BookBrowse Reviews The Communist's Daughter by Dennis Bock

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Communist's Daughter

by Dennis Bock

The Communist's Daughter by Dennis Bock X
The Communist's Daughter by Dennis Bock
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Feb 2007, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2008, 304 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team
Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


Storytelling at its best - passionate, wrenching, compelling - about a complex, contradictory man caught in the relentless sweep of history

Dennis Bock imagines the life of the historical Norman Bethune, keeping the essence of history intact but playing fast and lose with the details. Details that some might consider rather central - such as the fact that the entire novel is addressed to Bethune's daughter who he never met - but, historically speaking, never had.

In his few spare minutes from the Chinese battlefield hospitals, Bethune writes to his daughter about his childhood, his failed marriage, his time in Franco's Spain and the siege of Madrid, and the futility of war; vividly describing the horrors of the Spanish Civil War and the terrible sufferings of the Chinese peasants stuck between Mao's revolutionary army, the Nationalist army and the Japanese.

In addition to providing an "eye-witness" record of the carnage of war, Bethune shows himself to be a selfless idealist (albeit complex and contradictory) who set out to do good, but was beaten down by the reality of a very ugly world. Bock puts Bethune's strong left-leaning political views into the context of the day and shows them to be not only honorable but rational when faced by both the wave of fascism sweeping central Europe and the Great Depression that many, including Bethune, saw as the failed experiment of capitalism.

A novelist must be allowed some leeway to carry out his craft, and there is no firm evidence that somewhere in the mess of the Spanish Civil War Bethune didn't meet a woman and didn't have a child. But it seems a pity that Bock built the story around this particular fictional device because it has caused some critics to conclude that, in failing to return to his motherless daughter, Bethune is all too human but not sufficiently humane. Thus, in the eyes of many readers, the real Bethune will be tarred by the same brush as his fictional counterpart.

The Communist's Daughter is a powerful novel that grows on the reader. My eventual enjoyment and appreciation of the book would have come earlier if I had known more about the real-life Bethune, in order to put the events of the novel into better context. So that you do not find yourself in a similar situation, there's a brief biography of Bethune in the sidebar.

Dennis Bock was born on the north shore of Lake Ontario, in the small town of Belleville. His family moved to Oakville, just west of Toronto, when he was six. He entered the University of Western Ontario after high school, and took one year off during that time to live in Spain. In 1989, he returned to Madrid for 5 years after graduating with an Honors BA in English and Philosophy. In Madrid he began writing his collection of connected stories, Olympia, and worked on it while in residence at Yaddo, the Banff Centre and the Fundacion Valparadiso, Spain. It was published in 1998 and won several prizes in the UK and Canada.

His first novel, The Ash Garden, was a #1 national bestseller. His second novel, The Communist's Daughter was published in hardcover 2006 in Canada, and 2007 in the USA. He lives with his family in Guelph, Ontario.



"Charity should be abolished; and be replaced by justice." - Norman Bethune.


"We go to the people!... Look out the windows - a whole street of houses. That's where the doctor must go. Into every house, into every city, into every village. From door to door. We take medicine right down to the last individual..." - Norman Bethune, 1935.

This review was originally published in March 2007, and has been updated for the March 2008 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Courting Mr. Lincoln
    Courting Mr. Lincoln
    by Louis Bayard
    19 out of 21 of our First Impression Reviewers rated Louis Bayard's latest novel, Courting Mr. ...
  • Book Jacket
    Transcription
    by Kate Atkinson
    Over her two-decade-plus career, Kate Atkinson has reinvented herself as a writer several times by ...
  • Book Jacket: Exhalation
    Exhalation
    by Ted Chiang
    Exhalation is an assemblage of nine short stories and novellas written by Ted Chiang, a computer ...
  • Book Jacket: Disappearing Earth
    Disappearing Earth
    by Julia Phillips
    On the remote peninsula of Kamchatka—tucked away on the far eastern corner of Russia and ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Guest Book
    by Sarah Blake

    "An American epic in the truest sense…"
    Entertainment Weekly
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Women Rowing North
    by Mary Pipher

    The instant New York Times bestseller from the author of Reviving Ophelia.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club
Book Jacket
Her Kind of Case
by Jeanne Winer

A highly-recommended emotion-filled legal drama with three starred reviews!

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Miracle Creek

My husband asked me to lie. Not a big lie...

A thrilling debut novel for fans of Liane Moriarty and Celeste Ng.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I I T S Form O F

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.