Sunday, January 03, 2010

Winter Vault

Winter Vault by Anne Michaels is a novel about place. The plot and characters are just interesting enough to carry the novel, but their connection to the land is predominant.

The novel begins with the relocation of the Abu Simel temple just before the flooding of the reservoir above the Aswan Dam. Villages, homes and people will also be relocated. The main characters recall a previous experience along the St Lawrence Seaway in Ontario.

The places in the novel - and the ethnicities - are familiar to me - the Holland Marsh, skating in the ravines of Toronto, experiencing the rebuilding of Warsaw through the memories of a Polish immigrant. Similar to Fugitive Pieces, this novel once again depicts the earth as a layered and three dimensional landscape, crevassed and excavated, open to the reader.

The novel calls you underground, and then we fnally realize that the "Winter Vault" is that Victorian ornate structure which stores the bodies in the cemetary for spring when they too can be buried underground.

The rivers, the streets, the plants, the winter vault itself, are all real parts of Toronto; and Egypt, the St. Lawrence, and Poland are all a part of the story of unbuilding and rebuilding, of reshaping land and water.

I sometimes find it hard to tell what makes a story interesting to me as a reader, but I think it is often not what the story brings to you, the reader, but what the reader brings to the book. Which is to say that I loved this book about Toronto but I am not sure that every reader would.

1 comment:

Jane said...

Her fugitive pieces is one of my favourite novels so thanks for pointing to this, sounds as if I may have to track downa copy.
Happy New Year Suzanne. I continue to read and enjoy your blog and marvel at your knowledge, commitment and ability to communicate your convictions.
May 2010 bring you contentment.