Sunday, January 27, 2008

#4 - The Outlander


Preamble: I've got to write things in order or else I'll totally forget bits and pieces along the way. Just before finishing up The Outlander for The Canadian Book Challenge I read the second book in the Pretty Little Liars series, Flawless, and thought it was a bit of fun (#3 for the year). Then, just before we left for Mexico, I finally finished Gil Adamson's The Outlander, which I'm using as Alberta for the before-mentioned reading challenge. Adamson's book has been on my nightstand for months. I picked it up after reading the somewhat controversial article by Noah Richler in Macleans last year, with the thought to reading all three novels discussed (next up, and the final title Richler critiques in his piece, Jacqueline Baker's The Horseman's Graves).

The Outlander tells the story of a nineteen-year-old widow, Mary Boulton, who flees her homestead in rural Alberta after murdering her cheating brute of a husband. Chased by his almost-twin brothers, each tall, blonde and brutish, the widow soon finds herself deep in the Rockies, lost in the wilderness and on the edge of death. That is, until she meets the ridgerunner, William Moreland, who saves her from starvation and a little from the madness that has haunted her ever since the terribly tragedy forced her from her miserable home. Their time together is brief, but it has an impact on both Mary and William, and their feelings form the emotional backdrop for the rest of the novel.

Alone again, and now hunted almost to the brink of her own sanity, the widow is finally shown kindness by the Reverend Bonnycastle, or "Bonny" as she calls him, in a tiny mining town called Frank. A world away from her own upbringing, the widow finds herself approaching happiness for the first time in her young life. But the hunters do not give up the hunt, and each day they grow closer to finding her, and ruining her tenuous grip on both reality and her own survival.

Adamson's book feels epic, both in its scope and its language, as it sweeps across the landscape, leaving trails of interesting metaphors and intricate detail that create a vivid picture of the experiences of her protagonist. It's an engaging novel, and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. If the purpose of my participation in The Canadian Book Challenge is to read from coast to coast, I am certainly glad I finally read Adamson's book. Filled up with local history and real people (although fictionalized for the purposes of the narrative, of course), the most interesting parts of the book are the things that happen to the widow and the people she meets, not necessarily the drive for her to escape her dead husband's merciless brothers.

PHOTO IN CONTEXT: Simply a link taken from the publisher's website, in case anyone was interested in knowing that it took Adamson 10 years to write this novel.

READING CHALLENGE UPDATE: So...this takes care of Alberta! And Canada for that matter (I'm killing two challenges with one read).

2 comments:

John Mutford said...

It's only been through the challenge that I've even heard about this book (Anansi Press was even kind enough to donate a copy as a prize). Glad to hear it was a good read.

It took 10 years? Wow. Sort of makes me nervous about the next effort.

Melanie said...

I heard about this one but wasn't really tempted...until I read this review! You make it sound like a fun read, in the way it uses the Western genre. And since I went to the town of Frank in 2006 I really want to read this now.