What We All Long For

What We All Long For - Dionne Brand

What a puzzling book. I found it on a reading list recommending contemporary Canadian fiction - and while it is fairly contemporary (2005), at least compared to some of my other reads, and it is certainly Canadian, I am not sure why it received a lot of praise and recommendations. 

 

Some of the writing was beautiful and quite poetic, but I could not stand any of the main characters, who were a group of not-quite grown up early-twenty-somethings who all left their families to live in a shared house. 

 

I could understand some of their issues, I could even relate to some of them - after all I was an early-twenty-something in 2005 - but most of the time I just wanted to tell them to grow up. As for the other characters, the parents, the siblings, the friends, ... they too all seemed to be broken in some way. I'm not criticising the book for that. I get that this is part of the books message - that "we all long for something" as the title implies - but does every scene in the book have to be so dour? Is it not quite cliche enough for a Canadian literary novel to mention all sort of Toronto street names? Does it also have to be really slow-paced?

 

Don't get me wrong, there were some interesting aspects in the book, too, like what it means to grow up in a minority community or try and live on the fringes of society or what it is like to be a refugee or immigrant, but those aspects were not developed enough to make the book work for me.