Fiction Bonnie Burnard A Good House

ISBN 13: 9780006485261

A Good House

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9780006485261: A Good House

A Good House is an extraordinary success story, with ten printings in the first six months of publication. This remarkable portrait that details the fabric of ordinary family life over three generations has captured the hearts of readers and critics—not to mention award committees—all across the country.

Bill Chambers has come home from the Second World War with several fingers missing, but with his hope intact. He wants the best for his wife, Sylvia, and his children, Patrick, Paul and Daphne, and with his steady job at the hardware store in his small hometown, the future opens broadly before him.

A powerful tale of rites and rituals, A Good House is full of masterful details and memorable snapshots of the complex web that is family.Burnard’s keen powers of observation and her sensitivity to emotional nuance have created people we can all recognize and a story that is as moving as it is profound.

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Review:

It's not an easy thing to write a novel about a family. Of necessity--and as the narrative years advance--characters proliferate, success and tragedy accrue, events maneuver to the fore with faintly arbitrary impetus. First-time novelist Bonnie Burnard, however, evades such worn grooves with the purest renunciation: a patient and lovely voice. In A Good House, awarded Canada's Giller Prize in 1999, Burnard documents an Ontario family over half a century with unadorned, deliberate, and tender sympathy.

Flush with post-World War II optimism, veteran Bill Chambers and his wife Sylvia settle in to the business of raising their three young children. Bill logs full days at the local hardware store; Sylvia strings the family's clothes out to dry in the backyard and proffers dinner punctually. Her wasting health, however, leaves her husband yearning for a contentment now stolen and her children disquieted by the sudden tenuousness of their security. When Sylvia dies and Bill remarries, his staunch and pragmatic bride Margaret displays a three-fold capacity: she allows him his sluggish and methodical affection; she preserves Sylvia's memory with untainted regard; and she cultivates a deft empathy with her stepchildren.

Burnard's meticulous pacing nearly, but never quite, upstages the story itself, although her unwieldy and expanding cast of characters occasionally threatens such harm. Margaret is the real wonder of the book. While the requisite affairs, divorces, and funerals intervene--and as Bill declines excruciatingly into a belligerent stranger--she summons a reserve of affection, the source of which is admirably opaque. She perseveres in "hoping as mothers and fathers almost always do that the difficulties could be examined, could be broken apart and fixed one by one by one." Burnard's tale is dignified and generous. --Ben Guterson

About the Author:

BONNIE BURNARD is the author of two novels and two short story collections. Her first story collection, Women of Influence, won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book. Casino & Other Stories was shortlisted for the inaugural Giller Prize and won the Saskatchewan Book of the Year Award. Her first novel, A Good House, won the Giller Prize and the CBA People’s Choice Award and was published around the world in many languages. Her second novel, Suddenly, was a Globe and Mail Book of the Year, praised by critics as “a smart, consuming read” (Toronto Star) and “an unassuming masterpiece” (The Globe and Mail). A recipient of the Marian Engel Award, Bonnie Burnard lives in London, Ontario.

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