Tuesday 13 September 2011

To the Edge of the Sea Book Review

Latest book review by Bill Robertson for the Saskatoon Star Phoenix

To the Edge of the Sea a blend of fiction, Canadiana

Regina writer's debut uses fiction, real life

Regina writer Anne McDonald leans on memories of her childhood summers on Prince Edward Island in her first novel, To the Edge of the Sea. In it, she makes fiction of the actual lives of people both close to, and not at all associated with, the negotiations in Charlottetown, Quebec City and Kingston to forge a confederation of what would become the provinces of Canada.
Reggie, the eldest son, loathes life on the sea, is made physically ill by it, and wants to be a farmer. He defies his father, already bereft of a son, and joins his farmer uncles as they gather to march in defiance of their landlords who bleed off their profits. Here are politics at a local and even violent level.

[McDonald's] strength lies in imagining three young people with vastly different ambitions at a crucial time in Canada's history. And that history is nearly incidental to all their desires. What excites McDonald, and what she conveys, is the sensual excitement these people feel when they touch something they love.

She may be falling in love, but it's the rain falling on Mercy's bare head one night as she marches with the people that thrills her. Reggie loves the feel of the red Prince Edward Island earth and Alex loves the feel of air, how he can train himself to move through it, even lean against it. Whatever their politics - national, local or family - these are elemental people and McDonald has found what they're made of and what they need to hold to.
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