6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Moving and funny and powerful,
This review is from: Irma Voth (Paperback)I really urge you to go to your bookshop and read the first 7 pages of this book. They won't mind, especially as you'll probably buy it. The novel begins with Irma, the eponymous narrator, trying, unsuccessfully, to stop her husband from leaving. This is immediately followed by an account of how they fell in love. The first few pages also show Irma's major characteristics: in the face of cruelty, she often responds with kindness and warmth and humour, and she has a huge longing to be loved. It's a beautiful opening, and much more technically complex than it first appears. Seven pages, and I was in bits. Laughing, crying, the works.
Irma is 19, and sews dangerous words like 'lust' and 'agony' and 'Jorge' inside her dress. How can you do anything but like her? Her life in a Mennonite community in Mexico is hard, and filled with repression, graft and violence. A film crew turn up, and stir Irma's imagination. For those of you who like 'intertextuality' and all that stuff, Toews actually acted in a film very like the one whose creation she warmly satirises in the novel. For those who like jokes that also make you cry a bit, there's plenty here for you, too, especially when Irma's headstrong little sister Aggie is around; she's the sort of little girl who asks for a pint of beer, but is so sheltered, she says pint to rhyme with 'mint'.
It is also a novel of some depth. Irma is struggling to make sense of a certain event in her past, and the attendant guilt. She's sort of frozen by it. She's struggling, fundamentally, with the question of 'how to live'. These abstract notions are worked out through the story with great elegance.
As in her other books, Toews writes about people who are suffering. But she shows their resilience, too. She's never flippant, but never morose. That's a hard line to walk, and she does so perfectly. It deepens the sadness, I think, and the joy.
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Initial post: 4 Oct 2013 08:57:41 BDT
J. Adams says:
What a great review, Ed. I just wrote my first - for Irma Voth (also 5 stars, loved it) and submitted it without reading it back, or any of the other reviews. I wish I'd written what you did. You really get it about why I love this book so much.
I'm only surprised I haven't discovered Toews sooner. And why haven't they made a film of this yet??
In reply to an earlier post on 17 Oct 2013 20:50:49 BDT
Thanks J! It would be funny if they made a film of Irma. That would be the film of the novel about the film. Or something.
MT is just brilliant. A Complicated Kindness and The Flying Troutmans are also excellent. Happy reading.
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