36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: The Sentimentalists (Paperback)I was anxious to read this book, mostly because of the Giller prize but also because the author is originally from the Maritimes. As well, I liked the backstory with Gaspereau Press (how they negotiated with other publishers to make more copies of the book available without sacrificing their principles too much). I was a bit disappointed with the book itself though, but maybe it's only because I was expecting too much. The writing style was like some poetry I've read: precise (excessively?), analytical, and a bit choppy, with contorted sentences. Lots of clauses, commas and dashes, but instead of assisting the story it felt like the author was perhaps trying too hard (maybe that was the point, and I just missed it?). On the other hand, the author exhibits real awareness and insight regarding the psychology of the characters and their relations with each other.
With respect to the novel's overall plot, I've read reviews where the reviewer praised the slow build to a big finish, but that wasn't my impression. The father's experiences in Vietnam are descibed in such vague terms (deliberately, of course) that it isn't really clear what took place or how these events subsequently influenced the rest of his life. That's not necessarily bad, as it does say something interesting about the nature of memory and about how we construct a narrative after something happens that may be linked to "what really happened" only indirectly. And about how hard a person's life is to figure out, let alone to describe in a novel. I just don't know how successfully this strategy was used in The Sentimentalists.
Overall, not a bad book at all, but I think the fact that it was awarded the Giller might say more about the people who made up the jury this year than it does about the book itself.