Tuesday, September 30, 2008

New this Month: Blackstrap Hawco by Kenneth J. Harvey

If you don’t believe that the words “epic,” “masterwork” and “Canadian” have any business in the same sentence, think again. In this intense, sprawling and almost insanely detailed novel, Kenneth J. Harvey (Inside, The Town That Forgot How to Breathe) delivers over 800 pages of fictional Maritime memories, all linked around the title character “named in anger.”

Before you even crack the cover, Blackstrap Hawco (Random House Canada) daunts with its sheer physical presence. It’s a big book, first of all. But it’s also in some ways a complicated one. Complicated, that is, the way life itself can be complicated: with twists here and dips there and unexpected turnabouts where you never expected to see them. Here’s a taste: on what is often considered to be a novel’s dedication page, Harvey has offered us something to think about:
This is a transcomposite narrative,
Not an historical document,
Nor a work of invention.
Blackstrap Hawco
’s subtitle deepens the mystery: Said to Be About a Newfoundland Family. Yet it is a novel, it is a work of invention. At least, I’m almost certain that it is. And if it’s not? Well, I suspect it does not matter. Wherever the bare bone facts were pulled from, wherever they happened to have their birth, it is Harvey’s skill that brings them together in a way that will resonate with me, perhaps for always.

The book has been longlisted for the Giller Award. It will be a serious contender.



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