From a writer whose publicity bills him as "Canada's greatest living writer," this book is both a surprise and a disappointment. Telling the story of a group of participants in Ontario's Stratford Festival, the book includes many subplots, all dealing with some issue of love--love from the past, young love, new love, love of children, homosexual love, thwarted love, love of self, love of career--and the extent to which the characters are willing to sacrifice for it.
While some of the dialogue, such as that in an early birthday party scene, pops and crackles, as one would expect in the writing of a playwright, other aspects of the book creak and groan, weighed down by irrelevant details and a shocking number of cliches. Ten pages into the book, Jane comments that she is the luckiest girl in the world. "I've got everything I wanted," she says. One is not surprised, then, when fate decides to teach her a lesson in the ensuing 400 pages.
The personal conflicts which evolve are too shallow to allow for the illumination of great themes, and the characters are one-dimensional, prone to observations one has read many times in many other novels. Upon seeing the Bell telephone man, Jane decides, "He was the most beautiful man she had ever seen. But his beauty was more than physical. There was something...indefinable." Her psychiatrist has a print of Paul Klee's "Scholar 1933" on the wall, "his inner eye, his daily reminder...that life was full of endless mystery and that nothing was known." An outdoor love scene takes place against a background with "not a single cloud. And yet...There was thunder." And it is difficult to take seriously a reference to "the voice of a man she barely knew, but a man she also knew she loved."
For those who enjoy sentimental stories and can do not mind cliches, this novel provides a look at life in a theater company and a great many love stories, which end, literally, with "the sound of water flowing over the dam."