You can’t judge a book by its cover

2009-11-11 00:00


Border Songs

Jim Lynch


I RATE A. S. Byatt’s Possession among my all-time favourite books. My daughter could not brook it. And while she waxes lyrical about the classic Barchester Towers, I could not get into it and abandoned it ­after enduring the first couple of chapters and utterly failing to see its charm.

The subjective nature of literature and how characters in a book appeal to different people makes it feel cruel to dismiss a book which some hardworking author has sweated over because others may delight in it.

That said, Border Songs failed to engage me on any level. I hoped I would bond with the characters but they seemed hollow and I developed no affinity with any of them. I finished it for the purposes of this book review, but would rather have tossed it a quarter of the way in.

The main character, Brandon Vanderkool, is a strapping lad but not the brightest tool in the shed.

Somehow he has landed himself a job as a border patrol guard, on the Canada-America boundary. He has a passion for bird-watching and a knack for sniffing out illegal ­immigrants and the ubiquitous dope smugglers. His mother is displaying early signs of Alzheimer’s disease and his dad’s dairy is going south, while he expends all his energy on building a yacht. Toss in American paranoia about Islamic terror, a dope-smoking, anti-establishment professor neighbour and a love ­interest who is not that interested, and you have a recipe for a plot, I suppose.

Don’t judge the book by its beautiful bird-embossed cover.  I did and was disappointed.

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