December 31, 2008

Through Black Spruce - Joseph Boyden

This is the book that won this year's Giller Prize.  Since I usually enjoy the Giller winner, I was looking forward to reading this book, and it did not disappoint me.  In fact, I splurged and bought all of the Giller shortlisted books, so once I have finished reading them all, I will know if the committee made the right decision!

Through Black Spruce is one of the best, if not the best, book I have read this year.  It is based in and around Moosonee and Moose Factory in northeastern Ontario (interesting to note that both last year's and this year's Giller went to a "Northern" book), and stretches out to the James Bay "bush" as well as Toronto, Montreal and New York.  The style of the book is different, and it took me a couple of chapters to catch on - the story is told in the first person, and the chapters alternate between Will Bird who is lying in hospital in a coma telling the story of how he ended up there to his niece; and his niece Annie who is telling her uncle what she has been up to since she last saw him.

The contrast between the two stories is very marked - as Annie ends up more and more involved in the modeling world down south, her uncle is heading out in the bush with only what he can carry in his float plane.  Annie is one of my favourite literary characters - a strong and independent woman, very well drawn, and very perceptive of the author, particularly considering that the author is male!

I can't come up with enough superlatives to describe this book - I couldn't put it down, and was totally immersed in the story and the setting and the characters' lives.  This is apparently the second book in a trilogy, so I really must hunt down a copy of Three Day Road, the first book, and I look forward to his next book.

1 comment:

John Mutford said...

If it is even half as good as Three Day Road, it's a great book. The style's sound similar.

Great review, I look forward to reading the book.