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Leaning, leaning over water: A novel in ten stories (edition 1999)

by Frances Itani

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342329,500 (3.6)14
Member:bucketyell
Title:Leaning, leaning over water: A novel in ten stories
Authors:Frances Itani
Info:HarperCollins Canada / Not Applicable (1999), Edition: 1st HarperPerennial ed, Paperback, 206 pages
Collections:Read in 2012, Read but unowned
Rating:***1/2
Tags:READ 2012

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Leaning, leaning over water: A novel in ten stories by Frances Itani

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Ten short stories, or chapters really, about an Ontario family in Quebec in the 1950s. Almost all of the stories are narrated by Trude, the middle child. The stories talk about rural life, family, childhood adventures and rebellion. For most of the novel the family lives beside a river, and water is a significant symbol in the book. There is a dam that is old; the father warns the children not to lean on it because it will crumble over. But they do test its strength and nothing breaks. Mother faces the river and loses, Father faces the river and survives, eventually the dam does crumble. It's about will and family and survival.

Well written, with dynamic characters and unpredictable stories. Thought-provoking. ( )
  LDVoorberg | Apr 7, 2013 |
Frances Itani writes wonderfully. Her description was so vivid I could see the river that flowed past Trude's house and into this book. At the same time she describes the characters and their thoughts that I felt I knew them.

This book was written as individual stories but as the description on the front says it is "A Novel in Ten Stories". The stories are all about Jock Knight, his wife, Maura and their three children, Lyd, Trude and Eddie. Jock's job in the munitions factory in their Ontario home town dried up so he went looking for another one. He found it in St. Pierre, QC a little way from Hull and Ottawa. The job was inscribing fleur-de-lys on aluminum trays, a detail that struck me as funny because I wouldn't have thought there was enough of a market for those to warrant a whole factory. When he stopped for a beer after getting the job he met Duffy whose wife had just left him. Duffy wanted to move out of his house and Jock needed a house so they made a deal. Duffy left all the furniture in the house including a Heintzmann piano which figures in one of the stories. (I also grew up with a Heintzmann piano so I could picture this in great detail.)

Most of the stories are told by Trude but the first one is in the third person and it gives us the only glimpse of Maura's personality. When she first came to the house in St. Pierre she thought 'He's brought me to live beside a fast-flowing river, and I don't swim.' But this was the 1950's and men made decisions and women didn't question them. Or at least they didn't question them out loud.

Water is fascinating and life-giving but also deadly. We should all pay attention to water. ( )
  gypsysmom | Dec 7, 2011 |
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In the years after WWII, Jock moves his family to the banks of the Ottawa River, where he complains about the government, and tries to teach his children about life and poetry. But beneath the unrippled domestic surface bubble the anxieties and hopes of the women in the family. Originally published: Canada: HarperCollins, 1998; London: Sceptre, 200.… (more)

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