Minister Without Portfolio by Michael Winter

1/5 stars.
Read from March 22 to April 01, 2016 (DNF).
ebook, 270 pages.

Well, this is a rare occurrence for me. In my lifetime of reading, there are only three books that I committed to read that I did not finish. Sadly, I had to add this book to that list to make it a fourth. This book was painful to read. I managed to make it quarter of the way through though, but I also picked up and almost finished two other novels in the time it took me to get a quarter of the way through this one. I tried, I really did, but I’m not sorry I didn’t finish this book. I don’t think my life is lacking for not finishing it.

Henry Hayward, who is originally from the east coast of Canada and has been working up in northern area of Alberta, Canada, which is very common. His romance with his long-term girlfriend Nora comes to an end so he unemotionally deals with his loss with booze and sex. Henry then takes up a job in Afghanistan in hopes of being able to forget Nora and move on. Sadly, Henry and his good friend, Tender, end up being involved in tragic accident while out on patrol. Tender dies and Henry knows that  it was his mistake that caused it.

Returning home, Henry is guilt-stricken. He hopes to make amends by repairing and fixing Tender’s home, but ends up making some poor decisions with Tender’s girlfriend in the process. Tender’s girlfriend also has a secret that will devastate things further for Henry and their circle of friends.

It’s no surprise to me that this book was knocked out first in the Canada Reads 2016 debate because it doesn’t stack up. Winter’s writing style is forced, hard to follow, and ultimately unengaging. He also didn’t do himself, or the reader, any favors by completely omitting quotation marks. There are very few authors that can pull off this distinct style and Winter’s isn’t one of them. Combine all of this with an unremarkable plot line and characters that are distant and lack depth and you have a terrible book.

I suppose I can at least see what Winter’s was trying to accomplish with his characters, in how they all lacked feeling, as he I think he was trying to explain a lifestyle very specific to those who Alberta (working up North) and the type of people that do this sort of work.  I sadly can’t even say it would appeal to the families of workers or even those faced with the trauma of war as the writing and depictions of the characters and plot line is so poorly handled.

Sorry Mr. Winter, but your novel just didn’t do it for me and I can’t see myself recommending this book to anyone I would know.

Canada Reads 2016 Shortlist

Apologies for the delayed post! Still adjusting to a bit a of a routine out here in Hong Kong. Even though I’m halfway around the world, I am happy to say that I am still going to have a bash at getting through this years Canada Reads 2016 shortlist! Even though it may affect my bank account this time around as I won’t be able to get any of these books out at the library here (I checked).

The theme this year is all about “starting over” and the panelists chose books that that they felt best represented  “the trials and tribulations of making a new start in life.”

  • Birdie by Tracey Lindberg
  • Bone and Bread by Saleema Nawaz
  • The Hero’s Walk by Anita Rau Radami
  • The Illegal by Lawrence Hill
  • Minster Without Portfolio by Michael Winter

The debate takes place March 21-24th! I should have most, if not all five of the books read by then and will do my best to have the reviews up as well.