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  • Writer's pictureKim Reynolds

Lovely Language: the power of contrast

One of the best things about reading is beautiful writing. It takes the experience to a whole other level. When I come across writing that reaches inside me, I have to stop, take a moment to feel it and then read it again. I usually have the impulse to read it out loud to someone, but often there is no one awake or home. So I’ve decided to share those beautiful sentences or paragraphs here with you. Please feel free to share in the comments, the sentences and images that have moved you.

Lovely language also inspires me to work harder in my own fiction.

Brother by David Chariandy

Publishers blurb: "An intensely beautiful, searingly powerful, tightly constructed novel, Brother explores questions of masculinity, family, race, and identity as they are played out in a Scarborough housing complex during the sweltering heat and simmering violence of the summer of 1991.

With shimmering prose and mesmerizing precision, David Chariandy takes us inside the lives of Michael and Francis. They are the sons of Trinidadian immigrants, their father has disappeared and their mother works double, sometimes triple shifts so her boys might fulfill the elusive promise of their adopted home.

Coming of age in The Park, a cluster of town houses and leaning concrete towers in the disparaged outskirts of a sprawling city, Michael and Francis battle against the careless prejudices and low expectations that confront them as young men of black and brown ancestry -- teachers stream them into general classes; shopkeepers see them only as thieves; and strangers quicken their pace when the brothers are behind them. Always Michael and Francis escape into the cool air of the Rouge Valley, a scar of green wilderness that cuts through their neighbourhood, where they are free to imagine better lives for themselves.

Propelled by the pulsing beats and styles of hip hop, Francis, the older of the two brothers, dreams of a future in music. Michael's dreams are of Aisha, the smartest girl in their high school whose own eyes are firmly set on a life elsewhere. But the bright hopes of all three are violently, irrevocably thwarted by a tragic shooting, and the police crackdown and suffocating suspicion that follow.

With devastating emotional force David Chariandy, a unique and exciting voice in Canadian literature, crafts a heartbreaking and timely story about the profound love that exists between brothers and the senseless loss of lives cut short with the shot of a gun."

Fragility and strength

I could have chosen many instances of beautiful writing in this powerful novel. But I was really struck by how he used glass as an image twice, within pages of each other, to illustrate the power imbalance between the residents and the police.

The first is a son’s description of his grieving mother:

“Mother’s face seemed ready to break. It’s hard to describe. Like watching a glass ball being dropped in a slow-motion movie. That fraction of a second just after the glass hits the ground and it’s still a ball, but the cracks are everywhere, and you know it’s not going to be a ball much longer.”

The second image, only pages later, is in reference to a young girl’s reaction to the police presence in the neighbourhood.

“She looked down and spotted a broken chunk of asphalt that she loosened further with the heel of her sneaker. She picked it up, stepped back for balance, and hurled. It hit a window of the empty police car, making a sharp sound like the breaking of hard candy in your mouth, spider-webbing the glass into a pattern of pale blue without breaking.”



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