Sunday, November 11, 2007

Reader's Diary #309- David Bergen: The Time In Between (FINISHED)

This marks my fourth book for the Canadian Book Challenge, and my pick for Manitoba (I'm reading one from each province and territory).

At first, The Time In Between didn't appear to be a very Canadian book. Asides from hearing of the occasional draft dodger, I thought that most of us were pretty uninvolved with the Vietnam War. This book deals with the repercussions of that war. However, Charles Boatman, around whom the book revolves, moved to Canada after the war, as I'm sure is the case with many real Canadians. We're a country with a large population of immigrants, but while I'm used to reading books about other new-Canadians; ex-Americans are rare to come across in the books I've read (when in actuality they're among our largest groups of immigrants). But their history becomes a part of our history, and so, this book, while maybe not as Canadian as Anne of Green Gables (it's primarily set in Vietnam, not P.E.I. after all), is canuck enough for me.

In any case, it's a great novel. Charles Boatman, an ex-soldier, returns to Vietnam after 29 years, but doesn't know why except perhaps to wrestle with his proverbial demons. But, he is never really able to articulate what how he plans to do it, and therein lies the plot. Yes, it's a depressing theme but it's explored wonderfully through Bergman's matter-of-fact descriptions. I loved how scenes are painted like landscapes; no abstraction but beautiful nonetheless. Reader's can decide for themselves what details have symbolic significance and which to chalk up purely as setting. This is not to imply Bergman throws out details willy-nilly. He does use his characters and moods to attend to certain details, but he's skimpy on the figurative language. Still, there are times when the writing is poetic. One thing which really struck me was the retelling of the incident during that war that continued to haunt Boatman. Specific details appear several times throughout the book but instead of feeling repetitive, I was able to feel how Boatman must have felt: like these memories would not go away.

It's not a book I'd recommend to everyone. As I said above, it's pretty depressing. Plus, some would say there's another sure way of knowing it's a Canadian novel: the resolution is pretty ambiguous. While I agree it has become tiresome in our literature, it fits the message that I took away: that if you're going to go searching for answers, you'd best have a question in mind.

Perhaps one of the few things I didn't enjoy was all the dream sequences. Here I felt Bergen was a little to pushy with his imagery. Admittedly, I find dreams in most novels a little too obvious, so perhaps this is a fault of my own.

Overall though, I enjoyed The Time In Between and will probably look for more of Bergen's work.


Imani said...

I've always seen this book in stores but never thought of picking it up. The Vietnam War is something that I do not come across very often in my readings, so I'll have to take a peek into this book some time.

Heather said...

A great review.

raidergirl3 said...

I find dreams in most novels a little too obvious

I know what you mean. I don't enjoy this technique for the most part. But then, I don't like hearing about other people's dreams in real life either.

wormauld said...

Just found out about this challenge from ex libris but am joining in. I'm going to read from each area and see what I can do from now until July. I am very interested in Canadian Lit so this is a good chance to read more systematically.

John Mutford said...

Imani: The book was all around me for sometime as well. I'd recommend it.

Heather: Thanks!

Raidergirl: Me too. Most just seem so long and nonsensical and only ammusing to the person relating it.

Wormauld: Glad to have you on board. I've added you in the sidebar but was unsure where to link for your reviews- where will you be posting them?

John Mutford said...

Teddy Rose had a similar experience. Read her review here.