CanLit Challenge Book #30: As For Me and My House by Sinclair Ross
Filed under: Book Reviews,CanLit Challenge — Ibis at 12:02 pm on Monday, June 2, 2008

Book 30, As For Me and My House (1941) – Sinclair Ross
From the back cover:
“‘It’s an immense night out there, wheeling and windy. The lights on the street and in the houses against the black wetness, little unilluminating glints that might be painted on it. The town seems huddled together, cowering on a high tiny perch, afraid to move lest it topple into the wind.’

The town is Horizon, the setting of Sinclair Ross’ brilliant classic study of life in the Depression era. Hailed by critics as one of Canada’s great novels, As For Me and My House takes the form of a journal. The unnamed diarist, one of the most complex and arresting characters in contemporary fiction, explores the bittersweet nature of human relationships, of the unspoken bonds that tie people together, and the undercurrents of feeling that often tear them apart. Her chronicle creates an intense atmosphere, rich with observed detail and natural imagery.

As For Me and My House is a landmark work. It is essential reading for anyone who seeks to understand the scope and power of the Canadian novel.”

Other useful links:
the Wikipedia entry for Sinclair Ross
the Wikipedia entry for As For Me and My House
An essay by Paul Denham: “Narrative Technique in Sinclair Ross’s As For Me and My House”
BookCrosser cellomerl’s review of the novel

My thoughts:
I really am trying to catch up so that I’m not writing these things months after I’ve actually read them! It’s very hard to recapture one’s feelings upon finishing a book, but I’ll give it a shot.

I did enjoy this book, especially its evocation of the prairies — and the small prairie town — during the Great Depression. In fact, the landscape is the only ‘character’ of the book that is unambiguous and stark in its reality. But even in that there is a possibility that the reader is being shown a facade (just like the “false-fronted towns” Mrs Bentley refers to); after all, the town is called Horizon — a place that can never be reached no matter how far one travels. There’s just so much to think about and discuss with this novel: how reliable is Mrs Bentley’s narration? is she or is Philip the main character? what is going on in the weeks that are omitted? There’s the role that art plays in the novel, the lost son, the replacement son in Steve, and the half-son Philip at the end of the book. There’s the theme of religion and lack of religious feeling. And a lot of hypocrisy on many levels to analyse. It’s a very short book and the whole thing takes place in only about a year, but there’s so much crammed in here. An excellent book by Sinclair Ross.