it is almost a relief. The night before Jennie is to go to Truro, she says hateful things to her mother in a fit of anger. While she is in Truro the Halifax Explosion occurs. Will Jennie and her mother ever see each other again? Will they be able to mend their family? Read this novel to find out.  
 ~ please note that Janet Burrill will be reading at The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, 1675 Lower Water Street, Halifax, on Tues. Nov. 20th, 2012, 7:30pm.

The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud (M) by Ben Sherwood is a gentle read about the relationship between two brothers. Admittedly, this is not the usual type of novel that I would usually read, but I enjoyed the earnestness of Charlie. Charlie and his brother, Sam were in a car accident and only Charlie survived. There is much to say about survivor guilt and how various people handle it. The love between Charlie and Sam is very touching. Sam is guiding Charlie from the afterlife. It brings up the interesting question of would you allow a brief moment in time to haunt you forever? Or would you allow the ghost of that memory to bring spirit back into your life.

So let your imagination drift away through the storm clouds or candy cotton fluffy ones. Remember clouds can help your mind float to all sorts of interesting ideas. Who knows maybe it will result in a novel. Can you imagine yourself on the bestsellers list?

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