Finished this book: Glass Voices (by Carol Bruneau)

Cover of the book Glass Voices by Carol Bruneau. I took the image from the author's website.

Cover of the book Glass Voices by Carol Bruneau. I took the image from the author’s website.

This is my first review in a while because I kind of got stuck. The book didn’t really grab me, but I usually feel obligated to finish a book once I’ve started it, unless it is so horribly sexist or racist or violent that I just can’t even.

In some ways, this was a lovely book. It was decently-written, the story was touching, and so forth. But the style of writing kind of tripped me up a bit in the beginning. Something about the way Bruneau kept adding little clauses after a comma in a way that might have worked better with a semicolon or in parentheses… I know it’s nitpicky, but I don’t like to be reminded of the mechanics of the words while I am trying to sink into the story. I’m not sure if she only did that in the beginning of the book or if I just got used to it, as I wasn’t bothered by it all the way through.

And as for the touchingness of the story, well, it didn’t touch ME. It had all the elements of a great story. The protagonist’s first child died in the Halifax Explosion, and her husband was severely injured in the same event. The story is set both back then as well as many years later when the husband has a stroke and is hospitalised. Lucy, the protagonist, has to cope with her husband’s hospitalisation and recovery while also remembering their past.

There were a couple of barriers to my enjoyment of this book. The first is that I tend to not be as enthused about books involving actual historical events as I am about books where everything is invented (like sci-fi, speculative fiction, and some fantasy, obvs), or where “real-world” stories are unconnected to real-life events. So that slowed me down a bit.

The other thing is that I didn’t really engage with any of the characters. Lucy’s husband didn’t really seem to have any redeeming qualities at all, so it was hard for me to understand how attached Lucy was to him, and how invested she was in his recovery. The characters of their son, daughter-in-law, and grandson all seemed rather shallow, and not particularly likeable. It’s not that I really have to like characters to enjoy reading about them (horrible characters can also be fascinating!), but everyone in this book was just so bland. The main character, Lucy, seems to be exactly the same person in both eras, with little character development or introspection. I wasn’t interested in what happened next because I just didn’t care about the people, which made it hard to pick the book up rather than just scroll through Instagram. I also kept getting frustrated by the way Bruneau rarely actually wrote what actually happened at any given time, but just alluded to things or skirted around them.

In some ways, I feel like I should have liked this book much better. It won the Globe and Mail Best Book, and the attention to detail and its importance in people’s lives is the kind of thing I usually really enjoy. But it was a hard slog, and by the end (in which the weird final plot twist made me roll my eyes), I really only got through it by reminding myself that once it was done I could move on to the next book.

Glass Voices by Carol Bruneau. 2007, Cormorant Books.

ISBN: 978-1-897151-12-9. Softcover.


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