Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Fiction: The Chief Factor’s Daughter by Vanessa Winn

I had the rare delight of traveling to the city of Victoria on the southernmost tip of Vancouver Island twice during the time I was reading The Chief Factor’s Daughter (Touchwood Editions). It’s not that I’m a super-slow reader, either. Rather, my life aligned in such a way that, not only was I in the city on which the action in Vanessa Winn’s debut novel centers, I even had cause to sit near historic monuments and some of the locations in the book and just contemplate the rush of time while her story swirled through my mind, fresh: still at the ripest point of enjoyment. That’s the biggest pay off on historical fiction. It takes your hand and walks with you. Actually strolling the sites was an unnecessary bonus, but it enhanced even that.

Though The Chief Factor’s Daughter starts off dry and distant, the rhythms of the lives of Winn’s characters sweep you along, if you let them. Winn has worked closely with history and it shows. Her detail has a rich and authentic feel that doesn’t always lend itself to breathtaking storytelling. Never mind, though. Once the reader is immersed, it’s an easy story to find your stroke with and swim along.

The daughter in question is Margaret Work, a proper young lady raised in good English fashion who is socially hampered by the matter of her birth. Though Margaret’s father is the chief factor at Fort Victoria, her mother is Métis and so Margaret and her siblings find the pool of potential mates in Victoria to be limited. To make matters more difficult, Margaret has set her mind on a marriage that will involve her heart, something her mother approves and so we find Margaret in her mid-20s and heading ever more deeply into spinsterhood.

The Chief Factor’s Daughter is a quiet, elegant book. It deals with an important piece of regional history but, even that falls second to what this book does best and the thing that all successful historical fiction must do: it transports us out of time, out of mind.



Post a Comment

<< Home