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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The captivating chant of a prairie griot
Todd Babiak brings forth a great many memories and emotions in his novel "The Garneau Block". As in a musician's score, the voices of Alberta blend together into a lyrical and entertaining whole.

Like a modern day griot he spins forth a convincing local history but adds a few ideas of his own to make it more entertaining.

When you listen to Bach,...
Published on Aug. 25 2006 by Paul Charest

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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't waste your time
Why this novel was ever a finalist for the Giller Prize is a mystery to me.

This novel is a stinker. About the only positive thing I can find to say about it is that the writing style is fluid. And by that, I mean that the novel is an easy read. Not a lot of complicated sentence structures or plot twists to understand and digest. But that’s pretty...
Published on June 10 2007 by NorthVan Dave


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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The captivating chant of a prairie griot, Aug. 25 2006
By 
Paul Charest "Peace Country Bookophile" (Edmonton (and loving it), Alberta) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Garneau Block (Hardcover)
Todd Babiak brings forth a great many memories and emotions in his novel "The Garneau Block". As in a musician's score, the voices of Alberta blend together into a lyrical and entertaining whole.

Like a modern day griot he spins forth a convincing local history but adds a few ideas of his own to make it more entertaining.

When you listen to Bach, Beethoven or any of the great composers who can write a piece of music that gives you something new and something different everytime you listen to it, then you have an idea of the multiple threads running through "The Garneau Block".

With "The Garneau Block" there's a thread of melancholy, tragedy, the whimsical, the satirical, a sense of yearning, a nod to the past and a look to the future that weave together into an intriguing tapestry.

With great music you can listen to the piece as a whole where all the instruments and moods blend into one. You can isolate elements, the strings, the percussion, woodwinds and brass, and discover something hitherto unknown. In this way "The Garneau Block" proves to be a book that affects its audience like a great piece of music. Sometimes it takes years of listening to a piece before you are enlightened to a certain element of it. In some cases I've had to experience life and mature and then a piece speaks to me differently.

I love that music plays a big part in The Garneau Block. When I walked into Manulife Tower with the characters I had to go over to my computer and download the Edith Piaf and Charles Aznavour songs mentioned to see what mood was there. Listening to the lyrics I see they identify quite well with lyricism of the novel. Those French singers really know how to capture mood in a song.

There are many "local" elements that resonate as well. When the

performance artist at 38 Manulife Place starts spouting Brion Gysonesque type poetry, I thought that was appropos. One can disect and project but Gyson was yet another person who could never come to terms with the good experiences of his Edmonton years: they shaped his writing and his view on life whether he liked to say so or not [ed's note: please read John Geiger's book "Nothing is True - Everything is Permitted" - it's quite good].

I just want to say "bravo". I was mentioning to a friend that the appeal of the book is broader than just an audience who knows Edmonton, it's for an audience who knows people. An audience who can identify with situations, see their friends, their family or themselves in the characters and nod knowingly at it all. Edmonton and Alberta as the setting are just grace notes on a wonderful compostion.
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4.0 out of 5 stars As the story goes..., April 21 2010
By 
Anne Hayden - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Garneau Block (Paperback)
A bit off the wall with the compilation of characters living in the same city block and how their lives connect with one another - sometimes. I couldn't identify with any of these characters, which is a selling point for me, but I could identify with the setting in Edmonton as I used to live there and like the city very much.

But something in the book made me carry on reading it without feeling that I had to. The humour is different, but it's there, but it's not a book that is leading me to buy more from the same author. Not right now. Maybe I just wasn't in the right frame of mind to really get my head into the plot.
Anne Hayden
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4.0 out of 5 stars Let's Fix It Doesn't Need Any Fixing, Aug. 23 2006
This review is from: The Garneau Block (Hardcover)
The Garneau Block and its story of a "Let's Fix It" campaign to save the neighbourhood is one of the funniest pieces of Canadiana I've read in a long time. The residents of this Edmonton block are memorable in their own quirkiness but are also reminiscent of the residents of Winnipeg and Vancouver--two places I've lived. If you're looking for satire, local politics and humour, this is the book for you.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't waste your time, June 10 2007
This review is from: The Garneau Block (Hardcover)
Why this novel was ever a finalist for the Giller Prize is a mystery to me.

This novel is a stinker. About the only positive thing I can find to say about it is that the writing style is fluid. And by that, I mean that the novel is an easy read. Not a lot of complicated sentence structures or plot twists to understand and digest. But that’s pretty much it for the positives.

The characters are hallow and Babiak seems to have gone to great lengths to make sure that everyone gets represented. We have the stereotypical gay actor. We have the stereotypical aging university professor who is resistant to change within his faculty. We have the stereotypical retired school teachers and their stereotypical conservative views. The whole damn novel is just so stereotypical.

And that is why I don’t like it.

If I’m going to invest my time in to something, make it worth my while. Let me escape from reality for a bit. Or at least give my brain something to chew on. This though, this novel contains none of that. The novel is dull read with dull characters and a dull plot.
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The Garneau Block
The Garneau Block by Todd Babiak (Hardcover - Aug. 15 2006)
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