Canada Reads 2008: King Leary by Paul Quarrington
Filed under: Canada Reads — Ibis at 9:04 pm on Saturday, February 9, 2008

From the back cover:
“Percival Leary was once King of the Ice, one of hockey’s greatest heroes. In the South Grouse Nursing Home, where he shares a room with Edumund “Blue” Hermann, the antagonistic and alcoholic reporter who once chronicled his career, Leary looks back on his tumultuous life and times: his days at the boys’ reformatory when he burned down a house; the four mad monks who first taught him to play hockey; and the time he executed the perfect ‘St. Louis Whirlygig’ to score the winning goal in the 1919 Stanley Cup final.

Now all but forgotten, Leary is only a legend in his own mind until a high-powered advertising agency decides to feature him in a series of ginger ale commercials. With his male nurse, his son, and the irrepressible Blue, Leary sets off for Toronto on one last adventure as he revisits the scenes of his glorious life as King of the Ice.”

Other useful links:
the Wikipedia article on the real original Ottawa Senators

My thoughts:
I really enjoyed this book, and of all the Canada Reads books so far I’d say it’s the most Canadian, what with all the hockey and ginger ale. If done well, I generally like it when an author has several different narratives going on and mixes a story of the past with the present and this book had a unique approach to accomplish that—the narrator is an old man who gets lost in his memories of the past. It was a little disconcerting at first to be in a kind of alternate universe with Maple Leaves, New York Americans, Ottawa Patriots, and South Grouse somethings (always called ‘Louses’) as NHL teams, but Quarrington did a great job of bringing the early years of professional hockey to life. As I’m a big hockey fan, I especially enjoyed the hockey descriptions. The ending was a bit strange and once or twice I was a little bored with the King’s reminiscences. The characters were great—memorable and realistic—and the scene of the monks skating on the frozen pond was fantastic. Pooker3 has a brilliant review on her BookCrossing journal for this book.

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