Sunday 26 October 2008

Canadian Fiction

Finished October 26
A Sharp Intake of Breath by John Miller
This novel follows the life of a Jewish man, Herbert "Toshy" Wolfman. Toshy was born with a cleft palate and a cleft life in the first decade of the twentieth century in Toronto. At the age of five, his parents have saved enough money to pay for the operation to fix his palate. He does not get his cleft lip operated on until he is an adult.
Toshy's parents own and operate a fabric business. He has two older sisters, Bessie and Lil. Lil is interested in the anarchist movement, and particularly of Emma Goldman. Bessie eventually becomes a maid in the house of industrialist Rupert McNabb and his wife. Rupert has bought the Orange Sunset diamond for his wife, and Toshy is jailed for theft of this jewel.
As Toshy tells the story of his life, his insecurities, his loneliness, he also tells his sisters' stories and enlightens his grandnephew Ari.
I found the jumping around in time a bit confusing at first, but it began to flow quickly and Toshy's story is a compelling one. Some people have taken his facial deformity to indicate stupidity, even some in his own family, and he must learn to trust his own instincts on his capabilities.

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