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(James Hillyer #1)

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  641 ratings  ·  69 reviews
A new novel that Richard B. Wright’s Clara Callan fans will adore, October effortlessly weaves a haunting coming-of-age story set in World War II Quebec with a contemporary portrait of a man still searching for answers in the autumn of his life.

In England to see his daughter, Susan, who is gravely ill, James Hillyer, a retired professor of Victorian literature, encounters
Hardcover, 241 pages
Published September 20th 2007 by HarperCollins Canada
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Average rating 3.49  · 
Rating details
 ·  641 ratings  ·  69 reviews

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Debbie Robson
Aug 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
I now have a new favourite author – Richard B. Wright. I am drawn to different writers for different reasons. Some for the settings of their novels which I really like to read about – such as Anita Shreve for New England. Some for their character driven work and subject matter and some even for their tone of voice, Wright included. I love his “sensibility and world view” which is in tune with mine and was one of the main reasons I so enjoyed October. His depiction of the past was masterful and ...more
Kara Hansen
3.5 stars. I have only read Clara Callan by Richard Wright, and I would put it as one of my favourite books of all time. So it was with some anticipation that I picked up October as my next read.
I was impressed, and overall enjoyed the story very much. We follow, in first person, James Hillyer, widower and retired English professor.
James has just learned that his daughter has been diagnosed with breast cancer. The same cancer that took his wife some twenty years before. He flies to England to
Nov 28, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: canada, 20th-century
A tiresome little tale about a tiresome old fool, who happened to be a tiresome child. I can't seem to get away from that word: nothing else comes to mind, so numbed am I by the experience. I felt like I was being dragged through some endless hell behind annoying and disagreeable people.

Wright has an easy writing style which is seductive, initially, but which soon lulls you into a terrible stupor. I felt like the proverbial fly caught in a spider's web: here I was prone and prisoner to something
Her Royal Orangeness
James Hillyer travels from Canada to England to visit his daughter, Susan, who has been diagnosed with cancer. While there he encounters Gabriel Fontaine, a man he knew for one summer when the two men were teenagers. Gabriel is dying of cancer and asks James to accompany him to Switzerland where he has arranged to be euthanized. These events cause James to recollect that summer sixty years in the past, and to ruminate on life and relationships and death.

My reaction to this book was, quite
Withdrawn from Winnipeg Library


For Phyllis
anf for
Chrisopher, Vicki, Sydney, Abigail
Andrew, Wendy, Gage, and Millie

with love

Opening: I went to England to see my daughter. This was in October 2004. Susan had phoned the previous week with her dire news. A Friday noon hour and I was preparing lunch in my apartment in Toronto.
Leo Robillard
Sep 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I am always surprised by how much I enjoy Richard B. Wright’s work. It all seems so simple and straight-forward in the telling. October is no exception. The plot is uncomplicated; the language, unadorned. And yet the story resonates long after you put it down.

While travelling in England to visit his cancer-stricken daughter, retired professor James Hillyer chances upon an acquaintance whom he has not encountered in more than sixty years. Gabriel Fontaine, once a sixteen-year-old boy befriended
Oct 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
While coming to grips with the devastating news of his daughter's terminal cancer, James has a chance meeting with an old friend with whom he spent his fourteenth summer, some 50 years earlier. Caught off guard, James agrees to have dinner with Gabriel and then accompany Gabriel to Switzerland where he has arranged an assisted suicide.
The juxtaposition of these two deaths is gently shocking - James' daughter wanting another month, another year of her life against Gabriel who has wished for death
Oct 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
There is something so easy and relaxing about reading anything by Richard B. Wright, and October fit the bill again.
Paula Dembeck
Oct 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a coming of age story set in Quebec during World War ll and present day London. James Hillyer is a seventy-four year old retired professor of Victorian Literature who is in the midst of navigating a critical period is his life when a chance encounter outside a London hotel takes his memory back to his young teenage years and a forced vacation in a small fishing village in the Gaspé. There at the St Lawrence Hotel in Percé he met Gabriel Fontaine, an older, wealthy and handsome teenager ...more
Kathleen Nightingale
I wanted to read this book since reading Nightfall. Nighfall is the sequel to October and I thought that I would really enjoy this book. It was ok. I knew the afterstory and found that I didn't enjoy the beginning story as much. I think if I had read October prior to Nighfall I probably wouldn't have been so eager to read Nighfall. For me, it just missed my really enjoying the storyline.
Marie Gallagher
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookclub
This book was absolutely amazing. Throughout the entire book I felt like I was on a roller coaster ride, experiencing every conceivable emotion possible. Despite that sadness, despair, hatred and disgust I felt in parts, it was so beautifully written that I couldn't help but love it. And in the end, that's the emotion I was left with; love.
May 17, 2017 rated it liked it
I was quite surprised by this book. It was very engaging and beautifully written. I know the point of the book is to leave some of the threads unanswered, but dammit, I want to know what happens to some of those characters!
Dec 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written book about a man's contemplation of illness, disability, and demise. His description of struggle, as a young boy encountering a brash American boy-monster in a wheelchair; his encounter with the same person as an aged curmudgeon planning his own death.
Nada Loughead
Nov 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
I usually like novels with more pace and this one is heavy on the narrative...that being said, it did rope me in. Although the character, both as child and elder, was too melancholic, his supporting actors kept me engaged.
Aug 31, 2018 rated it liked it
Not my favourite. Slow moving, hard time relating to the characters.
Joan Barton
Apr 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Mar 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Decent read. You can easily tell where the plot is going but it is written with such style it was a very satisfying read.
He covers so much territory in this novel with such ease. It was a nice read on a quiet restful day.
Kris - My Novelesque Life
Aug 06, 2014 rated it really liked it

"A new novel that Richard B. Wright’s Clara Callan fans will adore, October effortlessly weaves a haunting coming-of-age story set in World War II Quebec with a contemporary portrait of a man still searching for answers in the autumn of his life.

In England to see his daughter, Susan, who is gravely ill, James Hillyer, a retired professor of Victorian literature, encounters by chance a man he once knew as a boy. Gabriel Fontaine, a rich and attractive American he met one summer during the
Shonna Froebel
Nov 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canadian
James Hillyer is a retired professor of Victorian literature, living on his own in Toronto. His wife died of cancer some years ago, and his daughter Susan has just been diagnosed with a similar disease. Susan is headmistress of a boarding school in England, a job she has aspired to all her working life. James visits her to touch base following news of her illness, and afterwards in London he meets a man he hasn't seen in sixty years.
Back in 1944, James spent a summer in rural Quebec with his
Sep 19, 2007 rated it really liked it
I thought this was a very good book. It is very depressing and I like depressing novels. I find Wright’s writing to be very smooth and a quick read but still very good.

I believe I have read all that he has written and have hear him read at least once. I have often (always ?) found that his novels centre on strongly developed female characters while the male characters are often flat and weak. I recognize that in some of his novels this was intentional and part of the story but it has always
Jul 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Marlene by: Globe & Mail
I was not able to finish Clara Callan, and decided that Wright was not for me, but I did like October. In visual art there is a term for the art of handling the media itself (eg paint). The word is painterly. I found October to be "writerly". Doreen, I didn't relate to the characters either, but I found what I considered to be the main character, the guy in the wheelchair, utterly fascinating. Actually, I read the book in one sitting (aside from pee and coffee breaks). There wasn't much of a ...more
Jan 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
The story is about a man's memories of his teen years, in particular, one summer he spent in eastern Canada. In the present day of the story he is a retired professor of Literature who travels to England to visit his daughter where she is the headmistress of a private school. While there she tells his of her illness and treatment she will undertake.
It is a well crafted story and details kept me reading late into the night. Not that I was under any pressure to get the book back to the library as
Jun 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Richard B. Wright is a very economical writer. I really enjoyed reading this novel which tells a story, explores characters and settings and still manages to be very effective emotionally all in about 240 pages.

Wright's use of parallel structure to reveal the narrator's handling of his daughter's illness in the present and his memories of his teenage experiences during a long ago summer in the Gaspe is also very effective. His portrayals of Gabriel and Odette are particularly vivid.

All in all,
Sep 27, 2011 rated it liked it
I was right: this book did make me sad, for many more reasons than I had originally thought. The end left me feeling a little bereft, but I suppose that's the mark of realist fiction. It's not the "end" as much as "the place where he stopped telling his story."

The thing I like about Richard B. Wright is that he seems to really "know" his narrators. In this case, the voice is so consistent that I actually felt I knew this man...not just in the sense that he's so well realized that I felt like I
May 26, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club
This is the third book I have read of Richard Wright's and I have told my Book Club this will be my last. Although an easy read it was very unsatisfying to me. I find his writing to be removed from his subjects and as a consequence I cannot relate to the characters. When I read I want to feel some connection to the story and the people who inhabit it.
The themes in this book about estrangement from family, loss and death should be a no brainer and in fact it did hit a note with some of my book
Pollyanna Darling
Jun 25, 2014 rated it it was ok
I gave up on Mr Shakespeare's Bastard, but tried again with October. In it's favour, Wright has created a strong narrative voice that rings true. The interactions between the characters are well-observed and the plot is interesting enough (although I found the execution of the narrator running into an old acquaintance unbelievably stilted).

I guess Wright is not for me. The writing is emotionally bereft, dry and clinical. I don't care what happens to the old fellow or any of the other
Mar 05, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
This is more of a 3.5 than a three but not quite a 4. I enjoy stories with two time lines. They allow me to see how the past is inextricably entwined with the present and how, in spite of aging and moving on into life, our basic natures don't change. The overall feeling of the book is sadness. All the characters, with the exception of Gabriel and Odette, seem remote and cool. Gabriel is sharp, with a cruel edge.

Wright's style is quiet. Every word seems like just the right one and he never goes
Aug 16, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Gabriel may not have grown out of his contentious and self glorified behaviour; but neither did James from his mopey, self pitying adolescence despite having 60+ years in the passing.
When the 2 main characters both have less then stellar personalities, it leaves the reader wanting to know more about the lesser yet clearly more interesting filler characters like Odette and Susan and even silent Adam.
With 3 teen boys in my own home I found I had to drag myself through this book. Much like the
Aug 10, 2013 rated it liked it
Although I liked the story and was interested to get to the end I was surprised with the unanswered question as to what happened to Odette, to which I suspect and what has been suggested is that the author did this on purpose.
I did find the book slow paced, and it jumped around a lot from past to present, at the same time I was impressed as to how this book resonated such fascinating and long conversation in the two book clubs I lead. There were so many topics this book contained that provided
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Richard B. Wright was a Canadian novelist.

Born in Midland, Ontario, Wright attended Trent University, from which he graduated in 1970. He was the author of 13 published novels and two children's books. Many of his older novels were republished after his novel Clara Callan won three of Canada's major literary awards in 2001: the Giller Prize; the Trillium Book Award; and the Governor General's

Other books in the series

James Hillyer (2 books)
  • Nightfall
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