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 while 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.


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