Now this is a book that I waited for until it was available for my Kobo, and although I am normally such a huge proponent of e-reading, and though it helps prevent wrist-strain in case of books like Fall of Giants, I am here to tell you that if you have a choice between reading The Glass Harmonica on an e-reader or in a paper copy, you should read the paper book. Either way, you should definitely read it, but you’re probably going to want to flip back and forth a lot as you’re reading, going back to previous chapters to go “Oohhhh … was that the time when …” and “Wait, he was the guy who …” and frankly, all that is easier when you have a paper book. Write that down, because that’s the first negative thing you’ve ever heard me say about e-books.
That said, Wangersky’s The Glass Harmonica is a vivid, brilliant, gritty view of life on one working-class St. John’s street. The story is bracketed by two violent crimes, one committed as the novel opens, the other buried far in the past and only revealed gradually, through the memories of characters. In between, there are plenty of other crimes, mostly petty ones — there is nothing idealized or picturesque about Wangersky’s vision of life on a street of row houses in the centre of Canada’s oldest city.
The story jumps backward and forward in time and the point of view shifts amongst a number of different characters — but while this is challenging, and there are times you’d like to do the aforementioned flipping back and forth to help fit the pieces together, Wangersky does provide enough clues, both in the chapter headings and in the story itself, to help the reader keep everything straight. Many of the stories are linked together in quite ingenious ways, although there are some loose ends left untied at the end. What will stay with me about The Glass Harmonica is not the plot, though, but the incredible evocation of a place and the absolutely believable characters who inhabit it.