Sunday, August 30, 2009
Three Day Road
I'd heard the buzz about Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden, but was reluctant to pick it up because the plot focused around the First World War, a topic that's never held a strong personal appeal. But when I saw it in the bookstore it had an endorsement from Isabel Allende on the cover and I knew I had to give it a read.
This first novel was published in ten languages, shortlisted for the Governor General's Award for Fiction and won several prizes, including Amazon Books In Canada First Novel Award, and the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize.
Xavier, Elijah and Niska tell their stories to one another while the reader listens in. Boyden says, " I was uncomfortable having these characters talking to the reader, I wanted to avoid a too self-conscious a style, and so I had each protagonist in the book tell a story to another.... hopefully the reader feels like a participant in a type of confession, a sharing and a cleansing." Works for me.
The role that Canada's aboriginals played in the First World War is not well known, but as hunters and trackers many brought skills that were highly useful to the battle. Reading some of these passages made me feel I've borne witness to the horrors of trench warfare. But it is the stories told by Xavier's aunt, Niska, that I read the most closely. Sorceress and medicine woman, she lives a life of courage apart from her people and remains a source of strength for Xavier even when she is worlds away.
I'll definitely be picking up the second book, with Xavier's children and grandchildren as central players.