The Stone Carvers by Jane Urquhart

>> Monday, April 6, 2009

The book I have just finished, The Stone Carvers , by Jane Urquhart , is one that I expect will be added to my collection of books worth re-reading.

I met Urquhart at last year’s Leacock Festival in Orillia Ontario; she signed a book for me. That book was just a collection of Canadian short stories that she had edited though - not one of hers. I should have bought one of hers at the Festival. But I was being a ~good girl~ … I go to the Festival every year…. almost every event …. and thoroughly enjoy it… but it does tend to get a ~bit~ expensive if I start buying all the books I want to buy there. So I just stayed far, far away from the book table last year.

But then one of her novels, Away , turned up on my Canadian lit syllabus this semester, I had a good excuse to buy that one, right?

I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. So when I saw a copy of another of her novels, The Stone Carvers , used but in perfect condition, for $5 in a used bookstore, I grabbed it.

The Stone Carvers tells the story of siblings Klara and Tilman, who are both carvers, as was their grandfather. It is set predominently in Ontario in the early 20th Century.

Klara, for most of the novel, remains on the family farm, where she supports herself as a tailor, and after the man she loves goes off to war and doesn’t return, is content to be the eccentric spinster who remains on the family farm. Tilman runs away from the farm while still a child, in spite of the drastic lengths his parents go to to keep him there. He returns many years later, after having lost his leg in the battle at Vimy Ridge. Together, they journey back to Rimy to work on the monument being built by Walter Allward .

Urquhart’s prose is as poetic as her poetry, and she does a beautiful job of creating fictional characters that seem every bit as real and fully developed as the nonfictional characters, such as Allward. The Stone Carvers , like Away , makes it ever so much easier to develop a sense of Canadian history….something I very much appreciate, since it is all stuff I need to know if I do go onto Canadian Studies. I’ve never been so great at memorizing dates or that sort of thing… you know, the stuff you need to do if you’re going to sound like you have a clue…. Urquhart’s novels make history real.


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