Culture & Conversation

Posts by Gina Roitman


Lots of sex, little love

Before she committed suicide herself, Quebec writer Nelly Arcan wrote a book about a protagonist who decides to commit suicide by age 30. Arcan, known for her struggle with depression, has written a book as painful as her life.


After war’s end

In reading Carolyne Van Der Meer’s remarkable work, Motherlode: A Mosaic of Dutch Wartime Experiences, I was reminded of the intricate lace curtains found on the…

The Outsider

Imagine you’re a blond-haired, blue-eyed thirteen-year-old from Vancouver moving with your parents and two siblings some 8,000 km away to Guyana. You step off the plane and you are immediately assaulted by perplexing smells, a blanket of heat and an all-encompassing dark. “Night there is not like anything I had felt before.” So begins Shelagh Plunkett’s four year adventure that eventually ends on the other side of the world with a surreptitious departure from the island of Timor.

Worth the journey

For their intricate designs, Afghani rugs are considered among the most distinctive of oriental carpets. Often, they are as red as the poppies that have fuelled both the country’s economy and the rivers of blood in its history. Whatever the pattern, rugs from Afghanistan are prized for their weave. And that is also true of the novels by Khaled Hosseini, the bestselling author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. He’s a master weaver of tales.

Secrets for Living

To convey dire stories without a touch of gloom is a gift. For George Saunders in Tenth of December, his first book in six years, this particular gift comes wrapped in an economy of language tied up with a ribbon of dark humour.

Casting Women

Every once in awhile, as if in concert with some universal synchronizing mechanism, a book appears at the exact moment that current events conspire to mirror the subject matter. Thomas King’s An Inconvenient Indian is one and set on the other side of the world, Shawna Singh Baldwin’s third novel, The Selector of Souls, is another.

Forest for the Trees

Travelling by camper van around New Zealand, a land where 70% of the endemic forests have disappeared over the last 180 years, there seemed no more suitable place to crack open Charlotte Gill’s riveting and disturbing account of 20 years as a tree-planter in the forests of Canada. Make that, a tree-planter where the forests used to be.