ALU Summer Book Club: Follow-up Reads After Ring
With the ALU summer book club, it's never truly goodbye - especially when we have great reads on deck acting as fitting follow-ups to our summer picks. For July's pick Ring by André Alexis (Coach House Books), we look at a handful of novels and a poetry collection to pick up on some of the themes of love, art, and inheritance that we discovered this month.See more details below
Following up on Ring's fated love (+ broader Ontario setting):
Two White Queens and the One-Eyed Jack by Heidi von Palleske (Dundurn Press)
A richly-constructed narrative with humour scattered throughout, and a host of quirky characters that are like fully-formed humans on the page; we got a lot of the same feelings reading Two White Queens and the One-Eyed Jack that we did reading Ring. The intertwined fates of Jack, a boy who loses an eye in a childhood accident and his best friend, Gareth, and the two albino twins they meet, Clara and Blanca on the shores of Lake Ontario are magical and worthy of the magic elements of our July read. Plus, we like as a bonus nod that von Palleske's narrative moves to Berlin, where, as we learned in our author interview, Alexis wrote most of Ring.
For those who love Ring's interplay with other art forms:
One Madder Woman by Dede Crane (Freehand Books)
From Alexander von Würfel, the taxidermist, to the artwork of Gwen's own mother, Helen Odhiambo Lloyd, the suffusion of visual art and other art forms (jazz music, opera, poetry) in Ring - pardon the pun - paint the picture of a rich and varied artistic life in the city of Toronto and wider Ontario. Likewise, we love the combination of art and tempestuous romance in Dede Crane's One Madder Woman, which follows Berthe Morisot, the sole woman member of the Impressionist movement, in mid-19th-century France. We think Berthe's drive to succeed on her own terms amid the mores of the time aren't so different from Gwen's own desires to engage with the ring in her own way.
For those who want to dig into the idea of daughters inheriting from mothers:
Our Familiar Hunger by Laisha Rosnau (Nightwood Editions)
The expressive, elegiac poems in Our Familar Hunger tracing generations of women - mothers and daughters - remind us of the echoes and reverberations of the countless "foremothers" in Gwen's family lineage who owned and used the ring before she did. With poems like "What She Carries in her Chest" - that read "I plump up goose down duvets, draw / a kind husband to keep her warm. And every / time you read these words, or think of apples / she will hold one out to you." - we're reminded of how Ring examines the histories women carry on from their mothers before them, even when they don't their mother's names (maybe this is why Helen, Gwen's mother, is so insistent on using her family name, Odhiambo, too).
For those who want more Tancred; more, MORE!
The Hidden Keys by André Alexis (Coach House Books)
If Ring was your first introduction to André Alexis's quincunx, any of the other four titles would make for great follow-up reading. Though there are links - thematic and actual - between Ring and all of the other quincunx novels, we recommend The Hidden Keys for those who are looking for a gripping puzzle novel while gaining some insight into Gwen's love interest Tancred's life as a thief and his relationship to the wealthy Azarian family, as well as his close friendship with Daniel Mandelshtam (one best friend, the other being Olivier). The Toronto of The Hidden Keys is one bursting with satisfyingly solvable secrets, just as Ring's Toronto has romance around every corner.
Join us as we say "so long" to Ring (though, if you haven't bought it already, it's still 15% off on All Lit Up until the end of the summer!) and hello to our August pick, the anthology of millennial fiction writing After Realism, edited by André Forget (Véhicule Press).
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