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The Whirlpool

3.45  ·  Rating details ·  114 Ratings  ·  20 Reviews
Written in luminous prose, The Whirlpool is a haunting tale set in Niagara Falls, Ontario, in the summer of 1889. This is the season of reckless river stunts, a time when the undertaker’s widow is busy with funerals, her days shadowed by her young son’s curious silence. Across the street in Kick’s Hotel, where Fleda and her husband, David McDougal, have temporary rooms, Fl ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published May 3rd 1997 by McClelland and Stewart (first published 1986)
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Rebecca Foster
This was Urquhart’s first novel, published in 1986. The overall feel reminded me of A.S. Byatt (especially The Virgin in the Garden) and John Fowles’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman. Set in 1889 on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, it brings together four characters who are, each in their separate ways, stuck in the past and obsessed with death and its symbolic stand-in, the whirlpool.

Maud Grady is the local undertaker’s widow and takes possession of all the corpses of those who’ve tried to swi
Roger Brunyate
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: place-portraits
Pure Poetry

Of the seven Jane Urquhart novels I have read, this, her first (1986, but recently reissued in Canada), may be the least eventful viewed simply as a story, but it is unquestionably the most evocative as a piece of pure poetry. It begins and ends with a real poet; Urquhart's prologue and epilogue describe Robert Browning's last day of life in 1889, wandering through unfamiliar parts of Venice, haunted by the spirit of Percy Bysshe Shelley, the Romantic poet who died young of drowning o
Czarny Pies
Aug 04, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Whirlpool (le tourbillon) est un roman fort agacant. On y trouve des personnages a peine credible qui fait des gestes bizarres. On ne pleure pas quand ils disparaissent dans les tourbillons pres des chutes de Niagara. Pour ceux qui veulent connaitre Jane Urquhart, je recommende plutot Away.
Jun 17, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
There is a dreamy, elusive quality to Urquhart's writing that draws me in. Her writing is ethereal and could best be described as lightly skimming a water's surface. What this book missed in mark by way of story - all of the pieces didn't quite click together smoothly enough for me - it made up for in spades by way of mood.
Oct 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in Niagara Falls. The whirlpool comes after the falls, and the book centers on the lives of the people who lose their lives there every year. Very dreamlike and beautiful. Her first novel.
David Dunlap
The lives of four people interlock in the town of Niagara Falls, Ontario, in the summer months of 1889: Maude Grady, the widow of the town undertaker, left to run the business and care for her oddly silent son (never named!) when an epidemic carries off her husband and in-laws; Major David McDougal, an anti-American historian obsessed with the War of 1812 and most especially Laura Secord; his poetically-minded wife Fleda who spends much of her time alone in the woods near the title whirlpool of ...more
Aug 28, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I do appreciate the quality of Urquhart's writing and language and poetic style indeed and this novel was all so very symbolic, but honestly I found it a bit boring and couldn't really get the point of it, the role of some characters and how they interconnect with one another - the whole about Maud, for instance, the undertaker's widow whose husband loved spiders with her weird (autistic?) child doesn't really seem so fundamental in the story, as well as the prologue and epilogue about Browning. ...more
Oct 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Laura Buechler
Does it ever seem to you that some books are written not as pleasure reads, but specifically for dissection and discussion in a dreary English literature classroom somewhere?

This book sure seems that way.

Yet I read it for pleasure, without anyone harping on me about symbolism and allegory, and I skipped all the poetry, and I liked it.
Judith Rich
Feb 20, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canada
I picked this up because I had so enjoyed "Away". This rather confused me and I was left feeling I didn't know what Urquhart was getting at. It also ends pretty abruptly.

I shall read more of her novels but this won't be a favourite.
Adrienne Jones
Jane Urquhart has written two of my favorite books (The Underpainter and Away A Novel. Her more recent The Stone Carvers retained some of her splendid sense of place, but it didn't win me over like her earlier books.

When I sought out The Whirlpool, I was unable to find a US edition. That made me uneasy, so I shelved the book for years until a night of insomnia left me roaming the bookshelf for distraction.

The Whirlpool is definitely a first novel. Despite its relatively short length the book see
Shonna Froebel
This is a novel with many layers, complex and slow. The novel takes place in the summer of 1889.
Patrick works for the government in Ottawa, but has been having issues and has come to stay with his aunt and uncle in Niagara Falls. He is also a published poet and his interest in nature has him wandering in the forest, staring at the river, and interested in a woman he sees on his forest wanderings.
Fleda is the woman in the forest. Fleda's husband David McDougal is fascinated by the War of 1812 and
Jul 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Set in the summer of 1889, is the beauty of Niagara Falls which is amazing to those who journey there. People have the ability to shift and change, some like forest wanderings, and others like the whirlpool. Fleda is the woman in the forest, who lives in a tent, realizes that Patrick is watching her, which she is both unnerved and flattered. She wants to increase the connection with him, but her need has an outcome she didn't envision. Maud, the widow of the undertaker, still in charge of the fu ...more
David R. Godine
May 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The Whirlpool is a jewel of a book: its finely polished facets are full of light, yet suggest numerous depths … Urquhart's moody, incisive and shimmering prose, her cleverness and wit soar."
Toronto Globe and Mail

"Urquhart's dreamy, circular prose draws the reader in as surely as her characters are pulled to their destiny by the inescapable suction of the whirlpool. Highly recommended."
Library Journal

"A strange and sensual first novel. . . Miss Urquhart is a special writer, worth watching on
Brenda Almond
Read while on a trip to Niagara Falls, Canadian side. Found it to be a little weird. Never fully connected the son in the story. Enjoyed Patrick and his poetry and his obsession with Fleda and the "dancing in and out of each other's life".
Kathryn Jennex
Mar 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: canadian
My first entry into Urquharts' world where water falls play a significant part in the weaving of a story about a summer in Niagara Falls and the magic the tragedy and magic that happen there in 1869.

*sigh* I should re-read all I have read and start the new!
Aug 18, 2012 rated it did not like it
I was quite disappointed with this book, having absolutely *loved* Away. I found The Whirlpool to be depressing and generally blah. Jane Urquhart really is a lovely writer - this book just wasn't for me.
Matthew Ledrew
Aug 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Multi-form storytelling at it’s best, and a must for sci-fi writers: because it isn’t sci-fi. I think you need to learn to write without the sci-fi before you can write successfully with it.
Feb 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful story told in shimmering prose.
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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
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