And the Birds Rained Down written by Jocelyne Saucier (originally in French as Il pleuvait des oiseaux and translated by Rhonda Mullins) was a Canada Reads 2015 contender and also covers the translated book category of the Read Harder challenge (bonus!).
Heavy on the imagery, And the Birds builds an isolating, foreign experience of rural Canada. It captures an aesthetic more than it captures any distinct plot which makes each sentence a joy to read on its own and the book as a whole less appetizing. Saucier is a magnificent writer and her story which revolves around two octogenarians who live off-the-grid in the forest their bonds with a run-away from a decades of living in a psychiatric asylum, a journalist obsessed with the great Matheson Fire, and two pot growers who use the forest to plant their marijuana.
Other reviews have pointed out Saucier’s book as one which tackles issues of sex, marijuana use, self-determination, and Canada’s history. Mullins has does a wonderful job translating, and I have no doubts that the book is as close as it could ever possibly be to the original French. It simply does not appeal to my preference for aesthetics.
Like the Birdman versus Boyhood debates from earlier this year, And the Birds does not suit my taste of art. I find it to be too obvious in its lyricism; heavy-handed on the prose to the point where the look of a scene matters much more than whether the characters are developed in a real way. There are moments when I would stop reading because the scene was so beautiful but feel aghast that the characters who sound unique and challenging at introduction become two dimensional. It’s a matter of not being able to see the forest for the precise way the golden light of dawn filters between each gently waving leaf on the trees,
I feel Saucier’s book would translate well into a film and probably captivate me more in that medium. Her novel has hits of a Wes Anderson film with the grotesque but redeeming way the characters interact. I can certainly see why it made it to the semi-finals of Canada Reads, but I’m glad that it didn’t win.