Monday, October 02, 2006
The Other Side of the Bridge - Mary Lawson [September/06]
I actually read this book a while ago, when I was supposed to be reading David Adams Richards new book. Mind you, I still have not finished that book, but I did read this one. For those non-Canadians out there, Mary Lawson's first book was called Crow Lake. It came out a few years ago to moderate success. I loved it, thought it was an awesome story, and have been meaning to reread it. In the meantime, she came out with The Other Side of the Bridge.
From the flap:
The Other Side of the Bridge tells the unforgettable story of two brotheres, Arthur and ake Dunn, the sons of a farmer in the fictional North Ontario community of Struan, whose lives are shadowed by the looming threat of World War II. Arthur-shy, dependable, dutiful-looks, sets to inherit the family farm; Jake, his younger brother, is irresistible: handsome, mercurical in temperament, and frankly dangerous to know. When a young woman, Laura, arrives in Struan, the fragile balance of Arthur and Jake's sibling rivalry is pushed to the very edge of catastrophe.
Some twenty years later, Ian Christopherson, the son of Struan's town doctor-naive, idealistic, and far too sure he knows the difference between right and wrong-takes a job on the Dunn farm. Obsessed with Arthur's wife, Ian is like a fuse waiting to ignite the hidden emotions around him.
The town's two generations are tragically linked, connected by fate and community but separated by war that devours its young men, its horror reaching right into the heart of this remote corner of an empire. With her astonishing ability to ratchet up tension slowly and delicately, Mary Lawson builds their story to a shocking climax. Taut with apprehension, surprising us with moments of tenderness and humour, The Other Side of the Bridge is compelling and humane novel with an irresistible emotional undertow.
The first thing to say about this book is I liked it better than Crow Lake. They are both wonderful Canadian novels, though, and Mary Lawson is right up there as one of my favourite authors. I think I am going to have to start writing these posts ahead of time and then posting them up when I am able, because I remember this book, but at the same time there has been a span of time since I read it that has taken the wow factor of the book away from me.
This book takes place in two time periods: when Jake and Arthur are young men and then later when Ian is a young man. Arthur is in essence looking back on his childhood. When people living in the town nowadays look at Arthur they see a strange man. He refuses to use a tractor, even though they have been in common use for quite some time, and for this people see him as strange. But, the readers know better. They have seen his past, the loss that he has suffered, and the reader knows Arthur better than any of the town folk know him.
Ian is the other main character. He is living while Arthur is older, after all the bad things that has happened to him have gone by. Ian is the son of the doctor, and he is struggling with his own identity. Everyone expects him to go to med school, so he has a hard time finding himself. He doesn't want to be expected to do anything, so he rebells through most of the novel against the ideals the town seems to set for him. He also suffers a lot through the novel. He has to deal with his best friend, and the lack of expectations that people have for Native Canadians. He expects his friend to excell, while his friend does what most people expects of him. Ian also has some troubles with his mother during this novel, troubles that even by the end he has just barely forgiven her for.
Arthur and Ian come from very different backgrounds, but Lawson manages to weave the two characters lives together very well. Now I am going to look forward to Lawson's next novel! For a great Canadian read, I suggest her. Her novels take place in Ontario and are both written really well.
You can learn more about this book by clicking here.