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3.41 of 5 stars 3.41  ·  rating details  ·  725 ratings  ·  139 reviews
A mousy librarian is called to a remote Canadian island to inventory the estate of a secretive Colonel whose most surprising secret is a bear who keeps the librarian company--shocking company.
Paperback, 141 pages
Published October 1st 2002 by David R. Godine Publisher (first published January 1st 1976)
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23rd out of 53 books — 33 voters
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28th out of 123 books — 26 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,689)
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floating because the comments in this thread: are killing me. ded.

first of all, i want to thank bill thompson, for sending me this book from canada. i also want to thank him specifically for sending me this cover, because it is totally hot and i got to upload it onto myself.

i am now prepared for the customer/patron question: "do y'all have any books where a bear goes down on a lady??" yes. yes i do. but that's pretty reductive, even though the book i
Is this a book where a Canadian woman called Lou smears honey on her labia minora and has a black bear lick it off? Yes.

Is this a book where Lou kneads the bear’s testicles and tries to mount the bear’s penis? Yes.

Is this a book where Lou falls in love with a bear? Yes.

Did Marian Engel win the Governor’s General Award for this book? Yes

Is this book about gratuitous bestiality? No.

Is this book about general bestiality, then? No. (Although clearly, ........).

So, what IS this book about, then?

Marian Engel's Governor General's Award winning novel, BEAR, is a unique little masterpiece.

Unfortunately, this novel seems to have been forgotten.

It opens when Lou, the main character, a librarian, is commissioned to catalog and research the life of an eccentric nineteenth century colonel in the wilds of Ontario. At first, Lou is uncertain she wants to be in such an isolated environment. But once she reaches the remote island house, and begins her cataloging and research, a peace falls upon h
Christina Marie
 photo 7WTInRF_zps890bca7d.png

After stumbling across this on imgur I feel like it's my duty to read this.

For research purposes.

I feel like I'm probably going to regret this decision.
Nate D
Aug 21, 2014 Nate D rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: wilderness vacation reading, sort of
Recommended to Nate D by: knig
Wherein a youngish but isolated-in-her-modern-life archivist leaps at a chance to move into a different sort of isolation (cataloguing an estate library on a remote island) and bonds somewhat surreally-yet-unanthroporphically-realistically with a certain member of the local semi-wildlife. The notes and asides delivered in slips of paper from the past, the setting, the hard deadpan "reality" of the delivery are all handled perfectly. Especially the latter. In another book this would slip into abs ...more
Unlike most of the fiction titles in my bear-bear shelf (at least based on the blurbs), this one does not take the absurdist-magical-sur-realist route. Instead, it admirably goes the route of realism (or what we think of as realism), which is much harder considering the topic. How does a bookish woman end up falling in love and having sexual relations with a bear in any kind of believable fashion? And how do we end up falling for it, not even in a kitschy smirky superior way, but feeling for her ...more
Unconventional sex and sexuality interests me, as a general rule. What interests me most about novels that deal with taboo sex is not the taboo per se, although there is something to be said about reading descriptions of the forbidden that is erotic in and of itself. What I’m chiefly interested in is how taboo sex can answer questions about ourselves, and when we examine depictions of these forbidden encounters, strange intimacies, and abject eroticisms, there are things to be discovered that ca ...more
Jeffrey Luscombe
A brilliant book and one of my favourites. When I was doing my MA at the University of Toronto, I went to McMaster University in Hamilton (who hold's Engel's personal letters) to do some research on her papers. Someone really should do a PhD on her correspondence.
It was the night of the falling stars. She took him to the riverbank. They swam in the still, black water. They did not play. They were serious that night. They swam in circles around each other, very solemnly. Then they went to the shore, and instead of shaking himself on her, he lay beside her and licked the water from her body while she, on her back, let the stars fall, one, two, fourteen, a million, it seemed, falling on her, ready to burn her. Once she reached up to one, it seemed so close

I read this book because there was an article about it floating around Facebook. I believe the actual title of that article was something like 'What the actual fuck, Canada?' because this is a book wherein a woman gets licked by a bear. Bear sex. And not of the hairy dude variety. Bear sex with an actual real bear. And what's more, it's an award-winning book with bear sex in it.

But it's not a book about bear sex.

The writing is beautiful. The sensory detail is phenomenal. There's a scene whe
No sé muy bien en qué lugar me deja esto, pero lo cierto es que encuentro el argumento de Oso uno de los mas llamativos con los que he tenido la oportunidad de cruzarme nunca: una bibliotecaria llamada Lou abandona su puesto de trabajo y se marcha a una mansión victoriana emplazada en una isla remota, lugar donde deberá realizar un inventario sobre la colección personal del coronel que la habitaba. Sin embargo, ligado a la casa existe un atípico personaje (un oso) con el que Lou forjará una rela ...more
Aidan Darnell
If, like me, you came across this book after an imgur or Reddit post that made you question what Canada even is (and I'm Canadian), know that it's actually a lot better than just your typical bear porn.

I mean, there's bear porn, don't get me wrong. A shwack of bear porn. The word "cunt" is used with aplomb. There's an incident with honey and the female body. S**t gets real.

But underneath there's also a pretty decent depiction of how crappy it must have been to be an intelligent, thoughtful, and
Britta ★ Nachteule ★
Sep 02, 2014 Britta ★ Nachteule ★ rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Britta ★ Nachteule ★ by: Weirs Shit Group
3.5 Stars

In our little Weird Shit Group we stumbled across this little treasure.

It was released first in the year 1976 and (like you can guess) there isn't a Kindle Edition or ebook of it.
I found a German edition for a low price and thought I'll try it.

At first you might think it's like all the other weird shit we read in the past when you read the blurb...
Then you read that it is or was a bestseller and ask yourself just why...

I have to admit that I'm still searching for words for this review b
Neal Adolph
This is a fascinating book. Phenomenally well written. The perfect story, an incredible polemic. A challenge to our conception of womanhood, of space, of the environment, of sex and danger. I read it and I was uncomfortable - how foolish this woman, Lou, must be! And the story starts out so idyllic. I want to spend a summer in the almost wild wilderness, living in a 19th Century maison, and cataloging the collection! (I suppose that is a bit unusual.)

But the way the book ends isn't idyllic, at l
Ok, let's be real. Symbolism and allegory aside, this book is about a lady who gets off with a bear. Needless to say, I won't ever look at bears and honey (and maybe even people in general) without feeling a little sickish from now on but I have to admit wonder and praise for this strange, elegant, unsettling beast.

Engel's economy with words is marvelous and her writing never sensationalizes or betrays respect for her characters. The story feels real and plausible, rooted as it is in the Canadia
Andrea Paterson
well I did it. After all the hype in the blogs recently, I read Bear. 3.5 stars. I have to say, I actually quite liked this book. I was debating giving it 4 stars. Definitely a strange topic, but handled well and with quite a lot of complexity. Also thought Aretha Van Herk's afterward was awesome. A piece of Canadian literature that is definitely worth reading.
Jul 12, 2014 Audrey marked it as not-for-me  ·  review of another edition

You guys.

Look at this cover.

Read the description.

Look at Christina's review here:

Then read this thing on tumblr:

THEN say it with me...

I just keep thinking... I wish we'd covered this book in Canadian Lit! ;)

Oh goodness. This book is erotic even before we meet the bear. Lou gets to go away for the summer to a remote Northern Ontario to live in a Fowler's Octagon and read and archive a 19th century library that contains a few first editions? Away from people? Excuse me for a minute... I've come over all woozy...

And a bear for a boyfriend?? Hel-lo!

But for serious, this is a book of love, not just about love (as per Aritha Van Herk's beautifully written afterword).

And the descriptions of the summer lan
A month or so ago, someone posted on Imgur screenshot of the cover of Bear along with photos of the racier bits and titled it, "What the actual fuck, Canada?". Since the crux of the story concerned a Canadian librarian who goes into the woods to find herself, I knew I had to read it.

And so did everyone else.

Random House Canada recently wrote a blog piece that discussed not only the new spike in sales of the book based on the Imgur posting but also Bear was much more than a woman getting it on w
This book was better than I was expecting...even though I don't know what I was expecting, considering it's a book in which a woman has sex with a bear that was pushed to publication by Robertson Davies and then won the Governor General's award. There's a lot of conflicting information there. But, as I was reading it, I could not judge Lou for her choices. I mean, I would not have made the same choices as her, but I can't really blame her. Especially considering the bear is a smybol or ...more
Steven Langdon
"Bear" is a classic of Canadian literature, and having finally read it, I can understand why. Marian Engel has been daringly audacious, writing the story of what becomes a compulsive sexual relationship between a suppressed woman (who lives like a mole in an underground urban world) and a northwoods black bear associated with a wilderness house that Lou goes to archive.

On one level, this is a book about Lou's rebirth, her escape from suppression to both the freedom of choice and the reconnection
I think I found this in the Canadian Literature section when I was supposed to be reading Physics. I was 20 or so, and it was completely over my head. I should try it again.

I'm a little embarrassed to list this because of the bestiality, but I'm loving Engel's prose. Here we are introduced to Lou in her work.

In the winter, she lived like a mole, buried deep in her office, digging among maps and manuscripts. She lived close to her work and shopped on the way between her apartment and the Institut
Hmmmmm, is this book going where I Think it's going?! lol!

Completed the book: Not really a great book. I really saw no point in it. If you take out the shock factor side of it, it really had not much going for it. I found it disjointed and almost silly. It showed more promise till about 1/2 way through. Scenarios just popped up out of nowhere haphazardly and one would be thinking "hey whoa, where did that come from, and where is it going?" IN the end - nowhere really. Psychologically, it was ext
Amy Riggs
Beautifully written, the description of Northern Ontario is vivid. My first reaction though to this book was that is wierd. However, the Afterward helped to put the story into context and provided insight into perhaps why the author wrote what she did. In the end, a quite interesting story.
May 13, 2015 Jenne rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jenne by: Fred Rosen
Okay, let's just get this out of the way right now: yes, a lady has sex with a bear in this book. but before you get all "hur hur hur bear-sex" about it let me also tell you that it's an amazing, clear-eyed, feminist, engrossing, challenging book that is up there with Margaret Atwood in both prose style and social commentary.
Katie Peterson
I like this book and I think I understand what's great about it, but I don't recommend it to anyone. Ever.
I get it...I just don't get the need for bear sex.
possibly the weirdest book I have ever read
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Canadian novelist, short-story and children's fiction writer, Marian Engel was a passionate activist for the national and international writer’s cause.

She was the first chair of the Writer’s Union of Canada (1973–74) and helped found the Public Lending Right Commission. From 1975-1977, she served on the City of Toronto Book Award Committee (an award she won in 1981 for Lunatic Villas) and the Can
More about Marian Engel...
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“So this was her kingdom: an octagonal house, a roomful of books, and a bear.” 1 likes
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