Monday, September 22, 2008

Mister Sandman by Barbara Gowdy

Review and Giveaway

Mister Sandman by Barbara Gowdy

Fiction, Paperback,268 pgs.

Steerforth Press

I was surprised to see this as an Early Reviewer book on LibraryThing recently because I knew it had been published in 1995. I also knew it was one of Nancy Pearl's Booklust 'must reads'. This is a re-issue, now with an introduction by Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love. Barbara Gowdy is a consisently good writer and here again we find strong characterization, this time with dark humour and frank sexuality. The Canary family are unconventional to say the least. Gordon and Doris Canary are emotionally dishonest with themselves as well as others. Their habit of lies and wildly exaggerated histories spills over into the lives of their daughters, Sonja and Marcy. We laugh at some of the ridiculous things they say but with a tinge of sadness because they resort to such self-deceptions to get through life. Gowdy's characters seem almost preposterous, although she is non-judgemental and compassionate towards them and we come to understand them better once we get to know them. The story takes place from the 1950's to the 1970's, during which a third child is born into their midst. A mute but musically gifted and insightful creature, little Joan becomes the unwitting keeper of all the family secrets and ultimately its saving grace. We do care about the characters after all because they protect and care for each other. But I found the sexual bits disturbing. I've heard Mister Sandman compared to both Geek Love and Arrested Development but I have read neither so you will have to judge for yourselves.

Thank you to LibraryThing for the reviewer's copy.

This week's Giveaway is my copy of Mister Sandman by Barbara Gowdy. This not an ARC but the real thing, gently read. It also contains a reader's guide.

Open worldwide until midnight Sunday, September 28, 2008.

1) To enter tell us about any book by a Nobel Prize winning author that you've enjoyed. If you haven't read any yet, which one would you like to read? This link will give you a complete list of Nobel authors:

Clicking on any name will give you a list of their books.

2) If you blog about this giveaway and put a link back to it, I'll give you a second entry. If you don't have a blog, email 3 friends telling them about this giveaway and copying me at sfuhringer(at)sympatico(dot)ca.
Please leave a contact address if you're entering the giveaway and don't have a blog where I can contact you.

Winner will be announced on Monday, September 29, 2008.


  1. It has to be William Golding's Lord of the Flies for me. I found it a really engrossing but dark read.

    Are you clairvoyant by any chance? ;)

  2. there are so many books that i could name and choosing one is a bit difficult, but right this moment i think i can choose camus' the plague, one of the most beautiful pieces of writing i've been lucky enough to read. wow, now that i think about it, we are lucky there are people out there that can write like that and are brave or crazy enough to pour their souls in written words for all the world to see, may this race of human always walk the earth

  3. I like The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot. I read it first in school and I think I was the only one who enjoyed it. I have also aways wanted to read Kim by Rudyard Kipling but somehow have not gotten to it yet.


  4. I have read ALOT of the classics, so Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book and his second, plus Kim I have read. I loved them very much, much better than the Movie and Cartoon that many have made about it. I also have read Lord of Flies and many many others.

    This is a great giveaway. Thnks!!

    angelleslament @

  5. I do so like V.S. Naipaul's work. He has quite a reputation for being a pompous and cranky old man, but his work, both fiction and non-fiction, sings with empathy. "A Bend in the River" and "Half a Life" speak evocatively of being the outsider, but if I have to pick just one, it would have to be "A Turn in the South" in which V.S. Naipaul travels through the American South and speaks with a wide assortment of people about race. His own ethniticity (neither black nor white, and his British accent) and his sensitivity allow people of all backgrounds to speak frankly with him. The result is an astonishingly complex portrayal of this deeply scarred part of America.

  6. Congrats, Alessandra.

    So this book is on its way to Italy! Cool!

  7. It is a hard choice. I loved quite a few individual novels by some of the winners. The Good Earth by Pearl Buck, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, Blindness by José Saramago. I have to go with the author that I enjoyed multiple books he's written. John Steinbeck, and my favorite is The Grapes of Wrath. This was a great discussion question. Of course I went on and on for too long as always. I just hate leaving a great book out :D

    I blogged about your giveaway at

  8. Thank you for the link Icedream. And there's no such thing as going on too long about good books. The comments on this topic have been generous and I appreciate that.

  9. I to have read Lord of the Flies. It was a crazy novel, for sure, but I did enjoy the overall theme. Simon was definitely my favorite.

    I blogged about this as well.

    I would have posted to enter, but I got your email about posting, so yes, I did post about it. Feel free to ask me to post something anytime! :)


  10. That's an easy question because I haven't read too many Nobel laureates! It would have to be The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. Please enter me in this contest!

  11. I loved Saul Bellow's SEIZE THE DAY. But that list got me going - I see several names that somehow (somehow!)I have not managed to read. Seems like a perfect setup for personal reading challenge!
    Thanks for a chance at the giveaway!
    geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

  12. Thanks for your comments on my blog - much appreciated. I've added you to my feed and I'll return the compliments.

    As for Gowdy, while I enjoyed "Helpless", I have to admit that her penchant for the shocking is a turn-off for me and I'm not at all curious about the rest of her oeuvre.

  13. I've heard amazing things about Geek Love, but I haven't read that yet either. I think I'll read that first and then try to find a copy of Mr Sandman.



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