Fire and Snow: Little Fires Everywhere and First Snow, Last Light

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Little Fires Everywhere 

I know I’m well in the minority with my opinion on Little Fires Everywhere. This was a most anticipated book and the reviews have all been raving about it. It’s the best book anyone has read all year, and it’s in all the Best Books of 2017 already. We also chose it as our in-person book club book for November (remember that fantastic cottage book club we had?). But for me, I just didn’t have those feelings for it. From the very beginning it felt more of a YA novel (not that those aren’t good, it’s just that I’m not a regular reader or fan of that genre) and the characters were just too teen-angsty for me. I even put it aside when I reached just over the half way point, which could have sealed this with the kiss of death! A bailed Celeste Ng? That’s incredible to me! It was just that the more time with it, the greater the distance and dislike for the characters grew for me. They just weren’t people I connected with, and I felt their stories were all fairly predictable.

In the opening, the Richardson’s house is on fire, burning to the ground in spectacular fashion. Everyone watching has the same line of thinking – that it was Izzy Richardson that was responsible, that it was just a matter of time before she did something like this. Yet, the whole time reading this, I didn’t find Izzy to be that central of a character, she wasn’t developed that much for me or did I feel there was that more focus spent on her “more” troubling behaviour over the other Richardson children. So when the ending comes about with it’s lacklustre reasoning for Izzy setting fire to the house, I found it wasn’t as explosive of an ending as it could/should have been – one that would have matched/suited the opening with that fire. It fairly limped to that ending, or it was tossed in there as carelessly as the match that started the fire. I honestly enjoyed Everything I Never Told You far more than this one. That one was almost a 5-star read for me. Little Fires Everywhere, in comparison, a 3-star.

* Shrugs *

(and really, what is going on with me this year? All the books that everyone else is raving about have just been meh, okay, for me. 🙁 It’s a story I’ll have to considering talking about in a year-end reading roundup – which is getting closer everyday isn’t it??)

First Snow, Last Light 

Years (and years) ago, I read The Navigator of New York and the first in Johnston’s Newfoundland novels, The Colony of Unrequited Dreams. This was well before I understood the “Canlit” label and what that meant to me in my reading habits. And, I read First Snow, Last Light before The Custodian of Paradise. Now, this wasn’t too awful of a thing to do, but it might have provided more background story for Shelaigh Fielding since she is a central character in First Snow, Last Light. She is the main character in The Custodian of Paradise, which I also own. I did pick it up briefly in preparation for First Snow, Last Light but put it aside probably owing to having to read library books that came tumbling in all at once. 😉

However, I don’t think my not reading The Custodian of Paradise first suffered the story in First Snow, Last Light. It could very well be like the experience of reading Tell before Deafening by Frances Itani. I found reading Tell first actually enhanced the reading experience in Deafening because the knowing of parts of the story after helped me with little realizations and knowledge when reading the one meant for the before. (If that makes any sense.)

Ned Vatcher is left alone at the age of 14 when his parents vanish without a trace, becoming known as The Vanishing Vatchers in the community’s folklore. From this point on, there are two people in Ned’s life he looks to for strength, they will be his influencers, his family in ways – Fr. Duggan and Fielding. In First Snow, Last Light, it is the story where both Ned Vatcher and Shelaigh Fielding are chased and haunted by ghosts.

Fielding’s ghosts are the twins she gave up at birth. She is unravelling over the loss of her children many years ago. And Ned’s life is consumed with trying to find out what happened to his parents – the Vanishing Vatchers. All of his money, energy, everything is invested into solving this mystery.  By the end, all will be admitted to Ned and reveals the layers of tragedy and betrayal held tightly within the Vatcher family.

I did feel this a touch too long and drawn out, but as the ending reveals the depths of betrayal in the Vatcher family, this grows to a fine piece of storytelling. I also felt the stronger character here was Fielding. There was greater feelings of empathy and warmth towards her over Ned Vatcher. Ned is the kind of character you really don’t warm to, he’s not really that all that likeable really, despite his tragic life. I will now read The Custodian of Paradise for I strongly suspect it will be a  greatly satisfying reading experience, especially since it will centre around Fielding – a character Johnston seems to love and appreciate. I suspect as well that quite a few pieces will fall nicely into place for me by reading in this reverse order, just as it was with Tell and Deafening.  3.5 stars for First Snow, Last Light.

First Snow, Last Light is a hardcover that now features proudly on my bookshelf, and sits next to, of course, The Colony of Unrequited Dreams and The Custodian of Paradise. This is all thanks to Penguin Random House Canada and because of the wonderful opportunity I had to attend their Fall Preview back in September. I was gifted the lovely hardcover along with a bag full of other book-goodness! (and received the hardcover of Little Fires Everywhere.)

New York and Newfoundland feature prominently in The Navigator of New York and in the Newfoundland Trilogy.  I love the cover for The Custodians of Paradise! These are the covers of the editions I own.