Monday, October 29, 2007

Short Story Week, #2

The second collection I'd like to point out is one of Frances Itani's older books. I've raved about her latest novel before, and went back to read this collection, published in 1998. It's a novel in short stories, but each story can stand alone, and in fact some were published in literary journals previous to this book's publication.

Leaning, leaning over water is made up of ten linked stories about the King family, told by Trude, the middle child. She is in the middle between older sister Lyd and younger brother Eddie, and they've moved to live on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River, back in the fifties. It's a story of small town living, and the family is the focus of all their lives. The small facts of life are captured by Trude; the shoes her sister wears when they sneak out to go to a dance, the eccentricities of her best friend's grandmother, the way she and her brother continue to fight even though they are cleaning opposite sides of a window. It's a book that with each story pulls you in further, revealing undercurrents as in the waters of the Ottawa River they live beside and which plays its part in each story. Some of the stories suggest darknesses in adult behaviour that Trude reports but does not realize herself; it was a delicate balance that worked very well, lending ominous overtones that I was afraid were foreshadowing something terrible. Itani keeps us wondering, however. I appreciated the way each story was a complete unit, but put together into ten they were enmeshed to form a complete and faceted novel. The voice of Trude will stick with you, and the affairs of this family are absorbing.

Itani also has another short story collection entitled Poached Egg on Toast. Despite the fact that I don't like the title overly much, I want to read that collection as well. It has a range of stories from across her career, so holds much potential! I'm a big fan of Frances Itani and am always glad to hear of something new from her.


  1. Melanie, I really liked Leaning, Leaning Over Water and Poached Egg On Toast. When the latter one came out, I went to an event called "Breakwast With Itani" and it was neat, So quaint. There was muffins and coffee and [strangely, no poached eggs, no toast...] Frances spoke. I found it interesting that she spent more time talking about Leaning and her other book Deafening, than the Poached Egg one.
    I've seen the new one and it sounds like it has a neat premise for a story.

  2. If you liked it I'll really have to seek it out. How funny, breakfast for the book yet with no eggs or toast...that made me smile.


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