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Touch by Alexi Zentner (thoughts)

December 8, 2011


Alexei happens to be my favourite Russian name ever (it’s pronounced ah-lek-SYAY and the nickname is Aloysha, ahl-YOSH-a), so when I began seeing reference to debut Canadian author Alexi (close enough) Zenter’s novel Touch, I was already halfway towards wanting to read it. The gorgeous covers all pushed me even closer, and then Kim’s post made me run to my library catalogue and put in a hold request. It arrived during one of my reading slumps, but one afternoon I was so desperate that I just decided to start as many books as it took for me to get hooked on one. Fortunately, Touch was towards the top of the pile, and I quickly found myself entranced.

The novel opens with a middle-aged man returning home in the 1940s, and most of the story revolves around his memories from his childhood, including stories his grandfather told him. This happens to be one of my very favourite literary devices: it injects a tone of nostalgia that I almost always enjoy, and it lets the author ‘get away with’ more character self-introspection than would otherwise make sense. Touch also has one of my other favourite bookish qualities: a strong sense of place. It’s set in a small Canadian logging town in British Columbia, and I wandered the forest, floated up the river, and endured the long winters along with the characters. I shivered a few times, even though it was over a hundred degrees outside: Zentner’s descriptive powers are just wonderful. He also handles the various storylines and time periods with aplomb; I never felt lost or confused.

The book has a definite gothic flavour to it, with aspects of taboo and tragedy and isolation, and even a hint of the supernatural. I know I’m not the only one who perks up at that possibility. I wouldn’t call this an absolutely perfect book (there were a few bits I would have liked to see a bit more fleshed out), but I definitely loved it. I highly recommend it, especially to anyone who prizes a strongly atmospheric read. I just have my fingers crossed that Zentner will publish many more books in the future.

Suggested Companion Reads

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18 Comments leave one →
  1. December 8, 2011 7:56 am

    This sounds really interesting, and I do need to read more Canadian literature! Thanks for the review:)

  2. December 8, 2011 8:43 am

    I added this one to my TBR list as I love an atmospheric read. And then I added A Spell of Winter. Your blog is addictive Eva! :)

    • December 15, 2011 11:11 pm

      Yay Samantha! They’re both really good. :)

  3. December 8, 2011 1:50 pm

    This sounds like a perfect winter read. I’m going to see if one of my libraries have this.

  4. December 8, 2011 4:05 pm

    I read this earlier in the year and I was very impressed. The setting was so vivid and I thought the winter imagery was beautiful. I’m glad to see you loved it as much as I did!

  5. December 8, 2011 4:34 pm

    Another good sounding read! Love all those elements you describe and tend toward those books with atmosphere. Will add this one to my list too :)

    • January 2, 2012 6:57 pm

      Oh my. I just finished reading this last night and have posted my own thoughts. It is a rather emotive post, but this book really affected me. Loved it and am still thinking about it. Thanks for pointing this book out! It is definitely one of my “best of” reads for 2011.

  6. December 8, 2011 8:52 pm

    That this book has stories told by the grandfather along with a hint of the supernatural makes my ears perk up. For some reason, I think of the first section of Judy Budnitz’s If I Told You Once. It’s the grandmother’s story of when she was in the “old country” and I remember that reality and the supernatural blurred together in that part. Thanks for bringing my attention to “Touch” – I hadn’t heard of it before.

    • December 15, 2011 11:11 pm

      Ohhh, that sounds lovely! Am going to add it to my wish list. :)

  7. Gina permalink
    December 8, 2011 10:11 pm

    I love your idea of starting as many books as you can until you get hooked on one! For some reason I have had a really difficult time getting into anything recently…

  8. December 9, 2011 4:23 am

    I agree with Vasilly – sounds like the type of book to read when it’s cold outside. This year I’mm read “Winter’s Tale” by Mark Helprin.

    • December 15, 2011 11:12 pm

      I actually just put that on my wish list during my trip to Denver! (I saw it in Tattered Cover.)

  9. December 9, 2011 3:41 pm

    So glad you enjoyed this one — and thanks for linking to my review.

  10. December 10, 2011 11:20 am

    This does sound good and a Canadian author. I am sold!

  11. December 12, 2011 10:30 pm

    I’ve been looking at this one: the cover you have is much more intriguing than the Canadian one I saw — more mysterious. If you like it, I think I need to finally get around to trying it! I do love Helen Dunmore’s writing, but she isn’t Canadian. :( I wish she was, though.

    • December 15, 2011 11:12 pm

      Eek: thanks for the correction Mel! I don’t know why I was mistaken…I think I’ve called her Canadian twice now, lol.

Trackbacks

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