I have read (and enjoyed!) most of Zoe Whittall’s novels, but I almost passed on The Best Kind of People, because the premise of ‘school teacher accused of sexual abuse of students’ is one I’ve seen more than enough of for a lifetime. But, the book was short-listed for the Giller Prize this year, and I decided to give it a shot.
I am so glad I did!
Whittall’s treatment of this subject matter, which is simultaneously extremely sensitive and (in my opinion) massively overused in all forms of fiction, is nothing short of ground-breaking. At no point does the novel give in to the prurience so often present in these kinds of stories – we never hear any details about the sexual misconduct in question. Instead, The Best Kind of People centres itself around the experiences of the family of the man accused, in particular his sixteen-year-old daughter Sadie (who is only a few years older than the girls her father is accused of assaulting) and his wife Joan, neither of whom can reconcile the accusations with the man they know and love.
Ultimately, the novel is a masterful examination of the ways in which our society responds to these kinds of crimes, particularly when the perpetrator is respected person with a great deal of privilege. Sadie and Joan find themselves variously vilified, ostracized and supported by various community members – including support from people they wish would stay well away from them – all while desperately trying to sort through their own feelings, and what it will mean for their lives if their respective father and husband is indeed guilty.
This is a deeply emotional novel, full of well-drawn, complex and realistic characters. Well worth a read!
If you’ve already read and loved The Best Kind of People, check out some other great books from Canadian women, or take a look at other Scotiabank Giller Prize nominees and winners.
It’s September 23 and you know what that means: summer is officially over and it’s autumn’s time to shine. Out of the many reasons to love the fall (cool weather, scarves, plaid, pumpkin spice EVERYTHING), one of my favourites is the kick-off of the new movie season. It’s time for our beloved superheroes and engineered dinosaurs to take a seat and open up the floor to more serious fare. It’s time for the “award season” to begin. Of course, each year this season dependably serves us several book adaptations, and this year is no different. So what are some adaptations to look out for? In the interest of keeping the list relatively short, I’ve left out the obvious blockbusters (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 and The Martian). Remember, you can always check out a copy of the books at your local VPL branch before they hit the big screen!
I know that some people don’t like to celebrate their birthdays (I am one of those). So, for those whose birthday falls on May 24th, I have a suggestion to celebrate Joseph Brodsky’s birthday. This is a Russian poet and writer who was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature while living in USA in 1987.
We are not reading poetry these days, are we? Maybe, this is an extinct form of literature, or, maybe, there are not many people who are able to enjoy poetry: you have to have certain skills which come both from a certain level of education and a unique mindset. I am writing these lines about J. Brodsky to commemorate “…an all embracing authorship, imbued with clarity of thought and poetic intensity” (Nobel Prize motivation).
So forth : poems by Brodsky, Joseph, 1940-1996.