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The Whirlpool

3.54  ·  Rating Details  ·  429 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
Written in luminous prose, The Whirlpool is a haunting tale set in Niagara Falls, Ontario, in the summer of 1889. This is the season of reckless river stunts, a time when the undertaker’s widow is busy with funerals, her days shadowed by her young son’s curious silence. Across the street in Kick’s Hotel, where Fleda and her husband, David McDougal, have temporary rooms, Fl ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published May 3rd 1997 by McClelland and Stewart (first published 1986)
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Roger Brunyate
May 12, 2016 Roger Brunyate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pure Poetry

Of the seven Jane Urquhart novels I have read, this, her first (1986, but recently reissued in Canada), may be the least eventful viewed simply as a story, but it is unquestionably the most evocative as a piece of pure poetry. It begins and ends with a real poet; Urquhart's prologue and epilogue describe Robert Browning's last day of life in 1889, wandering through unfamiliar parts of Venice, haunted by the spirit of Percy Bysshe Shelley, the Romantic poet who died young of drowning o
Jun 25, 2015 Margarita rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
There is a dreamy, elusive quality to Urquhart's writing that draws me in. Her writing is ethereal and could best be described as lightly skimming a water's surface. What this book missed in mark by way of story - all of the pieces didn't quite click together smoothly enough for me - it made up for in spades by way of mood.
Mar 09, 2016 Mike rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
hmmmmm.....I almost gave up reading this dirge three times.....although the imagery is occasionally fascinating, it doesn't warrant 237 pages. All the references to Browning and Shelley, which initially seem to be integral to the narrative, disappear with no explanation, nor any apparent coherent intent as to why they were referred to in the first instance; aside from, perhaps, a pretentious intent to name-drop much better writers....
A rather strange book set in the Niagara Falls area (a place I have wanted to visit) in the 1880's. It features a diverse cast of characters including the widow of the local undertaker who has taken over her husband's business. She has to deal with all the suicides at the Falls and the stuntmen who fail in their attempts to ride the Rapids or swim the Whirlpool. She has a son with autism who mutely observes everything going on in town. Then there is the Old River Man who constantly watches the F ...more
Urquhart's characters always seem odd to me. Do people like hers really exist? Somehow I'm able to leave that question behind when I'm in her hands and this time was no exception. I was carried along very happily, especially enjoying the parts in the camp setting above the Whirlpool. We visited Niagara and the Gorge so many times when I was young and there really is a magic there. There is usually obsession in her stories, and obsession is always a fascinating condition, I find.
Derek Newman-Stille
Dec 21, 2014 Derek Newman-Stille rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: can-lit
The Whirlpool evokes Urquhart's characteristic exploration of the ways that landscapes can embody memory and the general power of Place. Taking on the iconic setting of Niagara Falls with its larger-than-life evocation of a sense of wonder, Urquhart tells a tale that is fundamentally about the beauty of people and their ability to shift and change like the whirlpool they live next to. Equally a physical space and a dreamscape on which characters project their fears, desires, and identities, the ...more
Philippa Dowding
I love Jane Urquhart, I particularly enjoyed Away and The Under Painter. The Whirlpool is her first novel, and while it's good, it didn't have the same depth for me as other titles. Although descriptive and vivid, and obviously well-researched, it didn't really pull together for me, perhaps because I was disappointed in the fractious relationship between the main characters. There are many vivid characters: an undertaker's widow and her autistic son, the old river man who collects bodies from th ...more
Jack Coleman
Mar 21, 2011 Jack Coleman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This my first exposure to Jane Urquarts writing. An interesting novel set in the late 1890,s
Niagara Falls Ont. Canada. Ethreal quality of the prose like the mists off the river.I also liked
the Poetry.
Aquired book at library book sale.
Adrienne Jones
Jane Urquhart has written two of my favorite books (The Underpainter and Away A Novel. Her more recent The Stone Carvers retained some of her splendid sense of place, but it didn't win me over like her earlier books.

When I sought out The Whirlpool, I was unable to find a US edition. That made me uneasy, so I shelved the book for years until a night of insomnia left me roaming the bookshelf for distraction.

The Whirlpool is definitely a first novel. Despite its relatively short length the book see
Shonna Froebel
This is a novel with many layers, complex and slow. The novel takes place in the summer of 1889.
Patrick works for the government in Ottawa, but has been having issues and has come to stay with his aunt and uncle in Niagara Falls. He is also a published poet and his interest in nature has him wandering in the forest, staring at the river, and interested in a woman he sees on his forest wanderings.
Fleda is the woman in the forest. Fleda's husband David McDougal is fascinated by the War of 1812 and
Aug 13, 2015 Carol rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Set in the summer of 1889, is the beauty of Niagara Falls which is amazing to those who journey there. People have the ability to shift and change, some like forest wanderings, and others like the whirlpool. Fleda is the woman in the forest, who lives in a tent, realizes that Patrick is watching her, which she is both unnerved and flattered. She wants to increase the connection with him, but her need has an outcome she didn't envision. Maud, the widow of the undertaker, still in charge of the fu ...more
Mar 20, 2008 Ali rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This a strange, and yet very poetic novel. I have read Jane Urquhart before and like her writing style. The novel begins with an aging Robert Browning - nearing death in Venice, dreaming of Shelley. The novel ends with him too, and this is possibly the strangest aspect to the book - and not all that easy to understand - although he and Shelley are poets as is one of the characters in the main body of the novel. Water is also a theme- Shelley of course drowned as a young man, and the main part of ...more
The book was alright. The writing was extremely well done, you wouldn't know it was the author's first novel based on the quality and style of writing. But I did find that the characters and the story itself fell a little flat for me.

All of the characters are rather eccentric, they all have their own struggles they are trying to deal with. And the author shows that throughout the book. There is no denying that the characters were well developed and written, but there was always something missing
Jan 07, 2015 Kelly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Whirlpool is on my "favourite shelf" along with a few others, including To kill a mockingbird and The Chronicles of Narnia. Urquhart has written other good books, but this one remains my pick. Thank you to Ms. Urquhart for the worlds whe has opened up.
Czarny Pies
Nov 03, 2014 Czarny Pies rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Whirlpool (le tourbillon) est un roman fort agacant. On y trouve des personnages a peine credible qui fait des gestes bizarres. On ne pleure pas quand ils disparaissent dans les tourbillons pres des chutes de Niagara. Pour ceux qui veulent connaitre Jane Urquhart, je recommende plutot Away.
So readable, the translation of the words into your mind is so easy. I can hear, see, feel, touch everything, I felt thoroughly transported while reading. Is so refreshing to read because of the strangeness of the lyrics the story's voice intoned. Many books are wonderfully lyrical, but this book's lyrics weren't just good, but so different, so far apart, from any other book I've read.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying this negatively, it doesn't bother me in this case, but the book wasn't stro
Jul 21, 2015 Frank rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian-fiction
Mrs. Urquhart tells a haunting tale mostly through indirection and psychological action. The narrative connects four characters living in the Niagara Falls region of Canada, each of whom has a particular link to the region: a historian researching the War of 1812 and obsessed with Laura Secord, his wife, who loves Browning's poetry and staring at the whirlpool near where they are building a new house, a poet obsessed with the wife and the thought of swimming through the nearby whirlpool and a fe ...more
I think I need to read this again to really get a grasp on it. The book was beautiful, but the whole thing seems to happen far away.
L Prunskus
I wish I could give this book another half star because I enjoyed it on so many levels. The language, the metaphors and the dreamy quality of the interwoven story made this book exceptional. Reading this novel felt like watching a classic foreign film. It was elusive.
Interesting novel dealing with the status of women in the late 19th century on the Canadian side of Niagra Falls. Two female characters seek their liberation in distinctly different ways. One begins by freeing herself from the materialism of living in a house (she lives in a large tent constructed by her husband, overlooking the whirpool)and immerses herself in Robert Browning. The other is the widow of the local mortician and she buries those who risk their lives going over the falls. Highlight ...more
David R. Godine
May 19, 2010 David R. Godine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The Whirlpool is a jewel of a book: its finely polished facets are full of light, yet suggest numerous depths … Urquhart's moody, incisive and shimmering prose, her cleverness and wit soar."
Toronto Globe and Mail

"Urquhart's dreamy, circular prose draws the reader in as surely as her characters are pulled to their destiny by the inescapable suction of the whirlpool. Highly recommended."
Library Journal

"A strange and sensual first novel. . . Miss Urquhart is a special writer, worth watching on
Aug 18, 2012 Celticoracle rated it did not like it
I was quite disappointed with this book, having absolutely *loved* Away. I found The Whirlpool to be depressing and generally blah. Jane Urquhart really is a lovely writer - this book just wasn't for me.
MaryAnn F
Nov 18, 2007 MaryAnn F rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
It's a rich read, full of intimate details and glorious landscape, but I found The Whirlpool pretty depressing. It's about the perils of obsession at heart. I much prefer Jane Urquhart's subsequent novels, especially Away and The Underpainter, both of which I intend to re-read soon.
Kathryn Jennex
Mar 05, 2012 Kathryn Jennex rated it it was amazing
Shelves: canadian
My first entry into Urquharts' world where water falls play a significant part in the weaving of a story about a summer in Niagara Falls and the magic the tragedy and magic that happen there in 1869.

*sigh* I should re-read all I have read and start the new!
Matthew Ledrew
Apr 20, 2015 Matthew Ledrew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: romance, un-reviewed
Multi-form storytelling at it’s best, and a must for sci-fi writers: because it isn’t sci-fi. I think you need to learn to write without the sci-fi before you can write successfully with it.
Oct 14, 2012 Anne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in Niagara Falls. The whirlpool comes after the falls, and the book centers on the lives of the people who lose their lives there every year. Very dreamlike and beautiful. Her first novel.
Jun 11, 2007 karen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: CanLit fans
I enjoyed this. The writing was quite vivid and the metaphor of the whirlpool was interesting. I think my favorite character was The Boy.
This would probably make an interesting movie.
Mar 23, 2007 Claire rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like The Underpainter, it does njot compare to Away. It's not bad - set in Niagara and gives a neat glimpse into its past history and explores people's various facinations with the falls.
Sarah Sammis
May 27, 2011 Sarah Sammis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm bumping my review from 3 to 4 stars because the book has stayed with me all these years. I was reminded of it recently when I was reading The Night Fairy of all things.
Feb 16, 2011 Jody rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The parallel stories had little to do with one another. Both were interesting in themselves though.
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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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