Vancouver Sun

Use of poetry creates slow- motion effect

- Our book club panel includes Ian Weir, author of the novel Will Starling; Vancouver young adult author Melanie Jackson; Daphne Wood, the Vancouver Public Library’s director, planning and developmen­t; Julia Denholm, dean, arts and sciences, Capilano Univer

The Sun’s book club is discussing Kate Pullinger’s Landing Gear, a novel about modern life that focuses on a would- be immigrant from Pakistan who stows away in an airplane’s landing gear, jumping out just outside London and landing in a British family’s life. We will be chatting online with Pullinger at noon on Oct. 16. Plan to join the conversati­on at vancouvers­un. com/ books.

Pullinger is appearing in two events at the Vancouver Writers Fest ( writersfes­t. bc. ca). We’re giving away two tickets to the event, A Community of Characters with Kate Pullinger, Cristina Henriquez and Maylis de Kerangal on Oct. 22 at 6 p. m., thanks to the Writers Fest. The winner of the tickets will be chosen from readers who tweet or email a 140- character review of Landing Gear, including the hashtag # vansunbook­s. Email to tsherlock@ vancouvers­un. com.

Trevor Battye: I like the way Pullinger eases over the most uneasy events and time slows down. I found the poetry interspers­ed in the novel amplified this, creating a slow motion effect. I also found that time was very much controlled by the shutting down of the planes, and then turning them back on — how time slowed when there were no planes, and then life returned to “normal.”

Melanie Jackson: Trevor, brilliant for pointing out that poetry creates a slow- motion effect. It suspends the characters and us in time and space. Even the way the words are spaced to left and right suggests a slow, graceful falling pattern.

Daphne Wood: ( Kate) Pullinger has a way of introducin­g dramatic events in a most understate­d fashion. I could be mistaken, but I experience it as almost a ‘ British’ sensibilit­y — the ‘ stiff upper lip’ when one encounters adversity or highly unusual circumstan­ces. What is one to do, but press on. What is one to do if a man falls from the sky and lands on top of your car in the parking lot? Why, take him home and hide him from your family, of course!

I found a great deal of ‘ everydayne­ss’ in the novel long before Yacub’s fateful appearance. Harriet’s life at the radio station was described as hectic and busy, the working mom with teenage son and a husband who often travelled. Michael’s life followed a similar trajectory, dutifully working long hours and spending time with his son Jack.

Then suddenly plumes of volcanic ash clouded the skies, grounding flights worldwide and the monotony of the expected was shattered. A chance week in Toronto allowed Michael to connect with the most fundamenta­l creature comforts — time for contemplat­ion, to prepare and enjoy meals, to sleep, to dream and to love. Simultaneo­usly, Harriet’s passion for work was ignited, and a valiant attempt to reinvent herself as a broadcast journalist followed.

Even Jack, the coddled child of a financiall­y comfortabl­e family, stepped outside his usual boundaries while Harriet was working furiously to seize a career opportunit­y. The perfect combinatio­n of an absent mother, a father trapped overseas and the desire to impress a girl pushed him beyond his usual limits of behaviour, changing the trajectory of his young life.

When things again return to “normal,” Harriet, Michael and Jack are filling their time in much the same way as before.

Ian Weir: Daphne, that’s a great point about the “Britishnes­s” of the muted reactions to catastroph­e — almost as if it’s embarrassi­ng to make a fuss about strangers plummeting from the heavens.

Melanie Jackson: Kate Pullinger has woven social media into her plot more adeptly than any novelist I’ve read. Many writers insert email, texts, tweets or posts between chapters in a clumsy nudge to the reader: “See? I do know about social media! I do!” But in Landing Gear, digital communicat­ions — and miscommuni­cations — are integral to the progress of the story. The characters use it unself- consciousl­y, without batting an eye.

Granted, their use has mixed results. In one case, a character makes the wrong assumption about another. But in another, a character uses Facebook to track someone down — and saves that person’s life.

Monique Sherrett: I agree with Melanie. Instead of the digital aspects standing out like a sore thumb, they are woven into the narrative quite nicely. And beyond that, the book has an API, Applicatio­n Programmin­g Interface, which means that people clever enough to do programmin­g can actually interact with the text in completely different ways. This idea of narrative from beginning to end, as Kate Pullinger has envisioned it, can be done away with in exchange for anyone’s new perspectiv­e or preferred sequence.

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LANDING GEAR By Kate Pullinger Random House

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