Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Reader's Diary #762- Angie Abdou: The Bone Cage

I've said before that I don't particularly enjoy books about teachers. I am a teacher and I often enjoy novels for the escapism they offer (not that I don't enjoy teaching!). Whether I'm whisked away to another locale, another time, or another profession, I eagerly pack my figurative bags, even if I don't always wind up enjoying the trip.

With that in mind, I was excited about being introduced to the minds of Sadie and Digger, Olympic swimming and wrestling hopefuls respectively. If nothing else, this would be foreign territory (even if it is set in Calgary, Alberta).

But once that novelty wore off, I felt somewhat disconnected to the characters. At first I was willing to take the blame. Perhaps I was so caught up in learning about the lifestyles of such athletes that I let myself become distracted, ignoring the plot. However, when I consider some of the hockey books that I've read, how that sport is almost as unfamiliar to me (I'm really not an athlete), and how I've still enjoyed them immensely (King Leary comes to mind) I realize I'm not entirely to blame.

It's taken me a while to pinpoint exactly why I wasn't blown away by this book and I've come up with two theories; it either needed a non-athletic character to balance out the other characters, or at the very least, an acknowledgement that athletes don't have a monopoly on ambition. In several scenes Sadie in particular seems concerned with clichés. The motivational speeches, the idea of putting all one's hopes in one long shot dream-- certainly these aren't unique to athletes.

Then, an easy defense can be made that this is just Sadie's insular perception, so preoccupied with her sport that she is ignorant of the outside world. Yet, I can't help to feel disconnected to the book. Not that I hated it and nor did I find the characters particularly flat or repulsive, but as a non-athlete I felt somewhat ignored as a spectator.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

This was the book that appealed to me least in the most recent Canada Reads challenge. And your review backs up my assumptions about it.

Jules said...

I wasn't a big fan on the book either. I think you're right, it does little to draw in a person who isn't an athlete. Still, it was better than I thought it would be, but it isn't my favourite read.

Eric P said...

Haven't read this book, and not very likely to now. It did make me go deeper into my memory and come up with a book featuring swimmers that is much more compelling (to non-athletes). Carol Anshaw's Aquamarine spends the first section focusing on the intense workout routine and dedication needed to excel as a swimmer. And indeed the main character competes at the 1968 Olympics. From there, however, the book imagines 3 completely different lives branching out for the main character (think the movie Sliding Doors). Not a Canadian author, but still worth a peek ;)