Festival News: Reviewing the Toronto Book Awards

This year, we are happy to welcome back our Toronto Book Awards‘ bloggers, Christine and Carol Sweeton – our mother/daughter blogging team! They will be reading and reviewing each of the 5 finalists for this year’s Toronto Book Awards, which were announced on August 30, 2012. To see who is nominated this year, click here. To read more about Christine and Carol, click here.

This is their third post of the series. Today, they are reviewing Copernicus Avenue by Andrew J. Borkowski. To see their first review, click here.

About the Book:

Set primarily in the neighbourhood of fictional Copernicus Avenue, Andrew Borkowski’s debut collection of short stories is a daring, modern take on life in Toronto’s Polish community in the years following World War II. Featuring a cast of young and old, artists and soldiers, visionaries and madmen, the forgotten and the unforgettable, Copernicus Avenue captures, with bold and striking prose, the spirit of a people who have travelled to a new land, not to escape old grudges and atrocities, but to conquer them.

Chris and Carol’s Review:

Even though the titular street in Andrew J. Borkowski’s Copernicus Avenue is fictional, Christine was quickly drawn into what was very recognizably a Toronto neighbourhood. Toronto truly is a ‘city of neighbourhoods’, a feature that helped Christine quickly acclimatize to happily living in this large, urban metropolis after growing up in a small town. Toronto’s many neighbourhoods often behave like small towns, a fact that Christine found was quite evident in Borkowski’s book. She related to the way in which he shows the interactions between neighbours and the connection between local businesses and area residents.

This book of short stories takes the reader into the backgrounds and experiences of Polish immigrants – Coperenicus Avenue is modeled after Toronto’s Roncesvalles area. The book also contains flashbacks that detail Polish experiences in Europe prior to and during WWII. Carol found that Borkowski’s writing style flowed easily between past and present, as well as, moving amongst various characters and counties. Originally put-off by the idea of a book of short stories, a form which Carol has disliked in the past, she found herself pleasantly surprised at the continuity of the topics and characters, as some of the same people show up at different stages of their lives in different sections – it captures the reader like a novel due to these common threads. Carol found the text particularly enlightening, as she was not aware of the treatment of the Polish people during WWII and the many atrocities they experienced at the hands of both their enemies and their allies. She was most moved by “St David’s Day” in which a recurring character reminisces about his life in Canada and remembers a particularly harrowing bomber mission during the war. Copernicus Avenue is a touching collection of short stories that have universal appeal.

See Andrew Borskowski read from his nominated title at The Word On The Street in the Toronto Book Awards Tent at 12:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. Make sure to say hi to Carol, she will be volunteering in that tent!


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