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Saturday, 16 July 2011
by Mary Lawson
What is it about Canada that produces such sensitive, far-reaching fiction? Perhaps it’s the landscape, at once vast and enclosed within its highlands and valleys, studded as it is with fertile lakes and rivers. There’s something of isolation in this writing, something which produces these huge stories of ordinary people contained within small places. Already a great fan of female Canadian writers such as Alice Munro, Joan Barfoot and Margaret Atwood, I was immediately interested when my agent suggested I’d enjoy reading 'Crow Lake' by Mary Lawson.
In 'Crow Lake', Kate Morrison is the first person narrator and youngest child of a young family growing up against the beautiful but harsh landscape of rural Northern Ontario. From the outset we are drawn in, as the first chapter closes dramatically, with a significant, heart-wrenching tragedy, which will ultimately propel the Morrison children into unknown and troubling new directions.
Kate’s two older brothers are entirely believable characters, attempting to step up and become the men of the household, betrayed only by their adolescent flaws and naive views of the world. The daily sacrifices are many, and the sister’s retrospective view of their shared history shows us the pain of family members who have, with no obvious awareness of it, outgrown each other with the passing of time. From Kate’s vantage point Lawson unveils the real story with subtlety and closely controlled emotional insight, to reveal a complex, unpredictable and deeply affecting story of a family falling apart at the seams.
From the beautiful descriptions of harsh, magnificent rural Ontario to the evocative storytelling across the generations, Mary Lawson’s 'Crow Lake' is a story which lingers – compelling, lyrical and wise. I can’t believe it took me this long to discover Mary Lawson, but now that I have I’ll be looking out for her future work. And so, without further ado, I’m off to order her second novel 'The Other Side of the Bridge' – yet another book to add to my ever-increasing Summer reading pile!
Reviewed by Isabel Ashdown
Isabel Ashdown is the author of ‘Glasshopper’ and ‘Hurry Up And Wait'. Bookersatz reviews can be found here and here.
She is published by Myriad Editions.
You can see Isabel’s website (complete with Eighties Hall Of Fame/Shame) here.