Saturday, June 16, 2007

Sweetness in the Belly - Camilla Gibb

The Basics: Sweetness in the Belly, Camilla Gibb, 2005, 415 pages, paperback, shortlisted for the Giller, winner of Ontario's Prix Trillim Book Award.

How I found it: Random browsing at Chapters.

What's it about?: The life story of Lilly, a white woman who grew up as a Muslim in Morocco and Ethiopia. The story is told in bits and pieces, jumping from her present as an immigrant to the U.K., back to her early days in Harar.

Did I like it?: I loved this book. Lilly is such a strong character, even when she feels she is weak. Her story was very compelling and unlike any I had read before. Camilla Gibb actually did at Ph.D. in social anthropology at Oxford with field work in Ethiopia, so her book is meticulous well-research and to me seems exceptionally authentic. Gibb writes very well and explains the cultural aspects of the book very well without detracting from the narrative. The love stories were also especially poignant.

Will you like it?: This is a great book as it is well written, has a great strong female protagonist and a great plot. There is nothing to dislike about this book. As with many that I read, it is more of a woman's book, but it is far from chick-lit. A good choice for book clubs.

But don't take my word for it: The usual stuff and reader reviews from, a review from, one from, another from The Guardian, and a collection of reviews from Camilla Gibbs' website.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The 100 Mile Diet - Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon

The Basics: The 100-Mile Diet, Alisa Smith and J.B. (James) MacKinnon, 2007, 266 pages, hardcover, published under the title Plenty in the USA (apparently so it doesn't get stuck in the diet book section along with all the Atkins and Weight Watchers books).

How I found it: This book has been heavily hyped in the alternative media that I frequent, including The Tyee, Canadian Geographic,, Treehugger, and Kootenay Co-op Radio's Deconstructing Dinner.

What's it about?: Alisa and James are two Vancouver-ites who decide to eat only food from 100-Miles of their home for a year. Although Vancouver is in the fertile Fraser River valley and there are lots of farms around, their experiment proved much harder than they thought it would. The book is about their struggle to find local food, the adventures they had tracking down necessities like sugar (from honey) and flour (from an experimental Vancouver Island wheat farmer). They also meet lots of great farm people and rediscover their relationship with each other.

Did I like it?: I loved this book. I think it took me less than 24 hours to read. James and Alisa are very endearing people, and in a lot of ways they reminded me of myself and my life. The bravery they showed in taking on this experiment is commendable. I was also really impressed with how well they were able to write about their experience without sounding holier-than-thou or having to justify themselves. Those were main complaints about Judith Levine's Year Without Shopping, and by the end of her book I couldn't stand her. By the end of reading The 100-Mile Diet, I felt as if they were long lost friends and that I should call them up to go to the Halifax farmer's market with me, then come over for an awesome dinner.

Will you like it?: This is a good book for people interested in food politics, environmentalism, etc. But, it is not a sky-is-falling type book. It is about real people, real farms, and real food. It is about getting to know the region around you and what you can get from the earth. It is a book that makes you want to plant a garden in containers in your balcony and bike to Richmond or Delta for farm-fresh produce on the weekends. It is inspiring.

But don't take my word for it: The usual collection of literary and reader reviews from Amazon, some from the blogs Lectio and Green LA Girl, another from Treehugger, one from The Tyee, and the official 100 Mile Diet website.

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Inheritance of Loss - Kiran Desai

The Basics: The Inheritance of Loss, Kiran Desai, 2006, 324 pages, paperback, winner of the 2006 Man Booker Prize.

How I found it: Random browsing at Chapters.

What's it about?: A retired judge and his granddaughter living in the Himalaya during a Nepali insurgency. Although the judge, his granddaughter, and most of the their friends are Indians, they still feel very connected to colonial British customs and disconnected to the new idea of a multi-ethnic India where Nepalis can demand rights. The book is very character focused and the building insurgency only occurs in the background.

Did I like it?: I found this book really, really slow. I did not relate to any of the characters and found a few of them quite tedious. Sadly, there wasn't much I liked about this book at all, despite the fact that it was written well.

Will you like it?: Well, it won the Booker prize, which means that some people liked it, and it is good literature, but in this case, I don't think it makes for a good read.

But don't take my word for it: The usual professional and reader reviews from amazon, one from the New York Times, another from the BBC, one from The Hindu (an national Indian newspaper), one from the online DesiLit Daily, and finally one from the Accidental Blogger.