So while I was reading Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent I was loving it: fog-filled Essex streets where 19th-century characters fall in love and chase after a mythical-perhaps-actual serpent haunting the people of the seaside town. Continue reading
Tag Archives: 19th century
I bought Ami McKay’s The Witches of New York for my sister-in-law, K., when she requested a ‘magic’ book about ‘witches’ for her birthday (both a specific request and an excellent one)*. The jacket promised great things: 19th century New York, three strong, independent women as protagonists, magic and ghosts and self-declared witches. I was so excited when I got it for K. that I requested it for myself at the library.
Of the many things I enjoyed about Guy Vanderhaeghe’s *The Last Crossing* I most enjoyed his use of narrative voice. The book moves between characters third person limited perspective with delineated sections for each and in ways that allows the same event to be experienced “differently” by the reader as it is shown from a different voice. This narration is particularly appropriate in that this book, set in the 1860s in the (eventual) American and Canadian northwest, is historical fiction: a genre that demands we readers think about the whose perspective is being offered *and* about how multiple versions of history contradict, complicated and confuse an idea of “what really happened.”
I love Charles Gaunt as a character best of all. Charles opens the book as he receives a letter advising him to return to Canada. The bulk of the narrative is then taken up explaining why Gaunt might want to return to Canada – what and who is there for him? and the book closes with the return to Gaunt’s present as he decides what to do about the letter. I love Charles because he sees his own limitations and failings and does not shy away from them. He realizes, too, those things about himself he cannot know – a sort of conscious ignorance and accepts that this ignorance will impact his decisions. He’s just the sort of thoughtful and reflective person I’d like to be.
In any case – I enjoyed the book. I found it provocative as well as “readable” – that ineffable quality of just being a pageturner. It’s well worth the read. Though you’ve probably already read it being as I’m showing up to the party a decade late (made more hilarious – to me at least – in that this book would have been/is *perfect* for my now complete dissertation. Oh well – even more enjoyable to discover it now when I can just “enjoy” it and its complexities without wondering how I’ll explain and analyze each passage).