Saturday, 2 August 2008

TBC: King Leary

In the moving of my brother to his new house last weekend, I was going through some of the stuff I could give him from my extensive library of books. Of course, none of the hockey-related material left my possession, but I did find a book that was filed on the wrong shelf and should have been reviewed long ago. I'm not sure how this book was put on the wrong shelf of my bookcase, but I read over this past week, and I'm glad I found it. Teebz's Book Club is proud to present King Leary, written by Paul Quarrington. This story has won a number of literary awards in its time, and now being reproduced again for readers all over the world.

Mr. Quarrington's fourth novel, King Leary, shows the success that this writer has had over the course of his illustrious career. Paul began his writing career by winning the Foundation for the Advancement of Canadian Letters Award for most promising new writer in 1986. He wrote Whale Music which was turned into a full-length feature film, and won the Governor General’s Award for Fiction in 1989 in Canada. His most recent novel, Galveston in 2004, was short-listed for the Giller Prize. Our featured novel in King Leary won the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour and was shortlisted for the Trillium Award in 1987 when it was first published, and most recently was the 2008 Canada Read's Winner. The award-winning novelist has also written plays for theatre, and continues his musical passion as a steel guitarist and vocalist in the band Porkbelly Futures. Talented? I'd say yes.

Today, however, I am concentrating on the story of Percival Leary, a star hockey player in the early 1900s. Leary, along with his friends, weave a magical tale about hockey, life, and ginger ale that had me chuckling a number of times.

We find Percival Leary in his South Grouse Nursing Home room, shared by his cantankerous retired newspaper reporter friend Edmund "Blue" Hermann. Leary recounts his past through a first-person perspective, and it feels a little like Field of Dreams or Catcher in the Rye in its telling of the tale.

Along with Leary and Hermann, we meet Leary's good friend Manfred Ozikean, the scheming Clay Clinton, his son Clifford, his male nurse Iain, and a pile of other people who affected Leary's life.

The story of Percival Leary is one that takes him on a trip to Toronto in his latter years in an effort to do a commercial for Canada Dry Ginger Ale, the one drink that Little Leary can't get enough of. Along the way, there are stories of hockey, friends separated and found again, loves won and loves lost, and the story of a little Irish hockey player who scored the biggest goal in "one-nine one-nine" when he pulled off a perfect "St. Louis Whirlygig" to score the Stanley Cup-winning goal.

I really found this book to an excellent fictional tale of what some former hockey players might experience as they fade from the limelight. Mr. Quarrington's detail in the stories is impeccable, and he does an excellent job in building empathy for characters through the telling of their stories.

"A dazzling display of fictional footwork.... The author has not written just another hockey novel; he has turned hockey into a metaphor for magic." - MacLean's Magazine

King Leary certainly deserves a look if you want some reading material during these summer months. Mr. Quarrington's style is easy to read, the chapters are short yet entertaining, and the story is thoroughly enjoyable. While this book has already earned a number of major achievements, allow me to add one more by awarding it the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval.

I will, however, warn parents who may be looking for some summer reading for their kids that this book does contain some PG-language. However, it is suitable for adolescents and teenagers in my view, and is an excellent piece of fictional work for any hockey fan.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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