Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Reader's Diary #1124- Carmen Aguirre: Something Fierce

Sometimes I'll read something by someone from the opposite side of the Earth, someone who grew up in the most foreign locale and in circumstances unimaginable to me, and yet still find some unforeseen common ground, some unexpectedly familiar viewpoint or value that will make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, happy that that underneath it all we're all the same. Something Fierce is not one of those books.

This is not to say I didn't enjoy Aguirre's memoirs of growing up in troubled political times in South America it was probably the unfamiliarity of her life that kept me interested— but even down to the familial level, down to the personal level, I found nothing, nothing, about Aguirre that I could relate to. Even the few scenes back in Canada were foreign, and fascinating, to me. Traveling from Vancouver to attend a Rebel Youth Brigade in Edmonton? That couldn't be more removed from my teenage years— skipping school to go off Ski-dooing with my buddy— than had she written about poaching gorillas in Rwanda. There were Rebel Youth Brigade meetings in Edmonton?!

Eventually, however, some of the unfamiliarity became overwhelming. She crisscrossed across South America so often, running into or away from so many various conflicts (or variations on the same conflict), that I lost track. Still, I enjoyed the book— a fact I had to remind myself of several times, mostly when considering all of the positive praise the book has gotten that I don't necessarily agree with. The blurb on the front of my copy, from the Globe and Mail for instance, refers to the book as "courageously honest and funny." Courageously honest, I'll give her. But funny? Every moment wasn't serious, and it had amusing moments here or there, but I really think "funny" sends the wrong message and most people picking up the book expecting to laugh out loud will be sorely disappointed. As for a Canada Reads win? That, to me, seems a bit much. It was good and all, but I'd be reluctant to say great.


Swordsman said...

I read this book a couple of years ago, and felt pretty much the same way as you do. Also agree with you that there was no humour at all in this book.

It was a very interesting read though. I hated her mother, and was surprised how now, she is an actress.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

It sounds a little exhausting, to be honest.

Kim Aippersbach said...

I was hoping for more from this book when I picked it up, but never really got engaged. Then it was due back at the library, so I never finished it. Keep thinking I should check it out again, but there are so many other books out there! (Just got one about a woman who bicycles Che Guevara's route through South America that's already more interesting and I've only read the prologue.)

Anonymous said...

I understand the desire to find something in common with the people we read about, but I think many people get carried away with it.

We're not all alike. Some of us have nothing in common with each other at all. Doesn't that make for interesting reading, too?

John Mutford said...

James: It can mean that for sure, but not always. I think it's natural enough to try though.