The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson

The Other Side of the Bridge

The Other Side of the Bridge is a beautiful book set in  in Northern Canada about two brothers, Arthur and Jake Dunn who grow up on a small farm near Struan (a fictional town) in the 1930s. The brothers are poles apart in nature. Arthur is older, shy but reliable and hardworking, whereas Jake, the younger brother is handsome, reckless, unreliable and a troublemaker. Their story spans the 1930s and 1940s as they grow up through the Depression years and the Second World War, up to the early 1960s.

It’s also the story of Ian, Dr Christopherson’s son, beginning in the late 1950s when he became infatuated with Arthur’s wife Laura. I think the dual time frame works well, moving almost seamlessly between the years, and the characterisation is excellent. I was totally engrossed in the story and able to visualise the scenery, including the Ojibway reserve where Ian’s school friend Pete lived:

He [Ian] cycled down Main Street to the outskirts of Struan, which took all of three minutes, and then out along the road to the Ojibway reserve, which took a further five. The reserve was spread along the shore of a bay, with a point of land jutting out into the lake between it and Struan, a symbolic barrier as well as a geographic one. The road ran out of pavement half a mile before it reached the reserve, and the land itself was so low it would grow nothing but bulrushes and bugs – black flies by the million in early summer then mosquitoes big enough to pick you up and carry you away. The reserve store, though where Peter Corbiere lived, was situated right down by the lake, which meant it got the benefit of the wind and was less buggy than the rest. Pete’s grandfather was sitting on the steps when Ian arrived, smoking and staring off into the woods. He had scars on his fingers from letting cigarettes burn down too far. (page 18)

There is much joy in this book mixed in with immense sorrow and pain. The title of the book refers to the time before and after a shocking incident on the bridge  – a roughly made bridge across the river that separated the Dunns’ and their neighbours, the Lintz’s farms. It was a shortcut that saved more than a mile. The River Crow was fifteen feet below the bridge as it boiled its way over rocks. That incident changed not only Arthur’s and Jake’s lives but its effect lingered on the their community the rest of their lives.

The Other Side of the Bridge is Mary Lawson’s second novel. I loved her first, Crow Lake (which I read ten years ago) and I love this one just as much. It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year. It was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2006, which was won by Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss.

Reading Challenge: the 21st book I’ve read this year for Bev’s Mount TBR 2017 – a book I’ve had for 10 years.

My Week in Books: 8 November 2017

This Week in Books is a weekly round-up hosted by Lypsyy Lost & Found, about what I’ve been reading Now, Then & Next.

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A similar meme,  WWW Wednesday is run by Taking on a World of Words.

Now: I’m currently reading two books from my TBR shelves:

Victoria: a Life by A N Wilson. I’ve been meaning to read this book for a couple of years and watching the BBC’s version of Daisy Goodwin’s Victoria made me get this down from the shelves and start reading. My copy is a hardback book, long (over 650 pages) and rather awkward and heavy to hold so I’m taking my time reading it in short sections.

Victoria: A Life

 

I’m also reading  The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson, a novel of jealously, rivalry and the dangerous power of obsession. Looking through my TBR shelves this one caught my eye. I’ve only read a few chapters and it’s looking good.

The Other Side of the BridgeBlurb:

Two brothers, Arthur and Jake Dunn, are the sons of a farmer in the mid-1930s, when life is tough and another world war is looming. Arthur is reticent, solid, dutiful and set to inherit the farm and his father’s character; Jake is younger, attractive, mercurial and dangerous to know – the family misfit. When a beautiful young woman comes into the community, the fragile balance of sibling rivalry tips over the edge.

Then: I’ve recently finished reading Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore, her final novel. My review will follow soon.

Birdcage WalkBlurb:

 

It is 1792 and Europe is seized by political turmoil and violence.

Lizzie Fawkes has grown up in Radical circles where each step of the French Revolution is followed with eager idealism. But she has recently married John Diner Tredevant, a property developer who is heavily invested in Bristol’s housing boom, and he has everything to lose from social upheaval and the prospect of war.

Diner believes that Lizzie’s independent, questioning spirit must be coerced and subdued. She belongs to him: law and custom confirm it, and she must live as he wants.

But as Diner’s passion for Lizzie darkens, she soon finds herself dangerously alone.

Weaving a deeply personal and moving story with a historical moment of critical and complex importance, Birdcage Walk is an unsettling and brilliantly tense drama of public and private violence, resistance and terror from one of our greatest storytellers.

Next:  The Skeleton Road by Val McDermid, the third Karen Pirie novel. See the blurb and opening paragraph in my post yesterday.

The Skeleton Road

 

 

Have you read any of these books?  Do any of them tempt you? And what have you been reading this week?

A – Z of TBRs: J, K and L

I’m now up to J, K, and L in my A – Z of TBRs, a series of posts in which I take a fresh look at some of my TBRs to inspire me to read more of them by the end of the year, or maybe to decide not to bother reading them after all. These TBRs are all physical books – I’ve not included e-books. Previously I’ve just chosen books for these posts by using the titles, but this time I’ve also chosen books by using the authors’ last names.

I’m enjoying searching my shelves – finding books I’d forgotten were there (the disadvantage of shelving books behind others).

TRBs jkl

– is for The Journeying Boy by Michael Innesa book I’ve had for three years. This is a green Vintage Penguin, first published in 1949, and in this edition in 1961. Humphrey Paxton, the son of one of Britain’s leading atomic boffins, has taken to carrying a shotgun to ‘shoot plotters and blackmailers and spies’. His new tutor, the plodding Mr Thewless, suggests that Humphrey might be overdoing it somewhat. But when a man is found shot dead at a cinema, Mr Thewless is plunged into a nightmare world of lies, kidnapping and murder – and grave matters of national security.

I’m not sure now that I do want to read this book. It looks quite daunting, with lots of description and  literary allusions as shown in this extract – the cinema goers had been watching a film, Plutonium Blonde:

Another squalid crime … Circumstances had made Inspector Cadover a philosopher, and because he was a philosopher he was now depressed. This was the celebrated atom film. This was the manner in which his species chose to take its new command of natural law. Fifty thousand people had died at Hiroshima , and at Bikini ironclads had been tossed in challenge to those other disintegrating nuclei of the sun. The blood-red tide was loosed. And here it was turned to hog wash at five shillings the trough, and entertainment tax five shillings extra. That some wretched Londoner had met a violent death while taking his fill seemed a very unimportant circumstance. To track down the murderer – if murderer there was – appeared a revoltingly useless task. Mere anarchy was loosed upon the world – so what the hell did it matter? (page 51)

K – is for Ghost Walk by Alanna Knight (on my TBR shelves for four years), the fourth in the Rose McQuinn series. This is historical crime fiction set in 1897 in Edinburgh three years after Rose McQuinn’s husband, Danny, disappeared in Arizona. Believing him to be dead, she returned to Scotland to start her life afresh. Now a ‘Lady Investigator, Discretion Guaranteed‘, she is about to marry her lover, Detective Inspector Jack Macmerry of the Edinburgh Police when a nun from the local convent claims to have received a letter from Danny, and after two suspicious deaths, it seems that a ghost is about to walk back into her life…

I’ve read and liked the first book in this series, The Inspector’s Daughter, and am hoping it won’t matter that I’ve not read the second and the third books.

I had no idea what were the views of Edinburgh City Police on the subject of female detectives or the milder term ‘lady investigators’, but I could guess that that they regarded criminal investigation as a ‘men only’ province.

I felt so impatient with authority. Would a day ever dawn when women ceased to be regarded as playthings or breeding machines, when they would be given equal rights with men. My hackles rose in anger at the suffragettes’ gallant struggles as portrayed in a recent pamphlet which I had been at pains to keep concealed from Jack.  (page 34)

L – is for The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson, a book I’ve had for 10 years! I was so keen to read it when I first bought it after loving her first novel, Crow Lake. It’s about two brothers, Arthur and Jake.  Arthur is older, shy, dutiful, and set to inherit his father’s farm. Jake is younger and reckless, a dangerous man to know. When Laura arrives in their 1930s rural community, an already uneasy relationship is driven to breaking point…

Arthur’s earliest memory was of standing in the doorway of his parents’ room, looking at his mother as she lay in bed. It was the middle of the day but nonetheless she was in bed, and Arthur didn’t know what to make of it. The bed was very large and high and Arthur could only just see her. She had her face turned towards the window. Then Arthur’s father called from the bottom of the stairs that the doctor was coming, and she turned her head, and Arthur saw that she was crying. (page 25)

What do you think? Do you fancy any of them? Would you ditch any of them?

Favourite Books: September 2007 – 2010

Each month I’ve been looking back at some of my favourite books I read during the years 2007 – 2010. These are some of my favourite books I read in September in each of those years. September seems to have been a great month for books as I rated so many 5/5, but I’m highlighting just one for each month in this post. Revisiting these books makes me want to re-read all of them.

Click on the titles to see my original reviews.

2007


Crow Lake by Mary Lawson – this tells the story of a family of four children living at Crow Lake in the north of Canada in an isolated house miles away from any town, with just a few other families in the vicinity. The narrator is Kate Morrison and the story unfolds as she looks back on her life, triggered by an invitation to her nephew’s 18th birthday party.

When she was seven her parents were killed in a car crash, leaving her, her baby sister and two teenage brothers, orphaned. The trauma of their parents’ death affects the children in different ways and as Kate looks back on the events that followed she begins to see that not everything was as it seemed to her at the time.

Convincing characters combined with beautiful descriptions of Crow Lake and its ponds make this a memorable and lyrical novel.

2008

The Gravedigger’s Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates made a great impression on me in 2008 and I wrote three posts about it – see here and here for the first two and here for my final thoughts.

This is a melodramatic and memorable book depicting a grim, dark world, a violent and pessimistic world, gothic and grotesque. In some ways it reminds me of Hardy’s novels ‘“ you know something terrible will happen whatever the characters do to try to avert tragedy.

The main character is Rebecca Schwart, born in New York Harbor, the daughter of Jacob and Anna escaping from Nazi Germany in 1936. They live a life of abject poverty whilst Jacob can only find work as a caretaker of Milburn Cemetery, a non-demoninational cemetery at the edge of the town.

Soon the town’s prejudice and the family’s own emotional frailty results in unspeakable tragedy. In the wake of this loss, and in an attempt to put her past behind her, Rebecca moves on, across America and through a series of listless marriages, in search of somewhere, and someone, to whom she can belong.

The ending both surprised and touched me enormously.

2009

Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear – the third book in her Maisie Dobbs series. This one is set in 1930 when Maisie is asked by Sir Cecil Lawton to prove that his son, Ralph really did die in 1917 during the First World War. Sir Cecil’s wife, who had recently died, had been convinced that Ralph was still alive and on her deathbed made him promise to search for their son. This takes Maisie on a traumatic and dangerous trip to France ‘“ to the battlefields where she had been a nurse.

I like the Maisie Dobbs books. They’re easy to read, but not simple, the plots are nicely complicated and Maisie’s own story is seamlessly interwoven with the mystery. They give a good overall impression of the period, describing what people were wearing, the contrast between the rich and the poor and the all-pervading poisonous London smog. The horror of the War is still strong, people are still grieving for friends and relations killed or missing, visiting the battlefields and working to improve life for the soldiers who had returned home injured, and for the homeless children forced into life on the streets.

2010

The Fall by Simon Mawer – beautifully written, I was enthralled by this book. This is the story of Rob Dewar and Jamie Matthewson from their childhood up to Jamie’s death 40 years later and also the story of their parents and how their lives are interlinked.

The narrative moves between the two generations beginning in the present day, when Rob hears on the news that Jamie, a renowned mountaineer has fallen to his death in Snowdonia. No one is sure whether it was an accident or suicide. Then it moves  back 40 years to the time when the two boys met, both fatherless ‘“ Jamie’s dad, Guy went missing when climbing Kangchenjunga and Rob’s parents are divorced, and back yet further again to 1940 when Guy Matthewson met the boys’ mothers ‘“ Meg (later calling herself Caroline) and Diana. And so the drama unfolds in the mountains of Wales and the Alps, culminating on the North Face of the Eiger.

First Chapter, First Paragraph

First chapterEvery Tuesday Diane at  Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, sharing the first paragraph or (a few) of a book she’s reading or thinking about reading soon.

This is a book I’ve had for some time and haven’t read yet. It’s The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson. I bought this book because I’d read and loved Mary Lawson’s book, Crow Lake (link to my post on the book).

The Other Side of the Bridge begins: 

Prologue

There was a summer back when they were kids, when Arthur Dunn was thirteen or fourteen and his brother Jake was eight or nine, when for weeks on end Jake pestered Arthur to play the game he called knives. Jake had a great collection of knives at the time, everything from fancy little Swiss Army jack-knives with dozens of attachments to a big sleek hunting knife with a runnel down one side for blood. It was the hunting knife that was to be used in the game because according to Jake it was the best for throwing.

The only reason I haven’t read it yet is pressure of time  – and lots of other books that I’m dying to read. But should I read this one soon?

This is the blurb on the back cover:

Arthur and Jake are brothers, yet worlds apart. Arthur is older, shy, dutiful, and set to inherit his father’s farm. Jake is younger and reckless, a dangerous man to know. When Laura arrives in their 1939s rural community, an already uneasy relationship is driven to breaking point …

And this is what Penelope Lively wrote about it in the Guardian:

This is a fine book – an enthralling read, both straightforward and wonderfully intricate.

I think I’ll move it up the list of books-to-be-read.