Archive for March, 2012

March 28, 2012

A Different Look at Vancouer

by capreviewroom

Nancy Lee’s Dead Girls is a collection of eight short stories, all of which are roughly thirty pages long. She takes us away from the advertised beauty of Vancouver, and plunges into a much darker side that people are not often exposed to. All the stories are interesting to the point that you won’t want to put the book down until you’ve read one to the end, but aren’t so long that you’ll be up all night just trying to find out how it finished. Despite the length of these stories in number of pages, Lee does a great job of capturing her characters’ emotions, sometimes through directly telling the reader how the character feels, or by letting us draw our own connections from what we can imagine.
The book opens with “Associated Press”, a story about a woman torn between two men, one whom she is in a relationship with and the other whom she truly loves. It is told from the point of view of the woman talking to herself, which creates a greater sense of frustration for the reader, but also makes it easier to relate to the story. Another story, “Valentines”, involves three teenagers who are in one’s basement enjoying the freedom of having someone’s parents out of town. Lee manages to create portrayals of familiar personalities that most have bared witness to while growing up, be it the girl desperate to look older, the boy who looks older for his age and in turn uses this trait to convey power, or the slow to develop boy who lacks self confidence. The last story, “Sisters” tells of a classic sibling rivalry between sisters, over a boy, which turns into a not-so-classic story of one of them running away to Vancouver.
The entire Dead Girls collection deals with relationships, and how they are a two-way street. Just because one person got their way does not mean that everyone is happy about the decision, and every story in this book involves one person’s decision destroying another’s life. A great book that makes you take a look at your own life, as well as the darker side of the city of Vancouver.
-David Frank

March 26, 2012

A Meaningful Classic

by capreviewroom

“Mrs. Dalloway” is a classic novel written by Virginia Woolf that was published in 1925 and is set in a post-World War I London. The story is about the main character, Clarissa Dalloway, getting ready for a party that she is hosting tonight. Even though she is rich and high in class, she lingers in the past and is unhappy.  A unique and clever way for Woolf’s audience to understand the characters in the novel is to add a stream of consciousness. Readers will understand what is going on in the story by understanding the thoughts and feelings of each character. This let readers reach into Mrs. Dalloway’s past at the same time with the other characters as well.

Richard Dalloway, Peter Walsh, and Septimus Smith are the other main characters of the story. Richard is Clarissa’s husband who takes his job very seriously in the government. Peter Walsh is entertaining and an old friend Mrs. Dalloway who will permanently love her even though he knows she is taken. Septimus and Clarissa both share inner similarities while on the other hand they are very different on the outside. Septimus is recovering from shell shock after the war and is similar to Clarissa because they both want to live in the past rather than the present. The key difference between these two characters is that Septimus want to never have witnessed the war while Mrs. Dalloway wants to be pretty and youthful again. These characters make the story a very interesting read yet difficult through understanding the stream of consciousness.

One of the critiques on this novel aside from its confusing moments may be that the style of Woolf’s text is different from a regularly fashioned novel. The chapters are replaced with text that has no breaks so the reader may have a hard time getting back into reading from where they left off. The novel may be different so the reader must have a strong use of persistence and positivity to make this book an awesome read.


March 26, 2012

A Journey through a Woman’s Mind

by capreviewroom

     “Mrs. Dalloway” is an amazing novel written by Virginia Wolf, published in 1925. The book has a unique style called stream of consciousness that in combination with omniscient narrator, works as a strong hook. Descriptions are in such detail that the reader can sketch the setting and map of the city. Although the book focuses on common place tasks, such as shopping, throwing a party, walking in the park, and eating dinner, it guides the readers through different realistic perspectives of post- World War I London, through experiences and memories of its central characters. The characters are from various classes, and backgrounds, constantly overlaying the past and the present trying to reconcile to life. Sometimes the threads of thought cross, and characters communicate. Mrs. Dalloway covers one day from morning to night in a woman’s life “Clarissa Dalloway”, the protagonist, an upper class housewife that walks through her London neighborhood to prepare for the party she will host that evening. The other important character is Septimus Warren Smith, a World War I veteran suffering from shell shock. Clarissa and Septimus share so many traits such as the constant struggles to maintain privacy and fulfill the need of communicating with others. Even the climax of the novel happens in the party, when Clarissa goes to a small room to contemplate Septimus’s suicide. She identifies with him and is glad he did it, believing that he preserved his soul. Toward the end, another important fact reveals; most of the main characters, failed to fulfill the dreams of their youth. In addition to analyzing each individual in detail it also criticizes the post-World War I England society and the way people in charge ignore veterans who gave up on their lives to protect their country. In conclusion, it is a noble novel for those looking for books that you cannot put down.


March 25, 2012

Danielle Hasselback – Dead Girls – Societies flaws revealed

by capreviewroom

The fictional novel Dead Girls involves eight short stories written by Nancy Lee.  Each story is edgy and dark, and has the ability to pull any reader in to find out more about the disturbed and broken areas of Vancouver.  Lee illustrates a picture in the readers mind of the women from this east side area, not giving us full endings but significant depictions of their current life.  She uses the first person in the stories “Dead Girls” and “Associated Press”.  At times it can be confusing to readers, as you are differenting the two men in “associated Press” by this boy and that boy. The positive aspect of first person is how it allows you to put yourself in the characters position, not thinking of them as object but feeling and understanding their emotions. This book allows us to get a better idea of the women that many people in society are disinterested in and shun. The stories bare one of the failed aspect of society; prostitutes and sex trade.  It shows a popular aspect of women, wanting what they can’t have, and many ending up in that cliche relationship.  

The name “dead girls” for the book isn’t the proper portrayal, although it explains the aspect of the missing prostitutes that are brought up in the stories, i feel it doesn’t relate in any other aspect.

Every story revolves around a woman, some broken, confused, and dispirited.  Sex is a huge part of this book as it has a relevance in every story, from a way that the women make money, to how they release anger and express emotions to others.  This book leads readers into the unstable world of loss and discovery, heart break and despair. 

Word Count: 296

March 25, 2012

Reality Check for Vancouverites – Jessica Mah

by capreviewroom

Nancy Lee, who calls Vancouver home, opens the eyes of readers in her short story anthology Dead Girls. The central themes connecting all eight stories are violence, sexuality, drugs and poverty. Nancy Lee approaches these topics honestly and keeps the integrity of the scary reality of the city of Vancouver. Each short story in the collection stand alone and follow different characters. This being said, there is common ground as a serial killer by the name of Thomas Coombs is mentioned throughout the collection. The stories are told from different point of views and allows the reader to explore this gruesome topic from different perspectives.

The first story, “Associate Press” captures you right from the beginning. Uniquely told in second person, “you” are the main character. “You” struggly between “this boy” and “that boy”. One is able to satisfy your emotional needs and the other your physical needs. “Dead Girls”, who gives its name to the anthology as a whole, is particularly powerful as the reader is once again finding themselves as the central character. Also told in second person, the reader is the mother of a missing girl, Clare. The reader is now subject to exploring the feelings of family members of the missing women. “Dead Girls” underlines a sad outlook that our society has about sex trade workers. “So far, the victims are all prostitutes, bodies for hire, disposeable girls” (99). The last story in the anthology, “Sisters” is a story in which anyone could relate. Grace brings her sister Nita to a party with her and her crush, Kevin. That night Nita hooks up with Kevin and soon after runs away with him. This story ventures back and forth between the sister’s lives.

I strongly recommend Dead Girls to all females. Written greatly from a female perspective, it is easy to lose yourself in the stories and feel the pain and the sorrow of the women. This would prove more difficult for a male reader but I believe that males can still appreciate the brilliance of Nancy Lee. Anyone who lives in Vancouver needs to read Dead Girls and open their eyes to the real life atrocities happening day after day.

March 24, 2012

Dark Part in Vancouver – Tomohiro Ibi

by capreviewroom

       Dead Girls is a book with a collection of eight short stories written by Nancy Lee in 1970. Throughout the book, she focuses on issues such as sexuality, drugs, family affairs, and homelessness, all of which written vividly, emphasizing to reader that those problems are dismissed by our society.

     Lee, being a resident of Vancouver, navigates the readers who are from Vancouver, and are familiar with the local geography by introducing actual locations around the city to help us understand the movements of each character from place to place.

       Lee deliberately sets eight stories in reverse chronological order by presenting a report about Thomas Coombs, a serial killer who has connections with the missing women throughout this book. It seems this book just contains eight independent short stories, In the first story, Associated Press, the main character is selected for a jury duty – Coombs killed a woman, and buried her in his backyard. Needless to say, this happened after his arrest. In Rollie and Adele, he almost kidnaps a homeless girl. In Sisters, the main character, Grace, looks for Nita, her elder sister, who disappeared after she stole money from the cashier at work. Assuming from the previous storyline, this case involves Coombs, and she is one of the victims.
    Lee presents to us a variety of style and point of view in the book. The structure of Sally in Parts is unique.  She divides the story into Sally’s body parts (Sally’s eye, lungs etc), and explains the relationship with her and her father and their conflicts. As Sally grows up, she and her father’s relationship fades away. She also uses a different point of view in Associated Press. In this story, instead of using a third person’s view, the main character is described as “you.” “You” is obsessed with “that boy” whom she rarely sees because he is a photographer in Associated Press, and is constantly out of the city. His absence makes her accept the relationship with “this boy” whom she met in the jury court. The story ends when “you” decides to break up with “that boy” because she has an abortion as a consequence of having a physical relationship with “this boy.” Lee’s effective use of second person narrative in Dead Girls makes it different from the other stories she has written in the third person. This allows the readers to feel as if they are observing this story from a certain distance; not too subjectively but not too objectively. It can enhance the readers’ understanding of the main character’s feeling as well as the storyline more effectively.

      At the beginning, Dead Girls lets the readers down because the main theme of this book includes dark and disturbing issues such as drug abuse, violence, poverty, and prostitution. However, those issues actually exist as a reality in the city of Vancouver, and I think Lee’s purpose is to let each of us pay attention to these problems and to consider them seriously. I recommend this book for people from Vancouver as well as people from other countries to deeply understand the city of Vancouver.

March 23, 2012

The Dead Girls are Beautiful

by capreviewroom

Dead Girls, by Nancy Lee is a novel that will shock and surprise readers with it’s vivid and strong set of characters and narration that at first glance seems confusing, but manages to give more meaning to these loosely connected short stories. Dead Girls makes a bold leading motif that will captivate readers.

The characters in Dead Girls strongly bound by Lee’s description of emotional pain and conflict. All stories are of young women in Vancouver facing with the emotional peril and ruthlessness of relationships, sex, loss, and despair. Grace in “Sisters” must deal with her broken heart after her older sister, Nina unintentionally hooks up with her crush, Kevin, and must take bigger responsibilities when Nina leaves the house to her and her mother alone. In “Associated Press” A girl is faced with emotional attachment to a boy overseas conflicting with her sexual intimacies. The strong sense of reality in all the characters set a chilling extraordinary novel to read.

The narration in Dead Girls well thought using a variety of sorts that does not confuse, but immerses the reader in the collection of short stories. In “Rollie and Adele” for example, reverses the chronology order. “Associated Press” is written in a second-person point of view with good effectiveness, while “Sally, in Parts” uses anatomy to narrate the relationship between a young woman and her father and her advancing sexual nature. All of these artistic jumps aid to the impact of the narration and bring Lee’s characters to life.

In all stories, except “Sisters” there is a mentioning of a investigation of remains of a number of murdered women found in the yard of a Vancouver dentist. The whole story of this is never told and is spread out in bits such as news and rumours. The murders are mysterious and eerie due to their absence and little recognition. Dead Girls is a thrilling, unnerving and wily novel.

– Review by Michael Nguyen

March 23, 2012

A Fictitious take on our History

by capreviewroom

In the early nineteen hundreds, Canada was still a country developing through its youth. At this time, many immigrants were still coming to Canada and provided valuable labor in major infrastructure projects, and added to the difference of culture of the nation. These migrant workers were a large part of the force that erected massive projects such as the Prince Edward Viaduct as well as the R.C. Harris Water Treatment Facility of Toronto; however, few of these workers were ever noted for their contribution the development Canada. Michael Ondaatje set out to learn about these people, and in his book, “In the Skin of a Lion,” he portraits a fictional experience of them with his main character, Patrick Lewis.


We follow Patrick though a series of notable segments of his life presented as separate stories in separate “books,” as well as have few other characters be the main character of their own stories. Patrick is introduced as an adolescent living with his father at a logging camp, and through love, loss, thick, and thin, he develops into quite an interesting man, with some fascinating stories to tell. While “In the Skin of a Lion” is not a simple read, its uniqueness and charm developed through how it is written. Ondaatje took special care in researching for the novel, and included a few of his findings into the story, namely Nicholas temelcoff, as well as the mysterious disappearance of Ambrose Small, a wealthy Ontario theatre owner, and others. 


Michael Ondaatje took an unorthodox approach of presenting his story, and was very successful with it. The book is able to truly grab the reader and keep them absorbed in its contents. The stories sometimes have time jumps, even of many years, but they enable Ondaatje to keep the book, as a whole, clean and concise. Overall it was skillfully written, and achieved its goal of letting us start to understand the unknown immigrants who began to build this nation; the varied character development, superb setting description, and complicated relationships of the book are all reasons to embark on the journey of reading this book.


– Harrison Lefeaux

March 23, 2012

Dead Girls, Not So Dead?

by capreviewroom

By Melissa K

Dead Girls is the breakout novel written by Canadian author Nancy Lee but with such talented and emotionally provocative work it reads as a sophomore novel or better yet a title among a long list of critically acclaimed books. The book is a beautiful collection of short stories all set in or around the Vancouver area and they all manage to capture the raw essence of female emotion and livelihood in the 21st century.
The book opens strongly with a story titled Associated Press, a heartbreaking story for anyone who has experienced similar situation, a girl in love with one but in a relationship with another. The book continues on to carry you through the adventures of seven more young girls or women, and finishes strongly with a story of sister rivalry and animosity regarding the love interest of an older boy and ending in the disappearance of one of the girls.
Nancy Lee writes in an almost haunting manner, the way she leaves scenes broken, taking certain aspects of stories and telling them in fragmentation, much like the girls in every story. Broken, fragmented, every story examines a girl with an issue or several, broken in their own ways. It isn’t necessarily a happy novel, for you will read about the moral struggle and heartbreak of one, the desperation to be seen as older by another, and the pill popping, mind numbing tale of one more.  It truly is a remarkable first novel from the “brilliant” Nancy Lee, sure to evoke memories and thoughts in to every reader willing to dive in to the novel’s weighty pages.

March 22, 2012

Connecting London’s multiple personalities in the early 20th century

by capreviewroom

The bustling streets of the city are filled with lavish shops, dramatic walks and war weary people. Such a city is bound to be full of adventure, even the simple act of taking a walk in the park yields many encounters and shows us the many faces of the city; however, the simple act of just walking in the park and seeing “those” individuals can only give a small sight of what really lurks in the city . There are many faces that have not been seen, many individuals that have not been met. Even though the city is very connected in a physical sense with every person playing a role, like cogs of a Swiss Watch, the adventures in the city was never about how physically connected we are, the adventure lies with how connected we are to the disconnected.

               Virginia Wolf’s Mrs. Dalloway shows that very side of the city. The confusing streets, the sounds, the smells and the thoughts of the character made reading this novel quite the ride. We explore the city of London primarily through the eyes of 3 individuals, Clarissa Dalloway, Peter Walsh, and Septimus Warren Smith. As we explore the city through their eyes, many minor connecting pieces are mentioned; however, the mergers and blurs between the normal city scape and the characters’ thoughts seep in with the use of stream-of-consciousness and the invisible connection to the disconnected sides of society.

The indirect and subtle connections Clarissa has with the unknowns of the city and how the unknowns are connected to Clarissa. There are many connection that appear later on that address certain aspects of the city as well as Clarissa’s life  as she continues her preparation for her evening party.

One of many of these subtle connections was evident when the two good friends Peter (who is still unmarried) and Clarissa, (who has been happily married to Richard, a member of parliament) catch up and talk of love. Peter then speaks of new love, whose situation looks quite similar to Clarissa since she is “’A married woman unfortunately,’ he [Peter] said; ‘the wife of a Major in the Indian Army.’” (pg. 49)

We then stray away from the dramatic love scene and enter the mind of war veteran Septimus, who is suffering from shell shock. The ironic hero home to a new world and cannot escape from the horrors of the war, thus finally giving in to the “Shell Shock” and the doctors lose him. This tragedy eventually makes its way into Clarissa’s party, the details being discussed by Richard and Sir William, a doctor who tried to treat Septimus.

Clarissa’s connection with the disconnected aspects of the city shows us the same city in a different way. The bustling city of London is not just filled with just the people we at the park or on the street. There are many others who exist in a different face of the city or others who may know you and have an unknown connection. Mrs. Dalloway’s presentation of the city really does show its multi-personality attributes and how connected it can be.

– Howard