Sunday, May 16, 2010

Kanata- Don Gilmor

If there is such a thing as a novel being too epic, this is it. Kanata is a fictionalized account of Canadian history- all the way from David Thompson, to John A. MacDonald to Mackenzie King.

I bought Don Gilmor's novel after hearing that it featured David Thompson. I figured it would be a nice contrast to his journals (see my earlier review). I have to admit, I had high expectations. There are parts of the novel that lived up to these expectations- every part that didn't feature David Thompon, or John A., or Norman Bethune, or Diefenbaker or any other great Canadian. The great part of this novel was the story of Michael Mountain Horse, the fictional character who acted as a framing device for the stories of the more well-known characters.

Unfortunately, the parts with fictionalized accounts of real people felt too forced and disconnected. The people I was most familiar with before reading the novel (like David Thompson) didn't hold true to my image of them. They were underdeveloped sketches of their real selves. I wish Gilmor had found a way to tell Michael M.H.'s story without all the drama of being an epic Canadian novel. The writing is there, the idea was too grand.

A 'famous' Canadian archivist (as famous as there are) once said that Canadian history is the first person, singular. What he meant was that unlike the Americans or British, who frame their history around great men (think Churchill or Roosevelt), Canadian history is about communities and individuals. Gilmor tried to prove this wrong and he failed.


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