I feel so fortunate to be living in Lennoxville, a place where so many people actually read books. Every year there are many great used book sales where I can scoop up a whole bunch of lovely reads at minimal cost. Our own Lennoxville Library has two wonderful sales every summer—one on Friendship Day in June and one during the Street Festival in August. It is always a treat to pick up a book by an author previously unknown to me and dive into a new adventure.
Some of my all-time favourite books have come to me in this way, and the following are all—in spite of the sales—available from the Lennoxville Library. Helen Simonson’s first novel, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand (2010) is a delightful romance set in a small and stuffy English town. The Major is a widower who finds himself out of step with the provincial ladies, who try to organize him. He is unexpectedly drawn to a lonely widow—Mrs. Ali, a woman of Pakistani descent—with similar tastes who runs the local corner store. Her family is aghast at the possibility of such a match, as are the English locals. Needless to say, our hero and Mrs. Ali run into many obstacles…. It’s a lovely story.
I do like comic novels, and another one that came from a book sale is The Rosie Project by Australian novelist Graeme Simsion (2013). Once again this is a romance, but with a serious side. Just as Major Pettigrew dealt with prejudice, Rosie deals with autism. Our hero, Don Tillman, is autistic and although he has zero social skills he feels that something is missing in his life—a wife. Don is a brilliant professor of genetics so he decides to apply his specialized training to designing a questionnaire to narrow down the field of potential wives. Predictable mayhem results, especially after he meets the delectable, but totally unsuitable, Rosie. It’s laugh-out-loud funny.
Both the above are debut novels and so is The Best Laid Plans by Canadian Terry Fallis. Fallis initially told this story chapter by chapter in podcast format. Then, when he couldn’t find a publisher, he published it himself. In 2008 the novel won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour and then went on to win Canada Reads in 2011. Another laugh-out-loud story, this one is a wickedly funny look at our political system. Daniel Addison narrates the story. He is a likeable young man who has spent five years working for the Liberal Party and now wants to put politics behind him. As a last favour to his leader he agrees to find a Liberal candidate for the overwhelmingly Conservative riding where he lives. He makes an agreement with his cantankerous landlord, Angus McLintock. Daniel will teach Angus’s introductory English class to first-year engineering students, and Angus will let his name stand as the (no hope) Liberal candidate. Angus will not do any canvassing and appear at any rallies. However, as you’ve guessed, things don’t develop according to plan. The resulting story is a wonderful satire on our political system. Angus is a revelation to the people of Canada who are tired of partisan and self-serving politicians who do not address the real needs of our people and country. I think this book is an especially timely read considering the political high jinks south of the border.
The next two books are both by Terry Fallis and you can borrow them from the Lennoxville Library. The High Road (2010) continues the story of Angus McLintock and Daniel. Another political satire, this one cuts very close to the bone with politicians promising tax cuts to get elected, while neglecting Canada’s aging and dangerous infrastructure. The dour Scottish Angus refuses to engage in mud-slinging politics and instead promises to take the high road. It’s another very funny story, but perhaps a bit forced when compared to the rollicking tone of The Best Laid Plans.
I have no such reservations about Fallis’s next book, Up and Down (2011). It is a hoot. David Stewart, a young man who has just started to work for a large public relations agency in Toronto, tells the story. NASA is looking to find some way to make space exploration exciting again and David’s agency is one of those asked to submit a proposal. David suggests that NASA run a contest to select two citizen astronauts, one American and one Canadian and have them visit the international space station. The lottery produces a macho Texan and most unusual Canadian choice, Landon Percival. She is a 71-year-old doctor from rural B.C. who flies a bush plane and has a life-long dream of being an astronaut. Understandably David has to resort to some underhand shenanigans to get Landon accepted as the Canadian candidate. Up and Down is a fast-paced comedy and Landon Percival a most delightful creation.
On a different note, if fine arts is your thing, two local artists, Thérèse Pelchat and Lucille Lefebvre, both members of The Lennoxville Art Group, currently have an exhibition of their paintings at the Lennoxville Library and it is well worth a look—especially with our new dedicated exhibition space and track lighting!
For your calendar: Canada Reads…and so does Lennoxville will be at the Library on Thursday, March 23, at 6:30 pm. There is free admission and refreshments will be served. This is the highlight event of our spring season! Don’t miss it!