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3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  3,007 ratings  ·  188 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 May 1st 1997 by Emblem Editions (first published 1993)
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Best Canadian Literature
63rd out of 667 books — 546 voters
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Canadian Fiction
70th out of 514 books — 402 voters

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Jan 09, 2010 Kate added it
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
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
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...more
Jan 25, 2011 Nancy rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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,...more
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
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...more
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.
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.
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
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...more
Harry Maier
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
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...more
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.
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.
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.
I really enjoyed this book. Another title by this author that has been recommended by me and I am looking forward to reading it.
It has been years since I first discovered this book, but it still haunts me with it's lyrical story.
Excellent book. Great images that stay in the mind for years
In 1842, a beautiful young Irishwoman falls in love with a dying sailor who has been washed up on shore by a terrible storm. He dies in her arms as she sleeps and when she awakens she is different. The locals are convinced, by her strange behaviour, that she is “away”; that is, that she is no longer herself but has been replaced by one of the “others”.

I was completely drawn in by Mary’s story. It is beautifully written, and is quite intriguing. Is she “away” really? What exactly has happened to...more
While it took me some time to warm up to the book, I ended up becoming lost in Urquhart's lyrical prose and storytelling, which created a very enjoyable read.

The beginning was slow and a little odd, it was a combination of folklore and magical realism - or perhaps a mental illness. Either way you look at it, it was an odd beginning of the book and an odd way to introduce the cast of characters. Despite an odd beginning, the author pulls it off, and pulls the reader into her lyrical writing styl...more
There are so many elements of this story that felt patched together; the 'generational family epic' element doesn't really pan out, or at least it needed another several hundred pages for Urquhart to get to where it seemed like she wanted to go. The political history is told in a befuddling way, particularly with the D'Arcy McGee parts. Characters and side stories are introduced that don't go anywhere or connect in any way that I could suss out.
And, most important in my own lack of enjoyment of...more
Elizabeth Barter
'Away' is novel about hardship, mental illness, and the life of a small family from Northern Ireland, when they migrate from their homeland and try to make a living in the dominion of Upper Canada.THe mother is an impressionable young woman who finds the body of a shipwrecked sailor. He is a beautiful boy,who dies in her arms.' Mary' becomes 'Moira', the name she gives herself , after her'enchanted lover', speaks the name before he dies.We are never told what happens in this young woman's life,t...more
The story begins in a small island in the northern-most tip of Ireland where we are introduced to young Mary, a beautiful daughter of a peasant who lives with her widowed mother in a cabin, three fields from the sea. One night during a furious storm, Mary is believed to be consumed by the sea and the next morning is found laying beside a drowned man. Ever since, the girl who had been blessed with the gift of eloquence has been considered as “away”. People are convinced that her soul has been tak...more
Jane Urquhart's novel was not one I would have read on my own, but it was on my Canadian Literature reading list. Though her writing style is somewhat flowery, it is, for the most part, an easy read.

It consists of three seperate parts, the second being tedious, especially in the beginning. When Urquhart writes about Mary or Eileen the story is much more interesting than when Liam is the main character (which is in book II).

I loved the beginning, with the sailor dying in Mary's arms, and all the...more
Away by Jane Urquhart!

This is the first time reading anything by Jane Urquhart and I am very glad that I took the opportunity to read this novel. We all have families and ancestors that we may know very little about or almost nothing at all. Away captures one family’s struggle from the 1840’s on. The wording took me on a journey of memory with an ease that I have rarely felt in any other book.

The main character, Mary, has an experience with something that not quite real and it leaves her differe...more

The writing was good and there were moments when it really popped from the page especially when it was regarding Mary being “away”. A major plus for the book was its incorporation of the folklore/superstition. It was great to have something like this in literary fiction that still maintained its realism and it was, for me, the most interesting part. I was happy that it was set in a time where Canada was at its early days in becoming a country which allowed for a Canadian like myself to real...more
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CBC Books: Away by Jane Urquhart discussion 21 64 Feb 12, 2013 07:28PM  
  • Two Solitudes
  • The Age of Hope
  • Indian Horse
  • February
  • Rockbound
  • River Thieves
  • The Piano Man's Daughter
  • The Diviners
  • Who Has Seen the Wind
  • The Englishman's Boy
  • Kiss of the Fur Queen
  • The Navigator of New York
  • Kit's Law
  • No Great Mischief
  • A Student of Weather
  • The Jade Peony
  • Random Passage
  • The Cure For Death By Lightning
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...more
More about Jane Urquhart...
The Stone Carvers The Underpainter A Map of Glass Sanctuary Line The Whirlpool

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“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
“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.” 0 likes
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