Don Gillmor presents Kanata as something of an epic; scratch that, he presents it as the Canadian epic, noting in his author’s remarks that “chief among the many challenges of historical fiction is finding a way to condense a huge volume of material into a coherent narrative” (447).
It isn’t a coherent narrative; he hasn’t condensed a huge volume of material. Instead the novel picks and chooses choice moments and figures from Canadian history (all men, all either politicians or military heroes) and goes about narrating these moments – the narrator is a history teacher speaking to a boy in a coma (because of course the only way someone would listen to this kind of rambling history lesson is if they were comatose and unable to flee the room).
The patchwork “map” – the novel is overly fixated on the metaphor of the map in forming the nation. I say overly fixated because every second page references a map, even if it’s only “the lines on her face form a rough map – of historical events and characters might be tolerable if not for the heavy-handed exploitation of the protagonist as the Metis hero – the man who brings together the divided nation (at last!) and understands the complexities and compromises necessary to do so. What Gilmor fails to realizes is that the compromises he has made to “condense” the history and find some kind of politically correct indigenous inclusion is to cast all indigenous peoples as either drunk or complicit in their own subjugation. Indeed a triumph of Canadian nationalism.