CanLit Challenge Book #12: The Whirlpool by Jane Urquhart
Filed under: CanLit Challenge — Ibis at 4:17 pm on Sunday, May 21, 2006

Book 12, The Whirlpool (1986) – Jane Urquart
From the back cover:
“First published in 1986, The Whirlpool is the story of Niagara Falls, Ontario, in the fateful summer of 1889.
Maud Grady, the undertaker’s widow, is busy with the summer season of crazy stunts and river casualties. Across the street live David McDougal, an obsessive military historian haunted by the revolutionary heroine Laura Secord, and his wife, Fleda, whose own dreams take shape in the woods above the whirlpool. As the summer progresses, the lives of these characters become entangled, and darker, more sinister currents gain momentum.
The Whirlpool, Jane Urquhart’s first novel, received Le prix du meilleur livre étranger (Best Foreign Book Award) in France and marked the brilliant debut of a major voice in Canadian fiction.”

Other useful links:
the Wikipedia article on Jane Urquhart
the Wikipedia article on Niagara Falls, Ontario
the Wikipedia article on The Battle of Lundy’s Lane (War of 1812)
the Friends of the Lundy’s Lane Battlefield site
City of Niagara Falls Museums website
the Wikipedia article on Laura Secord

My thoughts:
Urquhart’s writing reminded me quite a bit of Virgina Woolf’s (I’ve only read the latter’s Mrs Dalloway) and of Michael Cunningham’s in The Hours.

I’m not really sure what the bracketing sections concerning Robert Browning were all about. They seemed kind of out of place (and I often find it difficult to buy real historical people in works of fiction).

Of the main story, I enjoyed certain elements: the talk of Laura Secord, the whole process of what level of mourning attire was proper, the idea that it was the poet who could speak to the ‘autistic’ boy, the home in the wilderness by the whirlpool.

It just didn’t seem like a cohesive whole to me. Didn’t care too much for the ending.

CanLit Challenge Book #11: Next Episode by Hubert Aquin
Filed under: 20th Century,CanLit Challenge — Ibis at 11:44 am on Saturday, May 6, 2006

Book 11, Next Episode (1965) – Hubert Aquin
From the back cover:
“First published in l965, Hubert Aquin’s Next Episode is a disturbing and yet deeply moving novel of dissent and distress. As he awaits trial, a young separatist writes an espionage story in the psychiatric ward of the Montreal prison where he has been detained. Sheila Fischman’s bold new translation captures the pulsating life of Aquin’s complex exploration of the political realities of contemporary Quebec. ”

Other useful links:
the Wikipedia article on Hubert Aquin
the Wikipedia article on Next Episode
CBC’s Canada Reads 2003
the Canada Reads reading guide for Next Episode

My thoughts:
I’m definitely going to have to read this one again. All the way through, I kept wishing that it was annotated, that I had a running commentary, that it included a map of Lausanne. I saw a French annotated copy at the bookstore when I picked this up, and I almost wish that I had taken it as well (though my French isn’t so good to begin with). I really liked the layered feeling, the disorientation that the reader is submerged within. In my Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature, it says that two of Aquin’s literary influences were Joyce and Nabokov, and I really got that impression while I was reading this. I felt that I was just that much removed from their company.
I was also reading Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red at the same time as this, and there were echoes I felt between the two of those works as well (even though there is almost certainly no real connection between the two). The narrative of “I Will Be Called a Murderer” and the narrator of Next Episode were at one point (for me at least), oddly at one with each other.
I’m going to read this again, most likely after it comes back from its planned bookring, and make further notes as I read it.