Read to write

Posted on February 11, 2011

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Mennonite in a little black dress : a memoir of going home, by Rhoda Janzen

A co-worker friend lent this book to me (non-fiction) saying, ‘it reminds me of your blog’. At the time she recommended it to me, I was already stuck into two books (Anti Cancer and The Yacoubian Building) so would normally have proceeded in order of procurement. However, two of my others co-workers noticed this book and everyone raised their hand for a borrowing session. Therefore, due to demand, it has shot to the top of my list. Interesting that this title attracted so much enthusiasm. Promised to be ‘light, funny, and easy to read’ with a pink cover showing a cute black dress, this novel has WOMAN written all over it. It’s literary cat-nip for the fairer sex.

Rhoda Janzen is funny, light, and an accessible writer. She addresses the reader directly, sometimes asking our opinion, other times creating small polls within the story (Would you rather A or B?), while also taking you into the world of her family through reconstructed memories (told as flashback stories) and smooth running dialogue. Sometimes – like in much fiction & non-fiction I’ve read – it feels like she reaches into the past a bit too often. This is my problem, however, because I’m just not a fan of too much flashback. I like stories to progress forward, not bounce up and down between now and then (of course there are exceptions, but if it feels like filler than that turns me off). But I think most people don’t mind the throwbacks. And often they’re good short stories on their own.

Anyhow, yes – this book is a bit like my blog. Shitty situation made light and easy.  It’s a compliment to be compared to her work, and interesting to see how she constructs this story. I look forward to seeing how she wraps things up.

*But if the book wouldn’t suit a bubble bath and a glass of fizzy apple juice, than I’m not sure I’ll be reading it. Text-book boring or cringe-worthy bad doesn’t suit me one bit. A good book needs to be accessible, interesting and above all, absorbing.
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