Editorial Reviews for this title:
Charles and Addington Gaunt must find their free-spirited brother, Simon, who has gone missing in the wilds of the American West. They enlist the services of a guide to lead them on their journey across a harsh and unknown landscape. This is the enigmatic Jerry Potts, half Blackfoot, half Scottish, who suffers his own painful past. They are joined by Lucy Stoveall, a woman filled with rage and sorrow over the loss of her young sister Madge who was brutally murdered. She is on a vengeful mission to track down and kill the murderous Kelso brothers. The group is joined by a jumble of other characters en route, each of whom are forced to confront their own demons. But at the novel's centre is a love story. Vanderhaeghe glides effortlessly through the patois and frontier talk, faultlessly switching from cultured English characters to American roughnecks to Scots-Canadians, and the natural prairie landscape is evoked brilliantly.
Set in the late 19th century, The Last Crossing
, Guy Vanderhaeghe's first novel since his acclaimed Englishman's Boy
, is the story of three well-off English brothers: twins Simon and Charles Gaunt and their elder sibling, Addington, a former soldier and an arrogant scoundrel. At the behest of their dictatorial father, Charles and Addington travel the prairies of the U.S. and Canada in search of sensitive Simon, who has disappeared. Much of the novel concerns their journeys--bottles of port and claret rattling in their wagons--through Indian country with a cast of intricately drawn, fully realized characters. The small troupe is led through the whiskey-coloured light by Jerry Potts, a half-breed with one foot firmly in each world. The heart of the plot involves the love that Charles, a painter, feels for Lucy Stoveall, a simple but lovely country woman who accompanies them, secretly intent on avenging her sister's murder. However, the most intriguing character in this marvelous collection of all-too-human personalities is Custis Straw, a Bible-reading, heavy-drinking Civil War veteran who hides his tremendous dignity behind a bumbling facade, and who also loves Lucy.
Vanderhaeghe's rich language reveals a genuine feel for the prairies and their rough settlements: "a boom town draws rogues like a jam jar draws wasps," he writes, and describes "miles of wet plain patched with apple green, new penny copper, glints of silver." Though this is a Western in the traditional sense, Vanderhaeghe never sinks into parody. Rather, he uses the Western motif to reveal a number of profound universal truths about personal honour, and human failings and strengths. His humane character depictions reach emotional depths found in few novels today. --Mark Frutkin, Amazon.ca
CBA Libris Awards—Fiction Book of the Year A Nominee for the 2004 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Prize A #1 National Best-Seller in Canada
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