Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing - Melissa Bank

Having recently decided to sort through my bookshelves and weed out books to add to a re-read pile and those bound for the second hand book shop, it became apparent that there were an enormous number of good and great books which had found their way to those shelves over the past few years. After the agony of selecting items for the book shop and the re-read pile, my dilemma became in which reading order to put the keepers. It was proving to be even more of a stressful challenge than the initial selection, so calling upon the services of my constant companion and often attacker of any moving body parts, Nobbs (aka Gabe at the vets surgery), I charged him with the task of making the choice for me.

Nobbs selection only confirmed what great taste he has when he chose Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank.

Jane Rosenal is searching for love, a fulfilling career and herself. She is feisty, witty and often in need of approval from the men in her life, her boss and her family. She goes from being self assured to losing her confidence completely and back to finding her inner strength again. It is a life journey of self discovery and often bitterly painful experiences.

Melissa Bank writes with a certain economy of words and razor sharp dialogue which join together to paint a complete picture of Jane and her experiences. There are many references to the characters following rules and playing games in this story and at the same time the reader is made aware, by the selection of story topics, that the real game being played out here is life itself. In, My Old Man, we find teenage Jane out on the balcony of her aunt’s apartment sipping brandy and curious to know about the neighbours below who are out on their balcony, arguing. In the next section, Best Possible Light, we are introduced to the Solomon family and it isn’t until close to the end of this story we are told they are the neighbours living below Jane’s aunt, referred to in the previous story. Clearly Melissa Bank wanted to see if the reader was paying attention and playing along with her little game too.

Using humour in the face of despair, Jane never fails to take lessons from those around her. Her searching curiosity and questioning nature lead her to move on from relationships when she understands their true meaning. All these experiences help her to finally realise that she will not settle for anything she doesn’t instinctively know to be right, for her.

There are parts of the book which are hard to read without feeling terribly sad or despondent for Jane and there are parts which are laugh out loud funny.

Teenage Jane:

Meeting her brother’s girlfriend for the first time:
Julia chose words carefully and used ones I’d never heard spoken – she sounded to me like she was trying out for a job as a dictionary.
My mother eyed me: Do not smirk.’

Trying to plan what to do during the summer break from school:
‘ “I need new experiences, Mom.”
“What about an internship,” she suggested, “in something you are interested in”
I reminded her that I don’t have any interests.
You like to draw, “ she said.
I told them I was thinking of being a waitress.
My dad said, “Practice by clearing the table” ‘

Adult Jane:

On meeting her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend:
Bella takes both my hands in hers, as though she has been waiting a long time to meet me. She says “Janie,” my childhood nickname, and I am so thrown off by her warmth that I say “Belly.” ‘

Speaking at her best friend’s wedding:
‘ “Then,” I say, “there was our sea-horse period, when we were told that we didn’t need mates; we were supposed to make ourselves happy just bobbing around in our careers.”

Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing is a superb book, excellently written. On the re-read I felt the characters and their experiences far more intensely than on the first one. This is definitely a keeper for me.


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