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Once Upon A Bookshelf

Where Fiction and Reality Meet

The Outlander

Author: Gil Adamson
Originally Published: 2007
Edition Courtney Read Published: 2009
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Source: Purchased

The Story

From the cover flap:

On a moonlit night in 1903, a mysterious young woman flees alone across the Canadian wilderness, one quick step ahead of her pursuers. Mary Boulton is nineteen years old, half mad, and widowed – by her own hand.

Tearing through the forest with dogs howling in the distance, she is desperate, her nerves burning, and she is certain of one thing only – that her every move is being traced. Two red-headed brothers, rifles across their backs, lurch close behind her: monstrous figures, identical in every way, with the predatory look of hyenas. She has murdered their brother, and their cold lust for vengeance is unswerving.

As the widow scrambles to stay ahead of them, the burden of her existence becomes a battle in which the dangers of her own mind are more menacing than the dangers of the night. Along the way, the outlaw encounters a changing cast of misfits and eccentrics. Some, like the recluse known as ‘The Ridgerunner’, provide brief respite from her solitude; others, like the Reverend Bonnycastle, offer support only to reveal that they too have their own demons raging inside. As she is plunged further away from civilization, her path from retribution to redemption slowly unfurls.

A starting transformation of the classic western narrative, The Outlander is the haunting tale of one young woman’s deliberate journey deep into the wild.

The Response

I went into this book hoping only for the best of CanLit. You see, CanLit and I don’t always get along. Some of it I VERY MUCH enjoy and some of it I am left with this tres guilty feeling because I really don’t enjoy it nearly as much as I feel I ought to. Which then leads me to wonder if other people actually enjoyed said contribution to CanLit, or whether they are just saying they like it because gosh darn it, it’s CanLit. Then again, I could just be biased because of the utter horrible experience I had with Mordecai Richler’s The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz.

I digress.

So, I went into this book hoping only for the best of CanLit. I had heard wonderful things about it. And you know what? It was good. It was VERY good. In fact, it was so good that I’m actually wanting to go back and reread some of my favourite parts already.

This book seems so well crafted and has left me so thoroughly impressed with Gil Adamson’s writing. It was beautifully narrated, the characters (even the secondary ones that we don’t see a lot of) were very well developed, and it told such an interesting story.

While normally I would get frustrated with a slow-moving book, the pace of the book completely suited how life out in the Alberta wilderness would have been in the early 1900’s. While it meant that it took longer for me to get into the novel, it certainly reflected well how the widow’s life would have been – even considering the fact that she is on the run and fleeing her two brothers-in-law. It also

I found it a little strange that all throughout this book, the narrater refers to the main character as “the widow” and not by her name. It’s as if the fact that her husband is dead and that she once was married is more important than who she is. In fact, the only time she’s referred to by name is when another character is addressing her. But why? Is it because we’re not supposed to relate to her because she’s a murderer and widow? Is it because she doesn’t relate anymore to herself and sees her widowhood as who she has become? But if that was the case, wouldn’t it change as the novel progressed, as she grew as a character?

One of my favourite things about books like this is that it teaches me a little bit about history – or if not directly, at the least makes me open up my internet browser to delve deeper into some important Canadian history. I don’t remember learning about the landslide in Frank, Alberta before, so I really like the fact that Adamson has brought this part of Canadian history to my attention.

The Bottom Line

A thoroughly enjoyable read that I’m going to be keeping on my shelves and recommending to anyone who enjoys good CanLit.

Posted by Courtney Wilson @ 7:36 am September 7, 2012.
Category: Historical Fiction
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