Monday, June 30, 2008

Fiction: Asylum by André Alexis

No book in recent memory has filled me with anticipation as much as André Alexis’ Asylum (McClelland & Stewart). How could it be otherwise? Alexis’ debut novel, Childhood was published in 1998. (And even the Trinidadian-Canadian author’s debut novel was sharply awaited, following as it did on the highly acclaimed collection, 1994’s Despair and Other Stories of Ottawa.)

The excitement that the wonderful Childhood invited was memorable: the Chapter/Books in Canada First Novel Award, the Trillium Prize, the shortlist for the Giller. And then there was the long decade in between. A children’s book, Ingrid and the Wolf, was published in 2005 but it wasn’t the same. How could it be? It was the novel, the wonderful follow up novel, so many of us were keeping our eyes out for. And then the announcement, last year, for the publication of Asylum for 2008.

And now here we are. And the last page has been turned. Was it worth the wait? It was. It was. It took my breath away.

Ottawa and Tuscany in the 1980s with a cast of characters we would perhaps only believe in that time period; the intertwined lives of a half dozen characters so memorable, I anticipate I’ll be thinking about them for a long time to come. The idealist Franklin Dupuis; Paul Dylan, consumed by his jealousy; Professor Walter Barnes, who provides the source. The novel unwraps slowly and, just when you’re about to give up on lines connecting, Asylum’s disparate parts comes together in unexpected ways.

Asylum is deeply layered, beautifully imagined and realized and it satisfies to the core. Only one thing concerns me now: please, Mr. Alexis, don’t make me wait another decade for the next novel.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home