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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Modern Day Fable of Transformations
It is the winter of 1997/8 in Montreal when an ice storm brings some of the city to a standstill. School shuts and some houses lose electricity supply. The novel is partly narrated by an 11 year old boy who feels quietly devastated at his parents' announcement of separation. His neighbours are his (difficult) friend Alex whose father is a hapless homophobe, Boris, an...
Published 23 months ago by Sabina

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Slips down like a smoothie
I was seduced by the cover so full marks to its designer gray218 and Canongate. I thought that this book might be somewhat similar to Jonas Jonasson's `The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared' but it is much slighter.

Part fable, part fairytale it addresses some serious topics - parental separation, homosexuality, anti-Semitism and...
Published 7 months ago by Dr R


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Modern Day Fable of Transformations, 18 Jan 2013
By 
Sabina (London, UK) - See all my reviews
It is the winter of 1997/8 in Montreal when an ice storm brings some of the city to a standstill. School shuts and some houses lose electricity supply. The novel is partly narrated by an 11 year old boy who feels quietly devastated at his parents' announcement of separation. His neighbours are his (difficult) friend Alex whose father is a hapless homophobe, Boris, an eccentrically absorbed mathematician who must keep his fish at a constant temperature of 32 degrees, Julie, an exotic dancer with bad luck in men, Michael and Simon who are in a gay relationship but everyone thinks they are brothers. Extreme weather conditions lead people to become involved in helping each other out. This is a modern day fable of transformation under adverse circumstances. Sometimes I thought that it was just too unlikely, but I was beguiled by the humour and characters and enjoyed reading it on a cold winter's night.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Outside it's cold, but I'm all warm inside, 17 Jan 2013
I really enjoyed this book, it's a lovely tale told through a child's eyes of his parents separation.
With added weather.
I read it in January when it was snowing which I'm sure added to my reading experience!
Would recommend to put a glow on your cheeks.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enertaining and enjoyable, 24 Jan 2013
By 
Macey89 - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
More of a delightful fairytale than a novel, Pierre Szalowski's Fish Change Direction in Cold Weather (FCDICW) delivered a real feel good factor.

FCDICW focuses on a group of neighbours in a street in Montreal whose lives and relationships are changed irrevocably after a freak ice storm forces them together in more ways than one. I won't say any more for fear of giving away spoilers, but from the very first page it's clear that this book is going to be one with a happy ending.

At just under 250 pages, it's a relatively quick read and the characters admittedly aren't developed in too much depth. However, for me, this really added to the general feeling created by the book that I was observing the characters from a distance or peeking in on their lives through an icy window. This emotional distance from the central protagonists (we never even find out the name of the narrator) works well with the structure and tone of the book, however, it meant for me that FCDICW probably won't make it into my list of all-time greats.

Despite this, I did really enjoy reading it. I'll be keeping it on my bookshelf to lend to others if they need a quick pick me up, and I think it's probably one I'll re-read again in the future. It's a perfect choice for cold, dark winter nights when you want to feel cosy and comforted, inside and out!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Slips down like a smoothie, 24 May 2014
By 
Dr R (Norwich, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
I was seduced by the cover so full marks to its designer gray218 and Canongate. I thought that this book might be somewhat similar to Jonas Jonasson's `The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared' but it is much slighter.

Part fable, part fairytale it addresses some serious topics - parental separation, homosexuality, anti-Semitism and table-dancing, but it does so very deftly thanks to a translation by Alison Anderson that retains the child-like simplicity of the 11-year old anonymous narrator. However, in addition to these issues the F-word is used so it is not suitable for younger children who like to read.

It is Christmas Day 1997 and the narrator feels tension in the air as presents are handed out and his parents continue to argue. The book describes the events of the following fortnight when his parents explain, in a very adult way, that they are going to separate [`One week you'll be with Daddy, here. The other week you'll come to my place. You'll see, it'll almost be the same as before. There are lots of children who are very happy living like this....'].

Faced with this family break-up and feeling that it must be his fault that his parents no longer love one another, the boy `looked up at the sky, grey and black. I couldn't stop staring at it. I was so small, and it was so big. And I prayed to the sky to help me.' The result is the ice storm which, according to Google, left `millions in the dark for periods from days to weeks, and in some instances, months. It led to 35 fatalities, a shutdown of activities in large cities like Montreal and Ottawa, and an unprecedented effort in reconstruction of the power grid. The ice storm led to the largest deployment of Canadian military personnel since the Korean War, with over 16,000 Canadian Forces personnel deployed, 12,000 in Quebec and 4,000 in Ontario.'

The author, French-Canadian Pierre Szalowski, cleverly uses this as an environmental background to his story that just about saves itself from becoming twee. The narrator and his parents have neighbours that include his best friend Alex and his single parent father, Alexis, an unsuccessful guitarist; a gay couple, Michel and Simon, terrified of coming out to their neighbours; an exotic dancer, Julie, with the proverbial heart of gold and a Russian mathematician, Boris Bogdanov, an expert in `knot theory'. None of these people is fleshed out by the author, but authentic characterisation is not his main aim.

The power-cuts caused by ice bringing down power lines affects hospitals and care homes, traffic, transportation and shortages of foodstuffs. But for Boris it had another consequence, the loss of power causes the temperature of the water in his aquarium to drop. He has been studying the movement of four fish [`A fish in an aquarium always swims around the same course; that's the yarn. The fish unwinds its yarn according to the presence of other fish - friend or enemy - in the aquarium. Whenever a new inhabitant arrives, it must modify its usual path. For Boris, the trajectories of the fish were like so many threads, tangling and untangling.']. His doctoral study requires the temperature of the water to be maintained at 32°C.

The deep freeze affects each of the neighbours in different ways and, more importantly, brings them all into contact with one another. Over the period of the ice storm their attitudes and behaviours are all changed. At the end of the story, Szalowski offers a view of their lives nine years later. This is not a challenging read but raises some interesting questions about parenting, individuals in society and relationships.

At the end of the book are suggested questions for book clubs, information about the author and the book, and a brief essay by the author on `The Inspiration for the Book' describing how a series of unrelated comments and experiences were brought together to create a story that is `beautiful, to dream, and to let the reader imagine that real life can be like that too, if only they can believe in it.' There is also a recipe for Galette des Rois, eaten each year in Quebec on January 6th, the Feast of Epiphany.

Of course, it is all make-believe but a little make believe can't be too bad. I am not sure that I will remember in a month's time what the book was about if it wasn't for its title and that cover design.
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5.0 out of 5 stars so good !, 13 May 2014
I read it in french with a lot of errors but the story is so good I forgot that to concentrate on the essential ! I recommand it to everyone !
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic!, 30 Nov 2013
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I loved this book! I read it in about 5 hours. It is a little different, but it has a fantastic story and you really are drawn into hoping for a happy ending for everyone.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Strange but Wonderful Fish, 9 Aug 2013
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This is a lovely gentle story. Simple but strong storyline. S0 good, my wife actually bought a copy for her mother!!
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4.0 out of 5 stars A great read, 12 July 2013
A lovely read about life, love and the important things in life. I loved the fact that the narrater thought all the events were due to his "communication" with the weather.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Whimsical and loveable, 25 Jun 2013
By 
K. J. Noyes "Katy Noyes" (Derbyshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
A beautiful cover, a beguiling title. I was prepared to like this. At the start I wasn't sure of the style, but I soon settled to the pace and voice and warmed (almost a joke there!) to the multiple characters and their lives.

Taking place one winter in Canada, a boy's parents tell him they are separating. Upset, he asks the sky to help him. That night, the worst ice storm that the city has seen begins to cause havoc and force people into helping each other, talking to each other, even facing up to their issues.

There's the unnamed narrator and his parents, couch potato former policeman dad and frustrated mum. There's their neighbours. homophobic Alexis and his neglected son Alex. Closeted gay couple Michel and Simon. Stripper Julie and her unfulfilling one night stands. And Russian maths genius Boris and his eponymous, PhD-bound fish, for whom the ice storm and power cuts may mean a slow and cooling death.

It's a lively cast of likeable people, with some wonderful scenes as they struggle to cope with ice and power cuts, and each other.

The comparisons to fairy tales are justified, it has that whimsical and 'wish fulfilment' aspect. It's also very visual and would make a charming film.

I enjoyed it immensely and stormed through it in a couple of sittings. It's light and short, and a lovely little escape.
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2.0 out of 5 stars At Least It's Short!, 24 Jun 2013
Sorry, but I thought this book was simplistic and basic. There was no characterisation or description except for the bare bones of the story. It read more like a children's book with short sentences and unimaginative dialogue. I've never experienced an ice storm and would like to know what one is like. However, having finished the book, I'm none the wiser. Thumbs down from me.
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