Cover Image: Reproduction

Reproduction

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Member Reviews

I received this book complimentary from NetGalley but all opinions are my own. 

God. This was painful for me to read. I couldn’t connect with any of the characters and the writing was awkward. I just didn’t love any of the characters and I hate the pregnancy trope where a character who dislikes another gets pregnant. I just don’t love it. I couldn’t get into this at all.
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Ian Williams is an award winning poet, so it is no shock that his first novel, Reproduction, is ambitious, experimental, but still at it’s core a huge family saga and a love story. I loved most of it, and I was totally sucked in and engaged in the story and the structure until the very last part, part four where it just does not click like the first eighty percent of the novel. The novel does revolve around reproduction, and the structure is great and reflects this. This is explained in an interview with the author the January 2019 edition of “Quill and Quire.” Read the whole interview here.




How did you conceive of the book’s structure?

I wanted to write a book that would reproduce itself, so it’s in four parts and each part approaches reproduction differently. In part one it’s biological. It’s in 23 paired chapters so it’s chromosomal. Part two has four characters, so we go from those two characters to four characters and 16 chapters. And part three [grows] exponentially, from 16 to 256 small sections.

At the end of part three the book gets cancer and you see those tumours growing in the superscript and the subscript [rendered by the text flowing intermittently above, below, and along the sentence lines]. That is the final form of reproduction beyond human control. It’s complex but it should read like a good love story. That’s the only thing I want to read and write, or care about in people’s lives. One of the first questions I ask [socially] is “How did you meet so-and-so?”




I deeply loved most of this novel. The first three sections, really hit, and I spent hours at a time reading. The fourth part just seems to run out of momentum. There is so much dynamic between all of the characters, between Felicia and Edgar, between Felicia and Oliver, between Oliver and Army, between Oliver and his ex, between Army and Heather, all of the characters have tension between them, and it feels real. This is not always executed very well, but in this case the tension is almost palpable. This is such a testament to the strength of the writing. Williams does not spare the time it takes to really develop all of the main characters, and he really does a great job with the structure and the experimentation. It does not feel as gimmicky as some books that try to do the same thing. Maybe because the story feels so genuine and the characters as strong and developed, it seems like the structure feels genuine too. 




I do love this novel, and now that I am thinking about the last section being that way because the cells are filled with cancer, I do not dislike it as much as I did while reading it. I will be looking forward to anything else that Williams writes and will likely reread this novel at some point. 

4.5 out of 5 stars.

I received this as an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Great story about the growth of a relationship over decades. Entertaining but the lack of punctuation made it confusing at times.
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Felicity and Edgar meet when their mothers are assigned to the same room, in a Toronto hospital that is dealing with being flooded. One mother lives, the other does not. Felicity and Edgar develop a relationship based on a combination of need, compassion, and a willingness to take advantage. This is not a love story. 

Years later, Felicity and her son are renting the downstairs portion of a split level home in a diverse neighborhood. Army is determined to make his fortune. His landlord and upstairs neighbor would like him to stop conducting his business in the shared garage. The landlord's son is interested in ant life. The landlord's teenage daughter is bored, but she has her eye on a cute guy working at the mall. 

This novel is about families, and how they sometimes form because of nothing more than proximity and need. It's about being an immigrant and a hyphenated Canadian. It's about choices and living with those choices. Ian Williams won the Giller Prize for this novel. It's a lively and modern take on the usual immigrant tale. It also sagged in the final third as Williams played with format and style. Some of his risks paid off (like how a character's name was misspelled in different ways near the end) but others proved more distracting than effective. In the end, I appreciated this novel more than I enjoyed it.
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I tried to read this book 2 times. I just simply could not get into it. There was just nothing interesting about it to keep me going. Thank you for my advance copy
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This one, I think, would have gotten five stars from me just because of its sheer ambitiousness. I'm not a fan of experimental fiction, and frankly would probably not have requested this from NetGalley if I knew that's what this was. But, surprisingly, it worked for me on just about every level: superb character development, an intriguing premise, mind-blowingly courageous, and filled with humor, insight and multiple levels of emotional resonance. It also didn't hurt that there were subtle treatments of every social issue I am most attentive to: race, class, gender, immigration ... and of course, love. The complicated imperfection of the characters, and the realistic portrayal of their personal and interpersonal journeys over a span of about two decades kept me fully engaged, even through those parts where the author's stylistic flourishes had me scratching my head.

Some people will absolutely hate this book, especially if their preference is straightforward, just-the-facts-ma'am narrative. This book doesn't give you that. Like, at all. It jumps between and over time, uses only the most necessary and sparing punctuation, and doesn't shy away from dialect. It is a challenging book in that way, but still, an amazing accomplishment that reminds me just how limitless the bounds of storytelling can be if you're a writer who is as unafraid as Ian Williams clearly is.
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I really wanted to love this book. I was intrigued by the description of the plot. Sadly, I had a hard time getting into this book. The writing was very experimental and I can appreciate what the author was attempting to create. However, as a writing teacher, I just couldn't get through this novel without proper dialogue punctuation. I was unable to finish the book.
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