Saturday, 12 March 2016
Some Thoughts on the Novel Away, by Jane Urquhart
For some reason I was expecting this book to full of mood and poetry and clever language with little plot. Wrong on the last point! It's a wonderful tale of an inter generational family saga moving from Ireland to the shores of Lake Ontario and including historical events such as the Irish potato famine of 1845 and the politics of Thomas D'Arcy McGee, one of the Fathers of Confederation. Urquhart is a master of description, and the endless details she precisely presents of the natural world, or the everyday objects of people's lives, counterbalance the intense longings of the characters. Magic and mystery are liberally included, especially regarding the two young ladies who are "away" or spellbound, but Urquhart kept me sufficiently grounded that it never felt like a fairytale. I appreciated seeing the world through Irish eyes. And as someone who grew up on the shores of Lake Ontario, not so far from the book's O'Malley farm, albeit a hundred years later, the descriptions of lake and shore resonated deeply.