Howard Norman, widely regarded as one of this country's finest novelists, returns to the mesmerizing fictional terrain of his major books--The Bird Artist, The Museum Guard, and The Haunting of L--in this erotically charged and morally complex story.
Seventeen-year-old Wyatt Hillyer is suddenly orphaned when his parents, within hours of each other, jump off two different bridges--the result of their separate involvements with the same compelling neighbor, a Halifax switchboard operator and aspiring actress. The suicides cause Wyatt to move to small-town Middle Economy to live with his uncle, aunt, and ravishing cousin Tilda.
Setting in motion the novel's chain of life-altering passions and the wartime perfidy at its core is the arrival of the German student Hans Mohring, carrying only a satchel. Actual historical incidents--including a German U-boat's sinking of the Nova Scotia-Newfoundland ferry Caribou, on which Aunt Constance Hillyer might or might not be traveling--lend intense narrative power to Norman's uncannily layered story.
Wyatt's account of the astonishing--not least to him-- events leading up to his fathering of a beloved daughter spills out twenty-one years later. It's a confession that speaks profoundly of the mysteries of human character in wartime and is directed, with both despair and hope, to an audience of one.
An utterly stirring novel. This is Howard Norman at his celebrated best.
Howard Norman is a master storyteller, packing provocative details into virtually every sentence of this short, but hardly slight, novel. Secondary characters, including the bakery owner, an aspiring stenographer, and a record collector, are depicted as quirky but utterly human. Likewise, the details of life in Middle Economy, including Tilda's aspirations to become a professional mourner, Donald's increasing obsessions, and Wyatt's attempt to master a craft, are simultaneously slightly off-kilter and completely sympathetic. (Reviewed by Norah Piehl).
Library Journal - Joy Humphrey
The recurring images of music, water, and war make this a haunting novel not soon to be forgotten.
Starred Review. Norman’s writing is effortless, and his plot is grand in scope but studded with moments of tenderness and intimacy ...That Norman is able to achieve so much in 250 pages is a testament to his mastery of the craft.
"Starred Review. It is extraordinary that a story which carries such a weight of sorrow is never depressing, but Norman the master craftsman pulls it off."
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Mij Woodward Wonderful Novel This book was SO GOOD. The setting, the history, the poignant tale of the father and his daughter. The story stays will stay with me forever.
Rated of 5
by Deby What is Left...Amazing Sometimes in life you discover a book so amazing that you find you carry it with you weeks after you have finished its last word...such is What is Left the Daughter. Alabama Booksmith sent this novel to me as a part of its signed first edition... Read More
Although Donald's growing suspicions about Hans Mohring and other Europeans cross the line into obsession, some American readers may be surprised to learn just how active German U-boats were in Canadian waters during World War II. (U-boat is the anglicized version of unterseeboot, meaning undersea boat, i.e. a submarine).
During 1942, the German military mounted a series of strategic attacks on individual ships in the waters off the coast of Canada. These submarine attacks were intended to break up the formation of convoys and to disrupt the potential of North American naval activity in European waters. Because Canada had already committed a large proportion of their forces to fight overseas and their warships to escort convoys, they didn't have many defenses close to home, leaving ships such as tankers and ferries vulnerable to attack.
Whimsical, wise, beautiful, magical, and sometimes even heartbreaking, A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True weaves together two remarkable stories, reimagining half a century of Polish history through the legacy of one unforgettable love affair.
A true masterwork of haunting and spectacular vision from one of our greatest writers, Canada is a profound novel of boundaries traversed, innocence lost and reconciled, and the mysterious and consoling bonds of family.
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