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Cabbagetown: A Novel [Paperback]

Hugh Garner
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 21.00
Price: CDN$ 15.16 & FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25. Details
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Book Description

Aug. 19 2002
Toronto's Cabbagetown in the Depression...North America's largest Anglo-Saxon slum. Ken Tilling leaves school to face the bleak prospects of the dirty thirties-where do you go, what do you do, how do you make a life for yourself when all the world offers in unemployment, poverty and uncertainty?

"As a social document, Cabbagetown is as important and revealing as either The Tin Flute or The Grapes of Wrath. Stern realism has also projected upon the pages of a whole gallery of types, lifelike and convincing. He is well fitted to hold the mirror up to human nature." Globe and Mail.

Cabbagetown was first published in an abbreviated paperback edition in 1950 and was published in its entirety in 1968. This, the first quality paperback edition, contains the full unexpurgated text of Cabbagetown.


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Had Hugh MacLennan been an anarcho-syndicalist and a D.H. Lawrence devotee, he might have written books like Cabbagetown, a voluminous tale of depression-era Canada that's arguably Hugh Garner's finest novel. First published in a bowdlerized edition in 1950, Cabbagetown is one of the few Canadian novels published before 1960 that is genuinely frank about sex and politics, and as a result, it's one of the few literary artifacts of its time to dismantle the myth of Toronto the Good.

Set in Toronto's east-end Cabbagetown neighbourhood ("the largest Anglo-Saxon slum in North America," not the comfortable middle-class enclave it has since become), Garner's novel begins on the eve of the Great Depression, with his teenage characters leaving school, finding paltry jobs, and attending half-innocent kissing parties at their more privileged friends' homes. The effects of the stock market collapse slowly begin to crush Cabbagetown's paltry economy, and Garner's characters--the earnestly struggling Ken Tilling and the sometime love of his life Myrla Patson most prominent among them--do what they can to survive. Some turn to crime, prostitution, or wage slavery and others ride the rails, while one cynical social climber becomes a crypto-fascist and government clerk.

Cabbagetown is chiefly notable as an alternative social history of Toronto. There's nothing puritanical about Garner's novel; in this Old Ontario, people cruise for sex in city parks, drink themselves to death, and lie, cheat, cuss, and steal for all they're worth. It's also an Ontario rife with political struggle: in one of the novel's most disturbing scenes, a gang of fascist youths attacks a party of picnicking Jews at Cherry Beach; later, Ken Tilling finds his way into the Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War. As literary art, Cabbagetown is decidedly second-tier. Readers who have yet to read Norman Levine's (By a Frozen River or Canada Made Me) shouldn't turn to Garner just yet. Nonetheless, its brutal honesty makes it a consistently rewarding novel, and far more than a mere historical curiosity. --Jack Illingworth

Review

"...as important and revealing as The Grapes of Wrath." -- Globe and Mail

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
"Goodbye, Tilling, and good luck," said the principal, Mr. J. K. Cornish, proffering his hand. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars cabbagetown Dec 17 2011
Format:Paperback
Ok this was a very hard book to find, If you ever lived in Cabbagetown(located in a hard area of Toronto. I lived there when I was first married. We had the Salvation Army hostel across the street with the local colorful men congregated every night for a bed. This book really spells it out what that neighborhood was like.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Grab a Canadian dictionary Nov. 26 2002
By Erika
Format:Paperback
I really enjoyed this book, but reading it at 23 was a small challenge. I didn't know if it was the author, the time, or the region, but I found there were many words that I just didn't know. Some could be deciphered by reading the sentence or paragraph, others I wrote down and looked up; even that was enjoyable. I had done a research paper on Cabbagetown, but really enjoyed a novel written by someone who lived it and loved it.
Wonderful story, cool history, great writing.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Still Relevant Today Sept. 8 2002
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Cabbagetown is still as relevant today as when it was written in 1950. With the same same econmic and cultural pressures in play today as during the Depression it is well worth the read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Still Relevant Today Sept. 8 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Cabbagetown is still as relevant today as when it was written in 1950. With the same same econmic and cultural pressures in play today as during the Depression it is well worth the read.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Grab a Canadian dictionary Nov. 26 2002
By Erika - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I really enjoyed this book, but reading it at 23 was a small challenge. I didn't know if it was the author, the time, or the region, but I found there were many words that I just didn't know. Some could be deciphered by reading the sentence or paragraph, others I wrote down and looked up; even that was enjoyable. I had done a research paper on Cabbagetown, but really enjoyed a novel written by someone who lived it and loved it.
Wonderful story, cool history, great writing.
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