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Consolation: A Novel Hardcover – Aug 29 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday Canada; Canadian First edition (Aug. 29 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385659504
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385659505
  • Product Dimensions: 21.2 x 15 x 3.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 640 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #201,107 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Schmadrian TOP 500 REVIEWER on Sept. 6 2007
Format: Paperback
I waited a long time to read this book. (Financial shortfalls, doncha know...) I was excited to find out that it was set in Toronto, that it might end up being 'the great Toronto novel'. (Especially after a correspondence this year with The Toronto Star's Philip Marchand on this very subject.)

Over the past two weeks, I read Redhill's debut novel, 'Martin Sloane' and his collection of short fiction, 'Fidelity' in order to prepare for this Man-Booker Prize nomination. Reading the first portion of 'Consolation', I wasn't convinced that what I was reading was going to knock my socks off. Fortunately, the novel soon enough took off and pretty much read it right through over about a day and a half. The verdict?

Mr Redhill deserves top maks for having created two characters that really, really got on my nerves, two people I really wanted to hit. His other characterizations were not as evocative. He also deserves a gold pixie for having contrasted the narrative styles of the two time-frames portrayed; Toronto in the 1850s and the 1990s. The vocabulary for the former era was especially fitting, nicely appropriate. And he managed to make me cry. Three times.

Did 'Consolation' live up to my expectations, or the hype? Hmm... No. In the end, I suppose I'd have to sum it up this way: while the premise is a knock-out one, and Mr Redhill is a very good, developing writer...would that he were as gifted a storyteller. I can think of at least three other writers who might have run a little farther, with a little more gusto and with a better end result had they authored 'Consolation'. Still, it was worth the wait.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By microfiche TOP 1000 REVIEWER on Feb. 16 2008
Format: Hardcover
I was prepared to be ambivalent about this novel. I find Canadian novels bleak and overwrought with death, suffering and 'big thoughts'. This book was no exception, but since I am a history buff and work with the old books and manuscripts in the Reference Library, naturally I ploughed through. I clicked with David and with Jem Hallam [not the real life John Hallam, the late 19th c. businessman who was instrumental in getting Toronto to have a free public library, but I think it's serendipitous that his name is on this character. Mr. H. collected many books, esp. on the history of Canada]. I too have 'seen' the old cities superimposed on the modern one before me. I can almost feel the doggedness and the sorrow of the mourners at Potter's field as I pass the Bank of Commerce building that stands on its site. And I could relate to Mr. Hallam. I think any Toronto immigrant could. He found a cold money oriented city, but he gradually, through Ennis and Claudia, put down roots and made a sort of life, a sort of footprint in the city. Not with the panorama, though that helped.
The book needed those pictures. There are copies of the panorama at the National Archives and at the Reference Library. They should be seen in the book because That was the Toronto Hallam saw.
The writing is evocative and powerful, but pretentious in the modern sections. I wish that David had told the story before he died. He would have shown the city's roots with more passion than his family accepted it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 6 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Haunting short Jan. 10 2007
By Armchair Interviews - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Throughout history, humankind has been fascinated with those who lived before them. At any given moment, hundreds of archaeologists and historians are searching for remnants of lost civilizations and peoples from aeons past.

In this new novel, Michael Redhill introduces us to one such historian, David Hollis. Through much research, Hollis feels he has pinpointed the location of a steel strongbox, containing an enormous treasure: glass negatives from the earliest pictures ever taken of Toronto when it was still in its newborn stages. Unfortunately, we no sooner meet Hollis than we lose him. He has Lou Gehrig's disease, and commits suicide in the very first chapter. We learn more about Hollis from his wife, Marianne, than from observing him.

Marianne, upon her husband's untimely demise, determines that she will vindicate his life's work, and sets out to find the strongbox. She learns the exact location, underneath a landfill being excavated for a sports stadium. She takes up residence in a hotel overlooking the project, and watches and waits for her opportunity to find the treasure.

Throughout the book, we also become aquainted with the citizens of early Toronto. This is a remarkable glimpse into the past for those of us firmly rooted in the 21st century. I found these chapters more enjoyable than the present-day chapters.

This book provides a haunting look at the past, the present, and what men will do for fame, honor, and money.

Armchair Interviews says: Unique look at Toronto's history.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
"He belonged in this place, with these people . . ." Feb. 3 2008
By Kevin Killian - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
My mother recommended this novel to me not long before she died, so it will have a bittersweet memory to it as long as I live. Neither she nor I have ever been to the mighty city it illuminates so gravely, Toronto, but maybe that fact added to the childlike wonder and mystery with which poet Michael Redhill has composed his story. There is something Oz like, something Byzantian, to the life history of any great city, and Redhill piles this sense on thick, at the same exact time as his narrative becomes literally a place of deconstruction. This leads to a peculiar sense of being given something wonderful, and of losing something equivalent, as the novel's plot seesaws back and forth between the present day and the world of early Ontario, back in the 1850s when a hardy band of winterized pioneers were making a mini-England out of a cursed and chilblained landscape. Not to mention that it was the early days of photography, an infant art that, in recent years, has seen a huge market constructed around it, so that everyday photographs, not only "art" photography, of a certain era has been widly prized behind its makers' wildest dreams.

On top of which, CONSOLATION has the rich characters and the exotic spectrum of histories churning that animated Pasternak's DOCTOR ZHIVAGO or indeed Tolstoy's ANNA KARENINA. If i turn to Russian models to get at my experience of living through CONSOLATION, maybe it is because Redhill's novel has a moral authority that haunts the reader long after he or she has finished the very last page. Up until then we have been anxiously awaiting the results of a mystery--so the photos exist, the photos that researcher David Hollis staked his professional reputation on? A ring of photos that, laid end to end, would represent the old city of Toronto, circa 1850, like the mirrors on the edge of a revolving music box? Marianne, his widow, thinks she has it figured out, and she's waiting grimly as one of those mariners wives of the 19th century, stalking her widow's walk from her hotel room overlooking the construction of a new civic area. She's a fascinating character, but from one perspective more than a little mad. In this she is a true daughter of Canada, as we see from the grand, operatic switch to the daily life of Jem Hallam, the man who might have taken the photos.

Hallam is a brilliantly drawn character, vulnerable, talented, generous, superstitious, given to strange bouts of obsession and drawn to all the "wrong" elements in life. He is the exemplar of the early settlers of Canada, the men and women whom fate drew together to form a city. His relationship with the master photographer under whom he serves as apprentice, and with the master's assistant, the beautiful Claudia, serve as wheels to propel his story closer and closer to what seems like an inevitable heartbreak. I was just about four fifths through with the story when I realized where I had heard the name of the author, Michael Redhill, before. He is one of the editors of BRICK magazine in Canada, and I had had some e-mail dealings with him about fifteen months ago. Why did he not mention he had CONSOLATION coming up around the corner? You know how US authors don't miss a trick, and they'll turn their e-mail "signatures" into living, Vegas, adverts for their novels! I thought of CONSOLATION also while looking at Edweard Muybridge's panoramic photos of San Francisco (1877-1878), of course a far later epoch of photography than the one Redhill handles. I won't spoil the ending for you but be prepared, you're in for one of those grand, satisfying finales.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Layers of Memory, Time, and Place Rub Together Irresistibly April 13 2007
By Janet Riehl - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Michael Redhill's "Consolation" layers memory, perception, place, time, grief, secrets, relationship, and hope in an irresistible rubbing of century against century and life against life. Throughout the lifespan of the book Redhill's character's gain compassion, and this compassion dawns as wisdom--for many of the lives that we follow so intimately here. I can only feel gratitude that this book exists.

--Janet Grace Riehl, author Sightlines: A Poet's Diary
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Poetic and lyrical, "Consolation" is a gem Jan. 23 2009
By Reader from Singapore - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Michael Redhill's "Consolation" is the kind of book that needs a book prize award to draw the attention of readers and though it didn't win big, it was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2007. And what a wonderfully written novel it is. There's wondrous poetry and a certain rather attractive lyricism to Redhill's prose that makes "Consolation" such a pleasure to spend one's precious hours with.

There are two stories running alongside each other here, a back story of immense romanticism and interest that testify to the pioneering spirit of early immigrants into the North American continent in the 19th century, fore grounded by a rather bitter and strident cast of present day characters trying to come to terms with a family suicide and professional disgrace connected with a shipwreck theory that beneath the construction site for a sports arena lies tangible evidence of certain photographic plates carrying pictures of old Toronto. The suicide's guilt ridden widow Marianne, tries to vindicate the belief of her deceased husband, against the strong objection of her daughter who urge letting bygones be bygones, by holing herself in a hotel room overlooking the site hoping to get government approval to unearth archaelogical evidence to clear her husband's name. As it turns out, her prospective son-in-law holds the key to the mystery surrounding her husband's death.

Surprisingly but then perhaps not, it is the back story set in the 19th century of English apothecary Jem Hallam's sojourn westwards in search of a better life, his capitulation to rivals controlling the trade, his life transforming chance meeting with Ennis and Claudia, that would enthrall and hold me captive throughout. This back story is so gloriously life affirming and poignant, its characters so well formed, human and believable, the present day story becomes an unwelcome distraction. The plot is static, the prose sometimes obscure or terse, and the characters unaccountably bad tempered and unsympathetic. I couldn't wait to get back to Hallam's story every time the narrative switched back to the present.

"Consolation" is only marred by a denouement that promised much but sadly disintegrated into a muddy mess. I must have missed something if other readers didn't also go "huh" ?? Despite this, "Consolation" is a tremendous piece of work I enjoyed very much and would highly recommend to other readers of serious fiction.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A Search for the Past Oct. 13 2007
By Sam Sattler - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Michael Redhill's novel Consolation is a book with several faces. It is a miniature history of the city of Toronto, a mystery of the non-murder sort, and a touching character study that focuses on the attempts of two groups of people, separated by more than a century, who are forced to deal with life's adversities when they least expected to have to do so.

David Hollis is a university historian, a late twentieth century man obsessed by his city's history and the people who lived in it before him. He has become convinced that a complete set of the earliest photographs ever taken of the city of Toronto was lost in a storm just offshore and that they are now buried under streets built on reclaimed land that was once part of Lake Ontario. He has dedicated his life to identifying the Toronto of the 1850s that is hidden by the Toronto of today, but when he finds that he has Lou Gering's disease he knows that he has little time left to convince anyone of authority to help him find the lost photographic plates.

Jem Hallam is newly arrived in the Toronto of 1855, sent to the city from London to start a new pharmacy at the direction of his father. Hallam left behind a wife and two daughters, hoping that they would join him in Toronto as soon as the business began to show a profit. Things do not go well for Jem Hallam and, although he is never seems quite sure how it all happened, he eventually finds himself in the photography trade and living with a dying photographer and a woman he took into his life in order to save her from a sure death on the streets of the city.

In alternating segments, the reader is able to follow both the efforts of David Hollis to identify the possible location of the missing plates and the evolution of Jem Hallam from failed pharmacist to successful photographer. Hollis, becoming more and more helpless at the hands of the cruel disease he suffered, and finding little support in his quest from colleagues, decided to end his life. It is left up to his wife and his daughter and her fiancé to try to salvage his reputation as they try to stop the construction of a new sports facility on the very spot identified by Hollis as likely to be the final resting place of this important record of Toronto's early history.

Redhill seamlessly moves back and forth between the stories of these two men whose lives have become intertwined despite the fact that they lived more than a century apart. Jem Hallam, forced to fight for his survival in a manner he had no way to foresee when he arrived in Toronto, and feeling guilty for carving out a new life for himself with strangers while abandoning his wife and daughters in London to the care of his father, eventually produces the photos that David Hollis will so desperately search for in the future. Or did he? That's where the mystery begins.

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