Jane Urquhart, Author
Jane Urquhart, Author David R. Godine Publisher $18.95 (214p) ISBN 978-0-87923-806-3
Reviewed on: 01/30/1990
Release date: 02/01/1990
In her debut novel, Canadian poet Urquhart finds that the landscape and society on the Canadian side of late-19th-century Niagara Falls furnishes ample metaphor for an exploration of themes of obsession, withdrawal and the relationship of individuals to both society and nature. Bracketed by scenes of Robert Browning's last days in Venice, the story traces the interwoven lives of Patrick, a chronically ill clerk and would-be poet; blustery military historian and Americaphobe David MacDougal; his eccentric wife, Fleda, who spends her days in the woods, reading Browning's poetry; and Maude, the undertaker's widow with a mute four-year-old son. Urquhart reminds us that this era saw the end of romanticism as, against the backdrop of the river, its whirlpool and the forest, Patrick chooses to take refuge in his fantasies of Fleda rather than accept her offer of a real relationship. Fleda casts off social conventions and goes to live in the woods, at the same time that Maude, discarding the tokens of mourning, renews contact with her son, who begins in his own way to speak. Atmospheric and original, Urquhart's ambitious tale may cause readers to strain after its significance, but her accomplished prose and subtle characterization reward the effort. (Jan.)
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