Manrix's Reviews > Away

Away by Jane Urquhart
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M 50x66
's review
May 06, 2011

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Read from May 06 to 11, 2011

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 nineteenth century Irish villagers thinking he was her 'daemon lover' and that she's been 'away'. The Irish famine, however, never really hurt the way I think it should. It didn't feel 'real'.

The emigration to Canada is interesting, especially when they finally reach their piece of land, and it's just one big scary forest, as the wilderness tends to be in Canadian fiction. They literally have to start from scratch when it comes to housing, etc.

Luckily, they are helped by other immigrants, and it is clear that in Canada, co-operation is more important than 'rugged individualism' which prevails in American literature.

Eileen, Mary's daughter, is at first much more interesting than she is later in the novel. She's almost as 'away' as her mother, Mary was, and lives in the forest more than in the house, it seems. She is not concerned with Irish identity, but that changes when they sell the house and go to the village. There she comes into contact with Irish nationalism, and falls in love with Aidan.

Aidan, at first, seemed like a major weak point in the book. It is said that he expresses the famine, immigration and Irish repression through dance, and all who watch him are so incredibly moved. His plan is to go to McGee, an Irish-born politician (and historical figure) who has 'betrayed' the Irish revolutionary nationalist cause, and dance for him, so that he will understand. Thankfully, this does not set everything right in the world, but for a little while I feared that his little interpretive dance would convince a politician of his errors.

The novel ends with an interesting journey through a town that is up to its neck in river, which comes with some very amusing imagery, and eventually a political meet in Ottawa, where things come to a close in a way that I rather liked.

The book is about identity, ties to the homeland, but in the end, about how it's better to stay away from violent revolutionary ideals. Leave that to those crazy Americans in the south.

The link between Irish and Native American culture that is sometimes expressed (a sort-of-similar belief in spirits and having their lands taken by the English, etc.) is at best tentative, and I think she could have chosen from a host of other cultures and done exactly the same. Some form of belief in spirits, harmony with nature and colonised by a European power. Can't be that hard to find a culture like that, right?

Dr. Jason King's guest lecture on the book made it more interesting to me, but to reiterate all the points he made and everything we discussed in class would be too exhaustive. All in all, a good book for a class discussion on Canadian immigration literature, but for myself I'd rather read something else.

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Reading Progress

05/07/2011 page 70

Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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message 1: by Fwenx (new)

Fwenx Love your dry/cynic approach to writing a review :p sounds like an interesting book though, but it seems there is Irish Canadian AND American repression in there, is that where the book is 'a bit too much'?

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