Lara Messersmith-Glavin's Reviews > The White Bone

The White Bone by Barbara Gowdy
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Apr 05, 09

bookshelves: desert, earth, heart-breaking
Read in April, 2009

This novel is both spare and rich, quick-moving and richly imagined. It is also devastating.

In the tradition of animals-as-protagonists, The White Bone relies the least upon clever and familiar anthropomorphic mannerisms and worlds, relative to other classics of the genre, like the weirdly wonderful Duncton Wood, about moles, or the fantastically creepy Watership Down, (whose portrayal of rabbits left me with a permanent fascination and mild fear of the fluffy creatures). Barbara Gowdy creates, instead, a definite and partly alien culture for her characters, complete with kinship structures, celebrations and rituals, hymns, cosmology, care-giving practices, hierarchies, and time/space measurements, all distinct and largely unrelated to our own. What makes this work so beautifully is the research upon which these speculative systems are based, and the genuine love and wonder she has for the species. The other element that makes it all so powerful is her gentle but pointed interweaving of the destructive influence humans have had upon this culture in the "real" world.

The White Bone serves not only as an excellent example of an alternative fiction, but also as a clear statement of protest against the ivory trade and poaching practices in general. Gorgeous, sad, strange. Very highly recommended.
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message 1: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie Thanks for the lovely review, Lara... We humans see other animals intelligence and social structures relative to our own and from a dominant controlling perspective. It sounds as if Barbara Gowdy has given us different eyes to see with. I've added it to my list. mom



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