Tuesday 30 October 2007

Crow Lake

The camera is behaving slightly better today. Nothing I did, so think it's just fickle. The focus modes have all been experimented with beforehand, but thanks for the tips, guys!

I've realised that I haven't yet blogged about Crow Lake by Mary Lawson, so time to get that sorted out. First, I'll let you know the little process taken from having no clue
who or what Mary Lawson is, to being able to blog about Crow Lake. It goes something like this...

1) In the morning wander through the blogs, it goes something like this - Cornflower, Random Jottings, Dovegreyreader, Bluestalking, Booksplease, Crafty Person, A Work In Progress, Books and Cooks, Janice's Reading Diary, Angela Young, anyone else for whom I have time. Hadn't realised until typing that I had such a rigid structure. The 'anyone else' is vast and wide and takes many, many minutes - but before that, this is pretty much the daily round-up. I read to find out what my e-friends have been up to, but also largely for book recommendations. To differing degrees, I know I have shared tastes with these bloggers. If Elaine, Lisa or Karen like something, then I'm going to be interested. Crow Lake, however, started it's Stuck-in-a-Book life as a recommendation on Margaret's blog - she wrote about it here.

2) Books that REALLY excite me go onto the Blue Bit Of Card. Some bloggers, I know, write down almost every book they see recommended - I'm much more picky. Most books have to rely on luck - it's sink or swim. If I remember them, then they get read. If not; obviously we're memorable enough. The Blue Bit Of Card is for when a book looks great, but I don't trust my memory.

3) Usually I trot off to abebooks or Amazon. Crow Lake, again, is different - I found it on the shelves at
Honeypot, a church-linked bookstall/coffee morning/craft-making/gossip that Our Vicar's Wife organises and I was visiting.

4) Almost finished it on the train home!

So, back to the novel. It takes place on two time periods - Kate Morrison is a lecturer, invited to her nephew's 18th birthday party, which starts her thinking about her childhood - the other time period. She lives near Crow Lake in the back of beyond with her brothers Matt and Luke, and toddler sister Bo. When their parents are killed in a car crash, they learn to
fend for themselves. This novel shows the sacrifices each has to make, and the lasting ramifications of these - and the guilt Kate still feels about having a PhD when Matt had to sacrifice his academic futherment. Along the way their lives become entangled with the mysterious Pye family, haunted by years of hatred and violence within previous generations.

Lawson writes with so many character nuances, and is concerned with subtle issues of empathy, sympathy, unity, hope, hopelessness, courage, foolishness, pride, misunderstanding - it's all there, as anyone who's read it must agree. Kate's reunion with her family, along with the reader's gradual understanding of their shared childhood, is tautly emotional and very absorbingly written. The ending and the re-analysis of Kate's feelings demonstrate the most sophisticated writing on Lawson's part, and a truly complex depiction of family and humanity. There are so many categories this novel could fall in which would have put me off - tragic childhood; Southerners-are-salt-of-the-Earth; violence - but Lawson proves that, though a lot of dross may be written in these areas, they can be used brilliantly. Oh, and a lot of it is very funny too. For instance, Kate and Luke trying to teach Bo nursery rhymes for the first time:

'What are the main ones?' (Kate)
'I don't know. Teach her the ones you like best.' (Luke)
I couldn't think of a single one. 'I don't remember any,' I said.
' "Hickory Dickory Dock",' Matt said. He was sitting at the kitchen table writing to Aunt Annie.
Self-consciously I said, 'Say "Hickory Dickory Dock", Bo'
Bo paused in her work and looked at me suspiciously.
'She thinks you've flipped,' Matt said, scribbling away.
I tried again. 'Bo, say "
Hickory Dickory Dock".'
'Icky Dicky Dock,' Bo said brusquely. She looked around her, searching for a particular saucepan.
'Good!' I said. 'That's good, Bo. Now say "The mouse ran up the clock."'
'Dis pan,' Bo said. She seized the largest pan and started whamming the others into it in order of size. She was pretty good at it, too. She didn't make many mistakes.
'She's ignoring you,' Matt said in a pause in the din. 'She's decided you're nuts.'
'Come on, Bo,' I said. '"The mouse ran up the clock."'
'Silly,' Bo said, sparing a moment to wave a stern finger at me.



  1. Simon, thank you for reminding me about this book! I read it three or four years ago and loved it. I must dig it out, blow the dust off (housework v. second place to reading and writing chez nous) and enjoy it again.
    Also, after your recommendation yesterday am trying to track down a copy of Miss Hargreaves.

  2. I can relate to your method of blog reading. The amount of time I can spend reading blogs depends on how busy I am at work. I have a few that get checked first thing each morning - of which this is one; then I work my way down my saved list if I have time. Unfortunately I can't post from work so if I see an entry I want to respond to I have to jot it down and do it from home that evening.

    By the way, I think your blue card idea is great. I see lots of books on blogs that appeal and tend to jot them down on loose bits of paper; which subsequently get lost. I am now taking a white note card with me to work tomorrow!

  3. Bring that book back Simon! I want to read it. OVW

  4. I am so delighted to find your blog. There is so much here to enjoy and I am particularly thankful for the book recommendations (and your blog friend list). (My husband was taking a course at Oxford two summers ago when we took the walk you commented on ... thank you). I look forward to visiting here often.

  5. Sounds good actually.
    You misused an apostrophe in there. Just finished proofreading a legal text and on a roll ;o) xx

  6. I tend to rely on Bloglines, which is great if I just want to go through and read posts, but horrible if I know I want to go back and leave a comment (well, not really horrible), as I end up with so many saved posts that by the end of the week going through my account is a bit of a nightmare--loads and loads of posts to scroll through--and then I end up commenting on a post someone wrote days ago. And then I don't always have my notebook handy to write titles down, so I end up dozens of little pieces of paper floating around. Someday I'll get a good routine. And Crow Lake has always been one of those books I've considered reading, but now I will have to look for it. Now to write it down on a little piece of paper....

  7. Fantastic post! I also have my 'to read' list of blogs that I visit each morning - we share quite a few there. I also jot down book recommendations and where they came from in a cute journal bought for the purpose - I am also picky about these- my interest must really be high. I love that you use a blue card - that's so collegiate = ) Finally, I nearly added Crow Lake to my shortlist of book recommendations for my bookclub but didn't....it's definitely in the journal though. Thanks for your review - I enjoyed the excerpt. It reminds me of when my daughter was a baby and my husband and I were trying to think of nursery rhymes - we both drew a blank.

  8. Every time I read Crow Lake on someone's blog, in my mind, I see The Crow Road by Iain Banks. Have you read it? I own the book and hope to read it this coming year. I listened to his book about whisky and thought it was great.

    I have been visiting your blog for several months now and I have just realised now what (or more precisely who) is the Carbon Copy!!!!
    I thought you had environmental concerns and what you called the carbon copy was your carbon footprint!!!
    NB: English is not my current language!!!

  10. Wonderful book. I truly loved it!

    I have linked your review to my review!

  11. Great review Simon, thanks for sending me the link....can't wait to read the book.


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