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3.81  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,315 Ratings  ·  231 Reviews
A stunning, evocative novel set in Ireland and Canada, Away traces a family's complex and layered past. The narrative unfolds with shimmering clarity, and takes us from the harsh northern Irish coast in the 1840s to the quarantine stations at Grosse Isle and the barely hospitable land of the Canadian Shield; from the flourishing town of Port Hope to the flooded streets of ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published July 1st 1995 by Penguin Books (first published 1993)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Not a bad novel but in the end, I got annoyed with how she wouldn't write a simple sentence. No kettles boil; it's always symphonies of misty steam, swirling and dancing, up, past the kitchen window, obscuring her view like the hot version of the frost on this January morning, reminding her of the way the sprites danced, also elusive to view, also form-changing, also obstructing the clarity of sight, but of the mind's sight instead of the eye's. Beautiful for awhile, but bloody annoying soon eno ...more
Aug 29, 2013 Krista rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, can-con
Speaking as a Canadian of mixed heritage, it's always a bit annoying when our official policy of Multiculturalism forces us to answer the question, "What's your nationality?" Many times over their school years, my kids were told to bring in a dish from or write a report on their nation of origin, and as my husband is also of mixed heritage, there's something rather pointless, to me, about them self-identifying as any single one of the many cultures that went into their makeup. After I don't even ...more
Sep 14, 2012 Irene rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am often caught between giving 3 or 4 stars to a book, and wish half stars were an option. In my universe (pun intended) 5 stars is reserved for books that are not only well written and creative but that catch me up emotionally and transport me someplace else while I'm immersed in them. 4 stars are for books that are almost there -- I usually appreciate the writing but don't feel connected enough into the book's world. Three stars are for books that are above average in terms of writing but ba ...more
Jul 03, 2016 Shane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As the opening line suggests, this is a story about women, four generations of them, and their migratory journey from Ireland to Canada. These are mystical women, in touch with the spiritual world, whose men appear in mirages, out of the water or while converting their sorrows into dance. Water is another key player in the novel, whether it be the sea surrounding Rathlin Island in Northern Ireland or the lakes of Ontario, for water circumscribes worlds, separating them from others that are “away ...more
Lianne Burwell
Away is the second of the Canada Reads 2013 books to arrive from the library, and after being somewhat disappointed by Lisa Moore's February, I was a little worried when I cracked this one open.

I needn't have worried. This book sucked me in from the first page. On the one had we have Esther, an elderly woman living on the edge of the Great Lakes in a home that is apparently going to be overrun by an expanding quarry. And at the same time, we have the story of her great-grandmother, Mary, who cha
Lindahobbs64 Hobbs
If you’ve ever been haunted by the memory of an unrequited crush – you’ve been “away.” Obviously, Urquhart draws this out into a splendid family saga, but I found myself able to relate to the sentiment, and that’s what kept me reading. I know that haunted feeling. I’ve gazed out the window, as these characters did, hoping to catch a glimpse of that object of desire that never comes. I know that electric shock from the simple brush of a hand in passing, a shock you foolishly cherish and never for ...more
Jul 06, 2010 Tina rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book felt like a book you would be forced to read in high school - a Canadian high school specifically. It was somewhat engaging but about halfway through I was nearing boredom. The beginning was very interesting with the hint of the supernatural, but the whole fact that Mary's "away-ness" permeated the text made it lose realism for me and made me scoff at times. The parts I liked were actually about the men; they were so level-headed and interesting whereas the women were flighty and power ...more
Aug 02, 2014 Julie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I would say this is Jane Urquhart at her best, but then I say that about every one of her books. This is also a book I re-read every couple of years when I want to center myself -- a book where my point of convergence places me firmly in time, and out of time. There is something that is sheer poetry about every word she writes. This one in particular, feels like reading a lovely, elegiac poem to Canada, and to Ireland.

Through Urquhart's poetic vision we are introduced to 4 generations of Irish,
Jan 08, 2014 Kimberly rated it it was amazing
Lyrical does not begin to describe Urquhart's writing. There were so many passages that I reread to truly appreciate their beauty that you could say I read this book one and a half times. She has a way of creating a scene that entirely surrounds you, all of the senses are involved, such that the novel stays with you long after you set it down. Remarkable. Captivating. I am not doing it justice. Read it. You'll see.
Ug. Let me start by saying that I really loved Jane Urquhart's The Stone Carvers. So when I was browsing recently for something short to read (in English, not exactly easy in my neighborhood), I came across a few of her other novels. This is the story of Irish immigrants who move to Canada during the famine. Haunting and lyrical! Sounds great! I'm game!
But once you add in the magical realism aspect of "away", I got lost. Not just lost, but annoyed. And because so much time is spent on the concep
Jan 25, 2011 Nancy rated it it was ok
Recommended to Nancy by:
This book was given to me by my French professor because of it's connection to Grosse-Ile, which I toured while in Quebec. It began interestingly enough with a view of life during the potato famine in Ireland, something my own Irish ancestors endured. Beyond that, I found the book a struggle to finish. One of the reviewers said it felt like a book you were required to read for a class and I couldn't agree more. The author writes in an extremely descriptive manner which is beautiful, but it's def ...more
Jennifer D
for me, the strength of this novel was in the middle section of the story. during this part, i was fully engaged and fell into the flow of the writing. the first and final thirds of the book, though, were just so-so for me. too many times during these sections i felt like ideas were being floated at the reader or moments of 'aren't i clever?' (through the use of language or how certain sentences were structured) were happening and it distracted me. i also didn't really feel there was a good flow ...more
Sep 24, 2011 Zara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian-fiction
The body of this novel in its narration is as suspended as the pendulum movement of waves in a body of water, of which the book is gravitationally focused.

It speaks of a history that dates back to 1842 on an island of Rathlin, just off the northern coast of Ireland and moves as its characters move in migration to the area of the Great Lakes in Canada 140 years later. As such, it is both a book of the early politics between the English and the Irish during the Irish famine in the mid 19th century
Harry Maier
Aug 14, 2013 Harry Maier rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What to say about this book other than, Oh dear. This book seriously annoyed me. It piles up stereotype upon stereotype as it traces the four generations of an Irish family from the period of the Great Potato Famine through to settlement in Canada and ending in contemporary SW Ontario on the family homestead. We know these Irish: they are mystics, poets, alcoholics, bad tempered, skinflints, political agitators, lord-of-the-dancers, etc etc etc. We also know this Canada they settle: bad winters, ...more
Jan 06, 2013 Pam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had forgotten how lovely this book was. I read it awhile ago, but decided to reread it when I saw it was a finalist for Canada Reads.. The language in this book is mesmerizing and you can feel the emotions of each character weighted in the words used to construct this book. There is constant reference to the poetry in the souls of the Irish people and that poetry is reflected in the style of the novel itself. I also love how Urqhart weaves the narratives of multiple generations together, but a ...more
I really enjoyed this book. I loved the historical backdrop both in Ireland and Canada. The introduction of the landlords was wonderful and added a lightness to what was otherwise potentially very dark. Especially since they were so oblivious and blind.

The away bits were believable for me if you compare them to depression - which I have been told feels like you are away from yourself, your family and your surroundings. An interesting take and makes the whole story believable.

Wonderfully written
Jun 27, 2016 Marlies rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Folklore, politics, and family secrets. Urquhart creates a narrative of thin spaces where stories and reality mix in a way that shows life is never truly what it seems on the surface. What a brilliant novel!
Mar 20, 2016 Sharon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book rich in Canadian and Irish history. A little too much anguish and self-reflection. I guess that that is life.
Oct 26, 2015 Courtenay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So beautifully written.
Jan 08, 2013 Erika rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, canada-reads
I enjoyed this book more than two of the other Canada Reads books so this is 2/4 so far. I have one more to go before I can make my final choice for the winner! This book was well written and interesting although it did tend to get a bit wordy in parts. I was lost a few times about who the characters were and why they were there but overall it was a good read. Does not make me want to run out and read another Urquhart book though.
Jun 14, 2016 Alice rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Story of three generations of a family who emigrates from Ireland to Canada. The story itself is good (& what kept me going) but the writing is terrible. Somehow or other it won a Trillium award. The writing is so artificial, to the point of ridiculousness.
For example,
"The cows are gone, now, from Loughbreeze Beach Farm, they have drifted into the cedars beyond the ruined pastures. There is no song, no call that will make them turn and begin the sedate evening journey homewards. They graze
May 31, 2015 Sheila rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A young woman finds a man clinging to a barrel on the shore of Ireland in the 1830-40 time period. He dies soon after. She becomes distant and imagines herself belonging to the sea. A young schoolteacher falls in love with her and marries her realizing she will never 'belong to him'. At first they seem happy, and their son is born. Then the potato famine strikes and one of the landlord brothers arranges for them to emigrate to Canada. They settle on land in Upper Canada and try to farm. They sto ...more
Heathercheryl Stevenson
I read this book when it was first published and I remember loving it. Favourite word picture in the book sticks with me still; As the young woman sails to Canada her ship disappears over the horizon and at that moment her former landlord is watching through a microscope a drop of water disappear by evaporation. I think it is time to read this book again.
Oct 14, 2012 Anne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A young woman living on an island off the north coast of Ireland falls in love with a drowned sailor whose body washes up on the beach after a storm. The townsfolk say she is "away" - her soul stolen by the fairy people although her body remains. Beautiful prose, interesting story. Compelling mix of history, mysticism, politics and romance.
Murielle Cyr
May 22, 2015 Murielle Cyr rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jane Urquhart’s enchanting novel, Away, is a touching tale of love and abandonment that spans through four generations and covers two continents. Esther, an elderly woman narrates her great-grandmother Mary’s poor beginnings on the northern Irish coastline and her desperate move across the Atlantic to the unforgiving shores of the Canadian Great Lakes.
Her description of the suffering and terrible injustices experienced by the victims of the Irish potato famine was heart wrenching, as was the cru
Nov 23, 2011 Nancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian-authors
Loved, loved, loved this book.

It's the immigration story - with a focus on women.

It's the mental illness story - connected with traumatic early life events that aren't resolved or explained.

It's about breaking "away" and finding yourself.

It's about isolation and loneliness.

Amazing read.
May 22, 2016 Susy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another Irish immigrant tale but the twist for me was the emigrants arrived not to Ellis Island but to Canada's unforgiving eastern shore. But before the family of our story, Brian, Mary & young Liam, set sail thanks to the generosity of their landowner, we first endure the potato famine with them. Once in Canada conditions improve somewhat but they've brought harrowing memories of the harsh times in the west of Ireland which cloud their lives still.
As the novel progresses we learn more abo
Nov 05, 2013 Dorothy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. Another title by this author that has been recommended by me and I am looking forward to reading it.
Jan 24, 2009 Kenna rated it it was amazing
It has been years since I first discovered this book, but it still haunts me with it's lyrical story.
Mar 11, 2012 Ishbel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book. Great images that stay in the mind for years
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She is the author of seven internationally acclaimed novels entitled, The Whirlpool, Changing Heaven, Away, The Underpainter, The Stone Carvers, A Map of Glass, and Sanctuary Line.

The Whirlpool received the French Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger (Best Foreign Book Award). Away was winner of the Trillium Book Award and a finalist for the prestigious International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. The Un
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“Old Eileen leaned forward in her chair, thrusting her face closer to the child who had been gradually approaching her. "Where is the centre of the world?" she abruptly demanded. Esther stood silently in front of her, holding onto a book she had forgotten to put on a table. She did not know the answer to the riddle. "The place where you stand," Old Eileen said. The place where you stand is the centre of the world.” 1 likes
“As the sky behind the Eddy Match Factory across the river filled with light, the steady timbre of the water and rapids became sentences spoken in a soft female voice and Eileen accepted, without surprise, the presence of her mother's lost words. So this is what it is to be away, her mother's voice told her. You are never present where you stand. You see the polished dishes in your kitchen cupboard throwing back the hearth light, but they know neither you nor the meals you have taken from their surfaces. Your flagstones are a series of dark lakes that you scour, and the light that touches and alters them sends you unspeakable messages. Waves arch like mantles over everything that burns. Each corner is a secret and your history is a lie.” 0 likes
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