Raymond and Hannah: A Book Review

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Stephen Marche, Raymond and Hannah. Toronto: Anchor Canada, 2005.

I was recommended (and lent) this book by Dr. Rosemarie Krausz, a Ottawa-region psychoanalyst, who, more importantly for the vast majority of my readers, is Zach’s Mom.

I must admit that her description of the plot didn’t warm my heart to the tale. Two twenty-somethings meet in Toronto for a one-night stand that turns into a week-long frolick. She leaves to find her Jewish roots in Jerusalem. He stays behind to work on his dissertation at the University of Toronto. They keep in contact via email.

The recommendation that it was given, however, encouraged me to take a crack at it. I was VERY pleasantly surprised and will now count Stephen Marche among my favourite Canadian authors (actually, other than Yann Martel, i can’t think of another Canadian author i really love to read…).

There were two VERY appealing aspects of the book which i can share without ruining it for a future reader. Firstly, the typesetting. Raymond and Hannah adopts a Mrs. Dalloway-esque narrative structure. The readers zooms in and out of both characters heads as well as an omniscient narrator reflecting on the weather, the cities, etc. The text of the story is justified to the center of the book and the margins have tiny, editorial descriptions of what each paragraph is about. I like this technique. It makes finding something already read simple, it makes the spasticness of the approach less difficult to manage. It’s fun.

Secondly, Raymond’s dissertation, on Burton, is chunked into the later portions of the story where they are relevant to the budding relationship between the main characters. I have experienced the work i am currently doing in academia running out of its bounds and into “the real world” and thought this was an effective portrayal of a very difficult and disconcerting, though prevalent, phenomenon.

Raymond and Hannah is a love story. I am just not sure how it ended. Reading it at this point in my life was fitting. The text deals with the different settings of Toronto and Jerusalem in an approachable, open way. It made me look forward to my upcoming move for just a second. It also made me smile.

The book is currently on sale at Chapters for $4.99 – if you are looking for a late summer read, i, the hater of mush, love stories and Can. Lit, highly recommend it.

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