Helena Halme's Reviews > Canada

Canada by Richard Ford
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's review
Sep 16, 2012

really liked it

Richard Ford is a master of the written word, this is clear. But…perhaps I need a story that is more plot-driven than Canada. Beutiful language, imagery, and characterisation just aren't always enough. This is why I gave this book 4 stars not 5, so we are talking about a difference of opinion on what a novel should look like.

Perhaps part of the problem with Canada for me was the way the author would tell what happened first, then tell us how it happened. I would much rather find out the story the other way around.

In Part One we meet a desperate family in desperate circumstances. The story is told from the point of view of the teenage son, Dell. The book starts with this sentence, 'First I'll tell you about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders , which happened later.' It's a brilliant opening, and had this been the only time Ford had told the reader the outcome before the story, it would have been fine with me.

The novel is a hefty one and is divided into two parts. I enjoyed Part One, of the family in both emotional and financial turmoil in 1960's America. It has a tragically seductive quality about it. While you know the dreadful thing is going to happen, you still wish it would not have the monumental consequences it does. But even here, time and time again, Ford lets us know what the character's fates are going be well before the narrator gets to tell the story.

Part Two, where Dell is taken to Canada, was more depressing and difficult for me to read. I couldn't really understand where the story was going. The awful circumstances of Dell's life, where he was alone, unprotected and uncared for at such and early age (I think he was fifteen), and so soon after his parents demise, just seemed too dreadful to contemplate. As I read on, all I could be was afraid for Dell. There seemed no hope for his future.

Canada is really a family saga, a terribly sad and tragic one, but I fear probably quite realistic one too. I guess this was the author's aim; to make the narrative look as if it was told by a non-professional author.

Perhaps I need my fiction to look like fiction and to have more happiness, and less realism?

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