Granville Island Pairings: The Certainties

This series pairs recently released books with items from some of our favourite Granville Island shops. This week, Festival Assistant Aditya Bhagirath expands his horizons and travels to St. Marcellin. 

If I’m being honest, I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with cheese. I like it on pizza, can tolerate it on pasta but have historically had little patience for it when accompanied with other foods, let alone eating cheese by itself. However, as I’ve grown older (21 is old, right?), I’ve found myself becoming a lot more open to experimenting with cheeses, and as such, have begun to delight in its taste. There’s so much flavour just waiting to be unearthed, whether it’s eaten alone or added to a leafy salad drizzled with olive oil and chili flakes.

I felt similarly while reading Aislinn Hunter’s wondrous novel, The Certainties. I’m not saying I tore pages out of the book and ate it, of course; rather, I’m talking about the experience of slowly becoming more and more engrossed and enthralled within a novel’s complexity. Set in both a 1940s Spanish village and a remote Atlantic isle in the 1980s, Hunter deceptively tells two disparate tales: one of a professor desperately trying to forge a new path for a better future, and the other of a woman named Pia who finds herself trying to reconcile her past as she struggles to embrace her present.

Where the true magic happens is in the way that Hunter’s prose evokes such a vivid sense of place, time and character that also manages to connect the two characters despite their differences. Take a simple line that appears early in the book through the voice of the professor, “[B]ut in that glass [of wine], I remembered that I had once felt full of the world, that my hunger was satiated by it.” I felt such a resounding pang of longing when I read it, but for what? Many pages later in Pia’s story, I came across the line, “The world is a mirror. It will not remember us after we pass through it.” What a depressing thought, but somewhat comforting nevertheless, no? Shouldn’t we take all the chances at contentment that we can grab onto, before we fade away?

With a dainty teaspoon, I am scooping up bits of cheese I got from Benton Brothers Fine Cheese. The cheese is named St. Marcellin after a French town in the Rhône-Alpes region. It is a soft cheese, and tastes similarly to cream. And right at the end, when you think you’ve pegged St. Marcellin down, it snaps you with a lingering sharpness. It wills you not to forget it, not to underestimate it. As time goes on, though the cheese will remain the same, it will age into something else entirely. It cannot know what that journey looks like, but rest assured, there is much joy to be found even in the most terrifying of situations.


Aditya Bhagirath