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3.6 out of 5 stars
3.6 out of 5 stars
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on October 23, 2015
This book consists of several chapters covering various characters in south western Saskatchewan over the period of a day. Each chapter is like a short story in itself, from the point of view of different characters. Very clever how the characters' lives are intertwined throughout the day. Also really captured the local feel, very realistic. I would highly recommend it.
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on October 8, 2015
This is a beautifully written story encapsulating the lives of many in a small town and how each in interwoven with the other. It's as I imagine some town life to be... Highly recommended, I look forward to her next book - I'm a fan.
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on August 21, 2013
A beautiful look at everyday lives. I couldn't put it down, In fact I read it in just 24 hours.
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on March 26, 2013
This was a book club choice and not gripping enough to finish. It would be interesting to know who the Govenor General Award review panel was and why they choice this book. Certainly it was full of Canadian content.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon October 5, 2012
I received this book as a Christmas present, and was looking forward to reading it after noticing the Governor General Literary Awards sticker prominently displayed on the cover. What a disappointment. The first short story, featuring two horse riders, is a classic and is nearly of the level of a Louis L'Amour short story (I have read several book collections of his short stories). Spare, yet descriptive language, telling a story with what is not said as much as what is. Very well done. The rest of the book, however, gets progressively worse. Characters simply are not relatable. For example, we have the family with 6 kids where the two parents wonder in self-pitying fashion where their money has gone. There is the small town banker who thinks that his clients' financial success has nothing to do with either him or them. And then there is the middle-aged man who is unaware of what sex is, even when engaged in the act of it, and believes perhaps that it was all a dream. Come on!

I think the Governer General Literary Award panel or person who read this book read only the first story and then skipped the rest. Reading only the first story, this is indeed top-notch fiction. The problem is, the first story represents less than 4% of the total book. And takes place more than 75 years before the events described in modern-day Juliet, Saskatchewan. I don't judge a book by its cover. And I also don't judge it by its first chapter alone. Cool Water simply doesn't deserve a place on your bookshelf. There are far better works of popular fiction available, and far better serious fiction too. In addition to de-basing the value of the GG Literary Awards, Cool Water also reminds the reader not to buy a book simply because it has a Canadian author. I will not read this book again, and I encourage everyone to read books other than this one. Terrible. 1/5
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on October 5, 2011
Take a drink of Cool Water with Dianne Warren's wonderful book set in the sand dunes of Southern Saskatchewan. Her novel, in the form of interconnected stories, paints a complex picture of a place in time and the people who live there.
The opening chapter, or prologue describes a long-distance horse race that took place in the district many years earlier. Starting at the buffalo rubbing stone just to the north of what was then the settlement of Juliet, two cowboys proceeded 25 miles north, then west, south, and east, finally returning to the stone, outlining a 100-mile perimeter around the Little Snake Hills. The path of the race sets the parameters for the rest of the story.
Lee Torgenson awakens in the middle of the night to the sound of hoofbeats. Assuming they are the phantom hoofbeats that plague him most nights, he thinks nothing of it, until he finally gets up and discovers a real horse in his yard. The horse does not protest when Lee saddles him, and so, with the moon shining down on them, they begin their 24-hour adventure together. Lee inadvertently starts out on the same path as the historic horse race. Learning about the race at the half-way point, he decides to continue on the same route.
Although Lee's adventure starts the action, and literally draws a boundary around the story, there are many other tales that unfold and each of the stories is connected in some way to one or another. As Lee travels throughout the day, he sees or visits different farms and homesteads and we get a glimpse of the people who live there and see how their lives crisscross and intertwine. We witness interactions between a cowboy and a rebellious teenager, a bank manager and a father at the end of his rope. We see an older couple trying to make a connection with each other and a father communicating with his son, however briefly. One woman loses her horse and another is afraid she's lost a husband. We see how someone's innocent action earlier in the day has repercussions later, so that leaving a gate open, or writing down a phone number, can have potentially disastrous consequences.
This is a very satisfying book. Warren describes her complex, appealing characters in a very warm-hearted, straightforward manner. Through them, she reminds us that we are all connected. We live our lives and each of us has our own story but we are inextricably linked to others, no matter how ephemerally and whether or not we are aware of that connection and its possible effect. Not a new idea perhaps, but somehow comforting nonetheless, and Warren's version of it is a pure pleasure to read.
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on September 18, 2011
A wonderful book. Who knew that the relatively mundane lives of Canadians in small- town Saskatchewan could capture a reader's attention and hold it to this extent?! I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will recommend it to others. In ways, the prose reminded me of Frances Itani - another Canadian author we can be proud to call our own.
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on July 25, 2011
This book was a major disappointment and I wonder at the selection of it as a GG award winner. It was passed on to me by my book buddy who feels exactly as I do - not a book we would recommend to anyone. She wanted to see if I disliked it as much as she did. We are both avid readers and love good Canadian fiction and - this book does not fit in that category.
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Cool Water bears all the telltale signs of a Governor General's Award winner: a remote Canadian setting, eloquent prose, contemplative characters and a slow-moving plot. Warren recounts a 24-hour period in the lives of various townsfolk. A couple prepares for their teenaged daughter's upcoming (and doomed) wedding, parents of six young children struggle to make ends meet and a young man, abandoned as a baby, searches for answers about his purpose in the world. Although certainly not a page-turner, this book becomes engrossing as it progresses and highlights the extraordinary in the quotidian.
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The modern Canadian writer Dianne Warren has written a very powerful novel about life on the Canadian prairies in the twenty-first century. Her focus is the tiny, anonymous farming community of Juliet, lost somewhere in the sand hills of the southern Canadian prairies. Everything about this arid little town is dreary, depressing and somewhat restrictive. Its dusty, flyblown complexion suggests that it would be the last place on earth most of us would want to settle down and raise a family. Warren's story consists of a number of cleverly interwoven personal stories of locals who have arrived at a point in life where they realize that they are permanently trapped in this little backwater. Sure, they want to move to the big city or, at least, somewhere as far away as possible to start over again, but time, familial duty, the ownership of land, and debt makes that prospect very dim. Warren has a unique way of bringing the reader in touch with each of these pathetic circumstances: a self-absorbed wife who only catches on to her husband's infidelity by accident, a single mother who is left to fend for her brood of six children, a foundling who has been left a farm that he doesn't know what to do with, a young couple getting married under dubious circumstances and a bank manager who is privy to all that goes on in the community because he controls its life blood. It is these many existential perspectives that add up to produce a very captivating and, at times, humorous picture about the future of community life in rural Canada. While it is not pretty at the best of times, there continues to be a desire to hang in there and cherish those relics and memories of a by-gone era even when they no longer mean anything: parents, horse races across the open prairies, old buildings serving as social landmarks, and the lingering dreams of a yet-to-be-fulfilled prosperity. Everything in this novel is fragile and could be gone at a moment's whim but for that intangible greater purpose in life that connects the individual to the land. The reader should be aware of the metaphoric power of nature at work in the novel: wind, sand, death, water, land, and sky. These are some of the mysterious forces, in Warren's view, that continue to keep us clinging to community regardless of an ever present desire to leave.
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