Author: Hodgins, Jack
Edition: Trade pbk. ed
Number Of Pages: 360
Release Date: 30-08-1999
Item Condition: UsedGood
Details: The northern reaches of Vancouver Island might seem like an incongruous setting for a novel about the First World War--after all, the area was all but unsettled before 1918. As troops were demobilized, however, the Canadian government showed its gratitude for their sacrifices by offering discharged soldiers farmland in this remote and decidedly uncultivatable land. Jack Hodgins recreates one of these settlements as the fictional Portuguese Creek in his B.C. Book Prize-winning novel Broken Ground.
The story opens with young Charlie MacIntosh sitting in the attic of his family's slipshod farmhouse, rolling a clover-and-newspaper cigarette and watching a stranger ride into town. The rider proves to be one Wyatt Taylor, a discharged explosives expert, who has crossed the country in search of his former fiancée, Nora Macken. Both Charlie and Taylor soon become closely involved in the family affairs of Matthew Pearson, a former schoolteacher who has yet to come to terms with his own wartime experience--especially the execution for desertion of one of his former students. As Taylor settles in as a resident jack-of-all-trades, a forest fire continues to roil in the hills above Portuguese Creek, threatening the settlement but not enough to drive the locals away.
Hodgins's greatest accomplishment in Broken Ground is his creation of a vivid and believable rural community. Working at the confluence of gossip and memory, he evokes a full range of private tensions and collective fears; even the most minor characters are brought alive by their role in Portuguese Creek's fragile social web. This is one of those rare historical novels in which the telling of a good tale and the articulation of history coexist comfortably. Broken Ground is at least the equal of Hodgins's best early novels, The Invention of the World and The Resurrection of Joseph Bourne. --Jack Illingworth
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