Lisa's Reviews > Canada

Canada by Richard Ford
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's review
Mar 17, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: advance-readers, american-literature
Read from March 03 to 16, 2012

Wanted: Promising novel by award winning writer seeks merciless editor. At the heart of this book is a great story with "big themes" of inevitability and acceptance. However the narrator, 15-year old Dell, hashes, rehashes, and re-rehashes and hems and haws his way through the first book. And then the second. There isn't a single point upon which Dell does not able seem to consider from at least thirteen different points of view and then review his findings at least ten more times. I enjoy a pensive narrator, but at times this was too much. Languid pacing, good. Limping under the weigh of too much introspection, bad.

The cast of oddball characters and their equally odd choices makes for piquant reading as does the huge likability of Dell, despite his many- corridored mental rambles. The sense of place is keenly developed - both the loser town "Great Falls" (going all Hawthorne with the naming there-huh?)and the lost towns of Canada's prairie are grimly depicted, without sacrificing some element of beauty to be felt in both. This is in part because Dell is an appreciative, hopeful narrator who does strive to like and be liked.

There are so many books in which children either become eternal victims of their parents' irresponsibility, incompetence, or abuse or in which through their gosh darn pluckiness rather David Copperfield-wise rise above the murk. While Dell's counterfoil, his twin sister Berner, is an example of the former, Dell is, interestingly, neither. Instead of meeting adult-made mayhem with pluck he relies on patience, hope and observation. His passivity seems the perfect recipe for doom, but is ultimately his vehicle for survival and modest success. He receives counsel from some of the a host of peculiar types including a hostile, transvestite Metis named Charlie Quarters, and the awkward Nurse Remlinger. Both are depicted in such a way that one can admire them while being actively creeped out by them.

After a life time of reading it is hard not to make comparisons between books, to have mental bells ringing in one's memory as one reads. When I think of Ford, Henry James does not ordinarily come to mind as his literary godfather, but this book reminded me very much of James's stunning portrait of a child in a world of amoral adults, What Maisie Knew.

This is an ARC which I read for our local book seller, Fountainhead Books.

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Reading Progress

03/03/2012 page 25
6.0% "Reads slowly, but that's okay"
03/04/2012 page 90
21.0% "wow, is the build up for this one incredibly sloooow"
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Karen I agree with your first paragraph. Those are the reasons that I merely gave the book two stars; so why on earth did you give it four?!

Lisa There was much I loved about this book as I mention in the rest of the review, but the narration required enormous patience especially at the beginning. If the narrative point of view had been honed just a bit, it would for me have been a remarkable book. Although I read it months ago, it still plays about in my head.

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