Trevor reviews Lemon, by Cordelia Strube


Welcome to the “content” start of the Shadow Giller Prize, 2010. The jurors are the same as last year — Trevor Berrett from the Mookse and the Gripes, Alison Gzowski (who doesn’t blog but will offer comments on both our sites) and Kevin here at KfC. Also like last year, I will post a couple of paras from Trevor’s reviews here, with links to complete reviews at his site (you will also find links in the 2010 Giller Prize section in the sidebar on the right). I am delighted to report that he was able to locate a copy of Lemon by Cordelia Strube — it is back ordered at Canada’s online sites so I won’t be seeing a copy for a couple of weeks. Here are the opening paras of Trevor’s review — you can find his complete review at the Mookse and the Gripes.

I try to avoid comparisons to Holden Caulfield as much as possible. Such is the abundance of potential heirs to the great first person narrator of The Catcher in the Rye that it is practically a cliché to label them as such, and it usually leads to disappointment anyway. Comparisons seem to come every time a book arrives where an angsty youthful protagonist with a biting voice goes on and on about the troubled times and how pointless it is to do anything about it, to even care. I usually feel that the heir apparent is really nothing more than a wannabe, though; any similarities are illusions created by the author’s heavy investment in voice; the books tend to fail to create a thematically coherent, richly textured book. While my heart still lies with The Catcher in the Rye, I think in Lemon (2009) Cordelia Strube has written that thematically coherent, richly textured book with an angsty protagonist and a biting voice. Readers of Salinger will recognize the undercurrent of death while innocence suffers in an ugly world. I’m done bringing up Holden Caulfield now, because Lemon, regardless of the faults I perceived, stands on its own, and I don’t want to lead anyone to believe it is just another derivative work.

To be honest, I’m not that patient with angsty teenage misery novels. The reason I read this one first upon learning of the Giller Longlist is, in part, because I wanted to get it over with. The cover shouts at me, and I assumed that by reading it I was more or less submitting myself to a spitting, bitter teen vent. I think a lot of these types of books sound the same; I’m prejudiced because I think the voice of an angsty teen is easy to mimic, though rarely feels genuine. I was fully prepared to dislike this book. In fact, while reading it, I actually kept thinking that eventually it would fall apart in my hands, validating my preconceptions. But that never happened.

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