Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Reader's Diary #158- Matt Cohen: Elizabeth and After (FINISHED)

I really enjoyed this book. Cohen accomplished two great feats with this book that I haven't read in a LONG time...

1. He had a great ending. Lately I've been disappointed with endings. They've seemed too Hollywood-happy, too wrist-slashingly dark, or worst of all, ambiguous. What's left? The not-so-popular middle-ground. I'm a fan of the middle ground.

Cohen must have had fun writing the ending. If it were a DVD there'd be a lot of alternate endings in the special features. In the last 50 pages or so, Cohen taunts the reader with several possibilities. Yet at the very end, he picks a superb one, one that concludes the theme of history repeating itself, and leaves us with the question of whether of not we make it that way.

2. He wrote good sex. Even some of my favourite authors have failed miserably in that category. Too often I find that authors use overly "dirty" words to describe what should be a romantic scene, or vice versa, they use overly technical terms to describe what should have been a bawdy roll in the hay. (Or if you're Jean M. Auel you pick overly cheesy terminology like "manhood"). To me, Cohen was able to (again) find that middle ground. He chose words that fit the situation.

Another point: Considering that the greater percentage of the Canadian population lives in urban centres, it's amazing how many Canadian novels are set in rural settings. Cohen's choice of placing Elizabeth and After in the small town of West Gull can be defended easily. As he explores the connections between times, the relationship that the past has with the present, Cohen was clever to keep the idea of connections in the forefront of the reader's minds by intertwining the lives of West Gull inhabitants. While it's true lives can be meshed together in cities as well, it's a lot more obvious in small town life.

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