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Last Crossing, The [Paperback]

Guy Vanderhaeghe
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)

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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Duty, honor, and love, sublimely rendered March 5 2003
Once in awhile, a book comes along that haunts its readers' thoughts for years. The Last Crossing is such a book.
Set in the latter part of the 1800s, in the western U.S. and Canada, and in Victorian England, this is a tale of a a man lost in the wilderness, and those who seek to find him, including his very stiff British father, two very different brothers, a pair of star-crossed lovers, a quirky journalist, a saloon-keeper, and an Indian guide. They all suffer from painful pasts that taunt them into life-changing courses of action.
Telling the story from their own points of view, the characters look back at their own lives. This drives each of them to live up to their sense of duty, to defend their own honor, and ultimately to act in one way or another because they either love, or can't love.
Scenes of the early west tear at the heart--caravans, Indian villages, conflicts, battles, disease, death, tragedy, comic relief. And love, sometimes unrequited, and at a distance. There is one scene that will stay with me for years. In it, two lovers find each other, their desperate searches ending and beginning in an instant. The night air, the stars, the prairie wind and their hearts carry them to where they couldn't dream of going.
The characters speak with undeniable truth to and about themselves. They narrate, but also wonder about their own personal honor and how they can love despite their pasts and the hard lessons that duty and love teach them.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Two Wests, one good story Feb. 16 2004
For more than 100 years, authors have sent their heroes into the twin uncharted territories of the wild West and the untamed heart, but few have risen above horse opera or dime novel. Owen Wister's "The Virginian" and Larry McMurtry's "Lonesome Dove" remain the gold standard for literature of the frontier West.
Uh, make that the American West. It's good to be reminded, as Guy Vanderhaeghe's "The Last Crossing" does, that Canada also had a vast, unexplored western territory. And while rails were rapidly being laid across virgin earth and Custer was hurtling toward his last stand, no territorial border truly divided the American and Canadian wildernesses. Marauding Indians, greedy whites, hungry animals and a budding mythology simply didn't appreciate international boundaries.
Blending intense action with masterly characterization, Vanderhaeghe appeals on various levels. Whether his huge popularity in Canada will trickle south of the border remains to be seen, but this new novel is a sharp and eloquent import. The big question is: Can American readers embrace a sprawling adventure of higher literary value?
He has sometimes been dunned by critics for excruciatingly detailed prose, but such criticism is neither warranted in this case nor unexpected in modern commercial publishing, where action is more highly valued than character.
Vanderhaeghe disregards those boundaries. "The Last Crossing" is a far more satisfying story of a small band's westward journey than McMurtry's rambling, four-part Berrybender Narratives, which began in 2002 with "The Sin Killer" and will end later this year with "Folly and Glory.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling read Nov. 19 2002
By BC Lion
Some books one devours, some one lingers over. I just wolfed down The Last Crossing; now I'm slowly enjoying a second read. Such a wealth of characters, such fine historical detail, wonderfully researched and poetically rendered. It takes time to grow accustomed to the book's language, which is period-authentic - "pettifogging," "purloined" ... "Ellie Venables had fairly sickened with indignation at their pussillanimity." Such is the discourse of Oxford-educated Victorians. The words grow lean and dusty as the brothers Gaunt travel west and land in the fly-blown midwest, a landscape filled with whiskey-slugging Civil War veterans, barroom philosophes and thuggish hired hands. The major set pieces are vivid and violent, Addington Gaunt is a genuinely evil piece of work, the battle recreations are staggering...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the Last Crossing Jan. 17 2005
By A Customer
The book was chosen by CBC Radio's Canada Reads programme as THE book Canadians should read (2003). Hmm. I was impressed by Vanderhaege's previous novel, the Englishman's Boy, so I decided to see for myself.
The book takes place mainly in Canada's North West territory, circa 1880. It is the story of a diverse group of individuals: British, American, Metis, Cree and Blackfoot, whose lives briefly intersect. Simon Gaunt is lost in the wilderness and his twin brother Charles and elder brother Addington set off to try to find him. They provision their expedition in Fort Benton, Montana. Jerry Potts, a Scot/Blackfoot frontiersman, Mrs. Stovall, and Curtis Straw, a horse trader, are the other main characters. The story follows the motley band as it treks through the prairie from Fort Benton to Fort Edmonton.
The main characters alternate as narrators. As a result we understand the true inner motivations of, and the misinterpretations of events by, the characters. We understand the deceptions between the characters. What is not said is often as important as what is said. In my view this is a very good technique. These characters are very well developed.
I particularly like the portrait of Potts, the frontiersman, who is caught between two cultures. His character is based on a real person. To the Europeans he is a near savage. In fact he is a hero who knows what needs to be done and does it. He is a man of integrity who does things not because of a reward but because that is what must be done. These unsung heroes slip into our past unnoticed but are in fact the real heroes. It is only through works of "fiction" that we can see their importance.
Not that this is a story without action! There is a murder, which remains a mystery throughout the novel.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars An exciting, finely crafted tale
A father blessed with three sons loses his wife with the birth of the twins. Without the tender caring of a mother, the Gaunt twins, Simon and Charles learn to depend on each... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Len
4.0 out of 5 stars Thanks Mr. Vanderhaeghe
The detail in the book was convincing. I especially enjoyed the exploration of the lives of people who belonged to two cultures, First Nations and White. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Stan Howard Gray
5.0 out of 5 stars My, My, My
What a delightful surprise to find yet another top notch Canadian Writer. Saskatchewan should be proud. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Barnswallow
5.0 out of 5 stars A western about the Canadian west!
I just wanted to throw my two cents in and say what a wonderful book this is. I wont go back over all the plot as that has been done enough here, but "The Last Crossing" does for... Read more
Published on Oct. 30 2006 by FRED
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Canadian Novel
I tried to read the Englishman's Boy but couldn't, so I was hesitant to read the Last Crossing at my wife's behest. Hesitantly I began. But soon I was right in to it. Read more
Published on Aug. 5 2004 by jim
5.0 out of 5 stars richly woven text with subtle character development
The Last Crossing was a book I read after it won the CBC Canada Reads contest. I love Canadian literature and had never read this author's work before so I thought I would give it... Read more
Published on June 14 2004 by "bookishgal"
4.0 out of 5 stars Great storis of thw old west makes this a entertaining novel
Hard to get into but when it does it's a great novel.It's fullof suspence,adventure,romance and action everything a novel should have. Read more
Published on June 6 2004 by Jake
2.0 out of 5 stars The book that never ends
What a struggle to get through this book. I thot it would never end. With all due respect to the author, having read many a fiction and non fiction book about the area in... Read more
Published on May 12 2004
3.0 out of 5 stars Not very interesting
If you've read Lonesome Dove, then you've already read a similar, but much better book (and LD has it's own faults!). Read more
Published on April 26 2004 by Snappy
4.0 out of 5 stars "A boom town draws rogues like a jam jar draws wasps."
Part historical drama, romance, and character study THE LAST CROSSING has a lot to offer - and rightly so. Read more
Published on April 11 2004 by S. Calhoun
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