Sanctuary Line
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Sanctuary Line

3.44 of 5 stars 3.44  ·  rating details  ·  555 ratings  ·  111 reviews
Told through delicate and masterful narration, Jane Erquhart's new novel, Sanctuary Line, seamlessly weaves together fragments of present day farm life on the shores of Lake Erie with harrowing snapshots of deep family turmoil marred by stains of death and regret.
Hardcover, 200 pages
Published February 1st 2011 by MacAdam/Cage Publishing (first published August 31st 2010)
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The nature of memories

“Sanctuary Line” is about family tradition and how those family legends impact the current generation. It’s also a coming of age novel though the main character is probably in her 40’s. The story is told in childhood flashbacks by Liz Crane who’s currently working as an etymologist and living in her now government owned childhood family seat which used to be a working orchard. She reconsiders the stories her uncle loved to tell her and her cousin Amanda who was like a siste...more
I found this book very hard to get through. Urquart no doubt is very talented with the written word but unfortunately the story got lost in her words. It takes the entire book to get to the story which occurs in the last couple of chapters. There are a few moments of brilliance in these last chapters but not enough to compensate for the overly wordy story that is all over the map in the beginning and middle of the book. The fact that there was no resolve of any sort left me more than frustrated...more
switterbug (Betsey)
The Butlers, a once prosperous Irish-American family, ran a progressive farm and orchards on the shore of Lake Erie in southwestern Ontario. The road that ran from the shore to inland was called Sanctuary Line. The orchards have now decayed, the farm has gone to seed, and the family has been gone since a crucial night in the 1980's, a night of crisis which is the dramatic center of this novel. The enigmatic patriarch, Stan Butler, was uncle to the fatherless Liz Crane, the novel's melancholic na...more
Eric Wright
Initially I didn't know whether to give Urquhart's new book two stars or 4+. The story is told from the perspective of Liz Crane, an entomologist moved into the now deserted farmhouse of her relatives. She was hired to study the migratory patterns of the Monarch butterfly. But in her story she muses over the deterioration of her family's fortunes starting from the 19th century to the present. What started as a promising family with a thriving orchard business on the short of Lake Erie in Ontario...more
I’m writing about Jane Urquhart’s A Map of Glass for the big T right now, and so I should begin this post with the caveat that my interpretation of Sanctuary Line may be skewed by my frustration with writing about A Map of Glass. That said, even though I am writing endless pages about it, I like A Map of Glass. I do not, however, like Sanctuary Line.

The top lists of 2010 like Sanctuary Line. They like it, I suspect, because it comes heavily laden with symbolism and with the promise that this. is...more
Carrie Marcotte
Beautiful, haunting novel. Jane Urquhart did not disappoint with this one. It is the story of a woman who comes back to live at the family farm after everyone has gone away. The family has broken apart - died, moved away and she seems to be the final keeper of the family memory. Throughout the novel, the author recollects stories from times the family was happier, while subconsciously hinting to the causes of the family demise. I loved the subtlety of the symbolism - the author values the intell...more
I admit this book caught my eye on a library shelf because of the cover. I love butterflies, nature, so I picked it up and started reading the jacket copy and only read "Solitary, nostalgic Liz Crane returns to her family's now-deserted farmhouse . . . to study the migratory habits of the Monarch butterfly" and I was "caught."

I have heard about this writer, but never read her, and am so glad I found this book. It's not perfect--the plot seems forced in some places, the big secret that is reveale...more
Readers who are patient and like to linger in reflective family sagas will find much to like in "Sanctuary Line." Because the first-person narrator often referred to an uncle as "uncle" and an aunt as "aunt", I needed to go back, skim the first 50 pages and make a family tree to keep all the uncles, aunts, cousins, and great-greats straight. But it was worth it.

You know from the beginning that the denoument referred to throughout Liz's walk down memory lane will be unhappy and disturbing, and s...more
Liz Crane, an entomologist researching the migration of monarch butterflies, is the narrator of this elegant and reflective novel by Jane Urquhart and indeed, butterflies are the metaphor that ties the story together. The prose – dense, descriptive, and beautifully-wrought—flutters like a butterfly, taking flight (as memory itself does) in the past, then alighting back in the present, making its way back and forth to answer the question: what happened on a pivotal evening man years back, at her...more
I am not really sure what to say about this book. Up until page 178, I found it unmoving and had little interest in any of her characters. She finally established some connection between Liz and Mandy which felt legitimate but even after calamitous events, I felt it was too little too late to salvage my feelings about her story. I really disliked Stanley, the uncle and found his stories and character off putting and uninteresting. It was a fast read with a pretty cover and she clearly is an exce...more
Jan 09, 2011 Alexis rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
Three stars because of the beauty of the language. There were a lot of really gorgeous themes in this book including monarch butterflies, orchardists and farm history. The book was full of rich description.

However, I must admit that I didn't enjoy this book as much as I would have liked to. THe majority of the book is remembered as a long flashback, which I couldn't get into. Since the character was remembering, it seemed rather languid to me, and it didn't have the urgency that the plot deserve...more
Lori Bamber
Jane Urquhart is such a fine writer, and this book is so imaginatively constructed. The primary characters are compelling and true, even as the details are filled in and we (the reader) learn how mistaken our first impressions of them might have been.

A fine story of cultural, sexual and family boundaries, Sanctuary Line is also a love letter to the Great Lake region of Ontario, and will be appreciated by anyone who has fallen in love with a place.
I really wanted to like this more than I did. Normally I fall in love with Urquhart's writing from the first few pages. However, it felt like the first 40 or so pages were meandering, like she was struggling to find the beginning of the book (not the story). Instead of being able to relax into the Urquhart's gentle voice, I was too busy trying to find my footing as a reader. And this lessened any impact the could have had on me.
Beautiful writing but the story was very boring. An entomologist studying monarch butterflies reflects back on her family life on the farm. There are the usual topics like love, crisis, coming of age, and symbolism. Sanctuary Line was a very subtle book, too subtle for me.
Dale Harcombe
Sometimes you get a book that just makes you pause over the sentences because the writing is so beautiful. That is the case with Sanctuary Line. I enjoyed the prose and the story of Liz Crane as she looks back at her family and in particular her uncle, seeing him in a different light to how she did when younger. She also reflects on her cousin Amanda, (Mandy) their times together as children and the relationship between them. Mandy died during a military tour in Afghanistan. This is a novel abou...more
Jane Urquhart’s Sanctuary Line weaves together many elements in the story of one family living in Ontario. The narrator, Liz Crane, has moved back to her family’s farmhouse to study the migratory pattern of monarch butterflies. But events, among which is the dead of her cousin, military strategist Amanda Butler, who was killed in Afghanistan, lead her to spend much of her time reflecting on the past of her family.

There is much to be said about Urquhart’s novel. For one, her prose is stunningly b...more
Miz Moffatt
Jane Urquhart constructs a beautiful, heartbreaking tale spanning more than one hundred years of the Butler family's livelihood. In Sanctuary Line, the entomologist Liz Crane returns to the now-deserted Butler farm where she spent her summers as a child. As she studies the migratory patterns of the Monarch butterflies native to the Lake Erie region, Liz must renegotiate her place among the tragedies still haunting the abandoned home. Old wounds are scoured open in the wake of her cousin's death...more
“Seldom unkind, he was nonetheless seized by bouts of vague withdrawal, sometimes by downright absenteeism in our midst, as if a grey veil had been woven between him and us. I now see that as we tried harder, he withdrew further.” (p.22)

“I miss the children we all used to be before everything broke apart, and I miss the children who should have replaced us but haven’t.” (p.31)

“I am a solitary, I thought. I cannot attend fringe festivals, protest marches, council meetings, or engage in any kind o...more
Apr 26, 2014 Anne rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who likes Great Lakes fiction
Unfocused yet enjoyable story set on the northern shore of Lake Erie. The narrator, whose name isn't revealed until near the end of the book, spends idyllic summers of her youth with her cousins at the farm owned by her aunt and uncle. Lake swimming and endless days of play are punctuated by long stories (told by her eccentric uncle of the Great-greats, the generations of Butlers who hailed from Ireland and became farmers or lighthouse keepers after immigrating to Canada or the U.S. (The best pa...more
Everything about this book is wonderful but for the narrative voice

Which read/sounded somewhat formal private school wealthy family circa 1930's yet was not any of those things

And so it distracted me
Sometimes it sounded a bit like Jane Alexander channeling Eleanor Roosevelt

But that is a small quibble for a very beautifully written book
Lynn Kearney
3.5 This writer is usually reliably good. I foundered a bit in this one at the beginning - too many exquisitely polished scenes but not adding up to a coherent (for me at least) narrative. However, all came together satisfactorily in the last third.
Liz Crane returns to the old homestead on Lake Erie and start reminiscing about its history and life on the farm. The story unfolded like a map of a road going every which way. The plot was hard to follow with little dialogue.
Liz Crane has returned to her family’s farmhouse on the shore of Lake Erie, a once happy place where she spent many summers as a young girl. Now the house is empty, the farm falling into ruins and most of her family has moved on or passed away. Liz is now an entomologist studying the migratory habits of the Monarch butterfly; the old farm seems like a good place for her to do her research.

Before long Liz is haunted by nostalgic thoughts from the past. Triggering these thought were the recent dea...more
Families have their legends, the stories that each generation passes down, the ones that change with each telling, to become a little more illustrative or a little more instructive; the ones that explain how the family got where it is and why things are the way they are.

But sometimes they don’t help people make sense of things, and that’s where Liz Crane is in “Sanctuary Line.” An entomologist who studies butterfly migration, Liz grew up as part of a colorful family that raised fruit trees on t...more
Barbara McVeigh
Preamble: My first Jane Urquhart book! I have the feeling that it's the perfect end-of-the-summer read.

What do you think?

*** Review: Sept 7, 2011

Indeed. Sanctuary Line is a multi-layered tale of a family secrets, love affairs, migration, and war, reflected in the image of a Monarch butterfly. Although the pace of the book is slow (think of the slow, steady rhythm of the waves of Lake Erie), it is meant to be a meditation encompassing poetry, family folk tales, history, Canada and contemporary is...more
Rebecca H.
Jane Urquhart’s new novel, Sanctuary Line, tells the story of an extended family living, among other places, on the north shore of Lake Erie. The family came from Ireland and is full of lighthouse keepers, farmers, and orchardists, or at least it was until the most recent generation, which has moved on to other things. Now the farm on Lake Erie is falling into disrepair. The story is told in the first person by Liz Crane who is living alone in the old farmhouse, mourning the loss of her cousin,...more
Bonnie Brody
This is the first book by Jane Urquhart that I have read. It is a beautifully rendered story of love, loss and memory. The story is narrated by Liz Crane, an entomologist, who lives on Butler Farm, her family's farmhouse that is now deserted. "There is no one, no one left. I live in a landscape where absence confronts me daily. " The farmhouse is in Canada on Lake Ontario and is very close to the American border. Liz studies monarch butterflies and their migration. They often serve as a metaphor...more
Helen Barlow
Originally published on my blog My Novel Opinion.

Sanctuary Line is a beautifully written story in which Liz Crane returns to her Uncle Stan's farmhouse, once a thriving farm and orchard that had been in the Butler family since their migration from Ireland to Canada hundreds of years before. Her return to the farmhouse where she spent summers as a child prompts memories to come flooding back and Sanctuary Line is an emotional journey as she tries to make sense of one night that changed the Butler...more
Once again, Jane Urquhart has written a lovely book — an eloquent story of family, love, betrayal and loss. Set on the shores of Lake Erie on the site of the once thriving Butler apple orchard, the author weaves the historic and contemporary events of the lives of the eccentric Butler family into a poignant tale of family,love, betrayal and loss.

The narrator, Liz, describes her childhood and adolescence in snippets of memories of summer visits on the farm, acquainting us with her quiet mother, h...more
Shonna Froebel
This is a wonderful read of a novel. Slow, lots of character development, an inward-looking book. Told in a narrative manner by a single speaker, this book looks back at the past with new eyes. We don't learn until the end who the listener is that is being told the story. The speaker is Liz Crane, an entomologist specializing in butterflies. She lives alone in the farmhouse that she spent the summers in as a child. Her story takes us back to the summer that she was sixteen and gradually reveals...more
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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...more
More about Jane Urquhart...
The Stone Carvers Away The Underpainter A Map of Glass The Whirlpool

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