Tim Belford admits it: He’d never heard of any of the books included in this year’s nation-wide Canada Reads event.
How, then, did he make his choice when asked to present one of the five novels at the Lennoxville Library’s foreshadowing event? “Simple reason. I was given a choice of titles, none of which I had heard of, and Bone & Bread by Saleema Nawaz sounded intriguing.”
Belford reads murder mystery novels and fact-based books of history set in the Edwardian age. Nawaz’s novel is not something he’d have picked up his own: “It takes place primarily in Montreal and deals with two sisters whose Irish American mother and Sikh father are dead. As an added twist, their father ran, and now their uncle runs, a bagel shop in the Plateau area of Montreal. It turns out that the younger sister is now also dead.
“The story is about dealing with guilt. Guilt over their mother’s death, guilt over the younger sister’s death, guilt over being a single mother, guilt over life choices. It’s hard to imagine but there is a certain amount of resolution in the end.”
The crowd attending Tuesday night’s Lennoxville Reads chose Birdie, by Tracey Lindberg (as championed by Muriel Fitzsimmons), to be the book that all Lennoxvillians should read this year. Will Canada also choose Birdie? Tune in to the CBC’s Canada Reads, beginning March 21, to find out. (Find details at cbc.ca; the other books under consideration are The Hero’s Walk, by Anita Rau Badami; The Illegal, by Laurence Hill; Minister Without Portfolio, by Michael Winter.)
Belford is a big fan of P.D. James. The late Phyllis Dorothy, Baroness James of Holland Park, OBE, FRSA, FRS (letters bestowed by the Queen, and others), found fame with New Scotland Yard police commander Adam Dalgliesh, who showed off his sensitive side with poetry.
James led a fascinating life, dropping out of school at 16 (her father didn’t believe girls needed education, and wanted her to bring in some money). After fighting in the Second World War, her husband was checked into a psychiatric institution, and James went back to work to feed the kids.
James’ first book was 1962’s Cover Her Face, which introduced the copper who would make her writing career. Her final Dalgliesh novel was 2008’s The Private Patient, the 14th in the series (James died two years ago).
There were also two Cordelia Gray mysteries along the way, and a handful of standalones, including the 1992 sci-fi inflected The Children Of Men, in which humanity faces extinction because of an infertility crisis. (The 2007 movie, with Clive Owen, Julianne Moore and Michael Caine, is filed in the Lennoxville Library at SF-98.) Belford has not read (nor watched) that one, and is no fan of science fiction in general: “I have enough trouble dealing with reality.”
James’ books are filed in the Lennoxville Library in Adult Fiction in English and French, and in Audio Recordings. The book Time To Be In Earnest: A Fragment Of Autobiography (2000), can be found at 928.21.
And of course, no mystery fan — Belford included — could ignore Louise Penny, that darling of Eastern Townshippers. (Her works can be found in Adult Fiction in both English and French, Large Print, and Audio, and there’s a short story filed in Easy Reading; but start with 2005’s Still Life).
Belford keeps on reading: “In the past years I have read far more non-fiction than fiction. I am particularly interested in the history of the Edwardian Age up to the end of World War II. Anything by Margaret MacMillan.” That historian and academic has piled up multiple awards with her work. Belford particularly recommends The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914, and the 2002 book Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed The World (filed at 940.3; find more MacMillan at 940.31 and 327.73, and via interlibrary loan).
Belford has a bit more time for books now that he’s retired from his long-time gig as co-host of CBC Radio’s Quebec AM. “I believe that books and reading are important, particularly in an age where attention spans are shortening and life is more and more presented in a series of thirty-second clips.”
He’s still busy, however, including writing a weekly Thursday column in The Record. And he sat on the Lennoxville Library’s volunteer board for three years, though no longer.
Why read? “Why breathe? It is an unending source of information and entertainment. It helps us to examine our feelings in the light of what others feel. It creates empathy and encourages intercourse with our fellow humans and our gods.”
— Eleanor Brown, March 18, 2016