, Timothy Findley marries his passions for playwriting and prose in a novel about theatre people in a theatre town whose reliance on dialogue and visual clues make it read almost like a play. Jane Kincaid is a wealthy southern belle who abandons her life as a daughter of privilege in Louisiana in order to become a set designer. She moves to Stratford, Ontario, home of the Stratford Festival, with her son Will and husband Griffin, a stage actor on the cusp of fame. When the gardener accidentally severs their phone line with his spade, things begin to go awry in unexpected ways. A missed call to his director, Jonathan, leads ambitious and self-absorbed Griffin to become Jonathan's lover in order to win back his favour and some choice parts in next season's productions. A beautiful phone repairman comes to fix the line, and Jane falls in love with him.
Some aspects of the narrative seem unconvincing or irrelevant, such as a murderer on the loose whose existence only peripherally contributes to the mood and plot. A compelling tale that successfully draws the reader into the theatre world in general, and into idyllic Stratford in particular, Spadework lacks the substance and depth of character of Findley's other works, including Not Wanted on the Voyage and, more recently, Pilgrim. --Leah Eichler
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From Publishers Weekly
Bestselling Canadian writer Findley, whose stylish and complexly plotted novels have acquired an appreciative audience, here departs from his usual dark scenarios to produce an erotically powered narrative in which all's well that ends well. The setting is the town of Stratford, Ontario, home of the Shakespeare Festival. Findley (Pilgrim) knows this world well, and he conveys it with atmospheric detail. The inadequacy of mere ambition, even when one has talent, is the lesson learned by rising actor Griffin Kincaid, when he realizes that luck and fate can also play havoc with dreams of theatrical stardom. After Kincaid refuses a sexual proposition by his manipulative homosexual director, Jonathan Crawford, he is denied the roles he'd been promised. Griffin's wife, Jane, a Louisiana set designer for the theater, is bitter because Griffin refuses to let her use her substantial inherited income to buy a home in which to raise their seven-year-old son. When, by chance, her gardener cuts a buried phone line, dramatic events ensue. The telephone repairman is a young Polish immigrant, inarticulate but strangely beautiful, and Jane is aroused. Attracted to the repairman yet worried by Griffin's inattention, Jane suspects that her husband is having an affair with an actress. Then she realizes he has capitulated to Jonathan's demands. Despite being a sexual bully, Jonathan is acutely sensitive to Shakespeare, and his insights are enlightening. A hopeful ending provides uplift, but does not, unfortunately, compensate for shopworn characterization and the overdone Tennessee Williams atmosphere. For Findley, this is a curiously slapdash performance.
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