Saturday, October 12

Book Reviews: Minister Without Portfolio

Title: Minister Without Portfolio

Author: Michael Winter

Pages: 326

Summary: Henry Hayward is a drowning man. With a soured long-term romance finally at an end, no family, and no refuge to be had in work, he progressively spends his days in the solace of alcohol and his nights with a series of interchangeable partners. In a quest to simultaneously recover from unrequited love and to find meaning in what is becoming an increasingly emotionally arid life, Henry travels to Afghanistan as an army-affiliated contractor.

When Henry becomes embedded in a regiment, he doesn't have time to think about his fixation on Nora or the fragments of his old life, a life he wasn't really living anyway. But everything changes during a tragic roadside incursion when a routine patrol suddenly turns fatal. And Henry, who survives, knows in his heart that he is responsible.

Upon returning home, now tormented by guilt in addition to ennui, he begins to feel even more rootless and restless until the question of his deceased friend’s summer home arises. Soon Henry is trying to bring meaning back to his life and to make posthumous amends by planning to buy and repair his friend’s dilapidated family house. But he hasn't factored family history into the picture—and his deceased friend’s girlfriend has a revelation of her own that may change everything.

My Rating: 6.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: There were times where I was struggling with the book, but there were other times where I enjoyed it. It's a book I'm not entirely sure how I feel about, it wasn't exactly the book for me in the end, but I wouldn't say it was a bad read either.

One of the things that threw me off was the writing style, which I just didn't like. While there were times there were some lovely descriptions and what the author had to say at other times was very profound, the writing style was to "tell the reader every detail of every action the character does" for my liking. Which was one of the main reasons I couldn't get into the book, having actions like; walking to the car and sitting down into that car and then starting that car and then driving that car, drove me nuts. And I think that, that style of writing, took my concentration away from the heart of the story and of Henry's struggles and development of a character.

The characters weren't exactly to my liking either, but I'm unsure if it's because of their individual personalities and interactions with each other, or if it was because how the book was written. Henry was a well written character, but I'm unsure how I feel about him. The plot itself was well done I think that had the narrative been written differently, I would have enjoyed the book a lot more than I did, and would have been more invested in the plot and characters.

Overall, it wasn't bad read, but it wasn't exactly my cup of tea either.

Would I recommend it to read: I would. I think a lot of readers would enjoy the style of writing and the story as well. Other like me won't, but I do think a lot of other readers out there would enjoy the book. v

What to read next: The other Giller Longlisted books

Challenges: 100 Books Challenge, 2013 Category Challenge, 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge

This book is part of an ongoing read project on the blog to read all of the 2013 Giller Longlist book selections. Click Here for further details.


  1. I'm glad that you are vetting the Giller list for me! I will still probably end up reading most of them, but I will also be keeping an eye on what you have to say.

  2. Hehe. I haven't paid much attention to reviews until after I've read mine. I wish in some cases I had, because I'd have read them in a different order. Right now it's - when the book is available at the library. Glad your enjoying my attempts to read the entire longlist. It's been interesting to see the difference in books this years list has.

  3. This is one I would have picked up anyway, Giller longlist or no: I've enjoyed his other fiction too. Do you think you would try another, not having really connected with this one?

    1. I might take a peak at some this author's work. As there were some aspects I like, and it's always worth trying an author out again - perhaps this one was just a fluke. Do you have any recommendations?