Montreal·BOOKS

Fact or fiction, here are 6 must-read books

CBC Montreal book columnist Richard King has added 6 new must-reads on his list of favourite books.

These stories will captivate you and keep you guessing, says CBC book columnist Richard King

(Richard King)

The Huntress

Kate Quinn, the author of The Alice Network, has turned her attention to the period following the end of the Second World War and the hunt for Nazi war criminals in her novel The Huntress.

British journalist Ian Graham, his sidekick Tony Rodomovsky and Graham's wife Russian Air Force Pilot, Nina Markova, are on the hunt for the Jägerin, the huntress, a cold-blooded murder of Jewish children. When Anneliese Weber turns up in Boston with her daughter, the reader knows that she is the Jägerin. But — and this is where the tension in the novel comes from — the man who wants to marry her, Dan McBride and his daughter a wannabe photographer Jordan do not know Anneliese's real identity.

The story unfolds in alternating chapters, one each for Jordan, Ian & Nina. The reader will be engrossed in the back stories of each of the protagonists and the descriptions of post-war Europe. Quinn gathers the divergent elements of her story and brings it to a satisfying conclusion. The characters of Ian and Nina are loosely based on the Nazi hunting team of Serge and Beate Klarsfeld. The Jägerin is a composite to two Nazi war criminals: Hermine Braunsteiner and Erna Petri.

Adèle

Franco-Moroccan writer Leila Slimani burst on the English-language scene with her novel The Perfect Nanny. The novel was part thriller, part literary fiction. A novel she wrote prior to the success of The Perfect Nanny, Adèle, came out earlier this year.

The novel is set in Paris and tells the story of Adèle her husband, successful doctor Richard Robinson and their son Lucien. To put it mildly Adèle is dissatisfied with her job as a journalist and with her marriage. She is bored. To spice up her life she indulges in sex with colleagues from her office and with complete strangers. The excitement of pursuit and conquest gives Adèle, a modern Madame Bovary, a sense that she is not dying of bourgeois complacency. Adèle's life takes an unexpected turn when her husband is injured in a car accident and she has to care for him.

Slimani's prose will keep the reader captivated from the first page to the last.

Dream Sequence

Booker nominated author Adam Foulds has packed a 500-page novel into less than two hundred pages in Dream Sequence. He accomplishes this feat by making every word count and the reader will revel in the story of British actor Henry Banks, the star of a Downton Abbey-like miniseries The Grange. Banks wants to do more serious work and is fixated on getting a part in the new film to be directed by Spanish auteur Miguel Garcia. He reads for the part and then stalks Garcia to ensure he gets it.

Banks himself is being stalked by The Grange super fan, Kristen. The novel brilliantly combines elements of satire of the movie business, yoga and celebrity culture. The British-born author currently makes Toronto his home.

(Richard King)

Tigerland

The years 1968 and 1969 were among the most contentious is modern American history. The country was divided over the war in Vietnam and in 1968 both Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated. Jim Crow laws dominated the south and in spite of the ruling of Brown v The Board of Education, schools were segregated.

It is against this background that journalist Wil Haygood tells the story of an amazing group of black high school athletes and their white coach at East High in Columbus, Ohio, in his book Tigerland. The East High Tigers won state championships in basketball and baseball. Haygood tells the stories of the players and their families and the coach, Bob Hart. It is almost amazing that the players and the coach came together at all.

The ways in which they worked together and the mutual respect they had for one another is inspiring.

Antisemitism Here and Now

Professor Deborah Lipstadt, the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University has taken on the difficult subject of anti-Semitism in her book, Antisemitism Here and Now. Lipstadt delves into all aspects of the hateful credo, the anti-Semitism of the political right and the political left.

She has created two composite characters: Abigail, an intelligent university student and Joe, a professor in the law faculty of the university. Joe and Abigail pose questions that represent the kinds of things Lipstadt has been asked and she answers them in clear prose.

The book does not shy away from taking on the very serious issues of hate that is resurgent in the United States, Canada, Europe and the U.K. Lipstadt is unafraid to mention perpetrators of hate by name.

Blamed and Broken

Blamed and Broken by CBC reporter Curt Petrovich tells the story of the death of Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver Airport in 2007. There are very few people in Canada who are unaware of the tragic outcome of the confrontation between Dziekanski and the Mounties.

Petrovich's book is important because it eschews jumping to conclusions and takes the reader on a minute-by-minute, in some cases second-by-second, history of the events that led to Dziekanski' death by Taser.

The events that preceded the death of Dziekanski were innocent: airport staff unable to make an announcement in the part of the airport where Dziekanski was waiting for his mother, the inability to get information from anyone in authority to determine if he was in fact in the airport and, most innocently of all, Dziekanski's inexperience as a traveller so he did not know to leave the International Reception Lobby for so long a period of time.

If any of these events had played out differently tragedy might have been avoided.


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About the Author

Richard King

CBC Homerun Book Columnist

Richard King is a book columnist on CBC Homerun. He is an author, broadcaster and former co-owner of Paragraphe Bookstore in Montreal. You can hear Richard on Homerun, on CBC Radio One (88.5 FM), once a month on Wednesday afternoons starting at 3 p.m.

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