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The Long Exile [Paperback]

Melanie Mcgrath
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 18 2007
A chilling true story of deception and survival set amidst the Inuit communities of the Canadian Arctic. In 1922 the Irish-American explorer Robert Flaherty made a film called 'Nanook of the North' which captured the world's imagination. Soon afterwards, he quit the Arctic for good, leaving behind his bastard son, Joseph, to grow up Eskimo. Thirty years later a young, inexperienced policeman, Ross Gibson, was asked by the Canadian government to draw up a list of Inuit who were to be resettled in the uninhabited polar Arctic and left to fend as best they could. Joseph Flaherty and his family were on that list. They were told they were going to an Arctic Eden of spring flowers and polar bears. But it didn't turn out that way, and this, Joseph Flaherty's story, tells how it did.

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'[McGrath] offers a carefully imagined portrait of the appalling lives of the Inuit on Ellesmere Island. This is a story of official wrong-headedness and arrogance and McGrath relays it with compassion. The narrative is gripping.' Guardian 'A wealth of research underpins this harrowing tale, which is at once a lawyer's deposition and love letter to the icy world above the treeline.' Observer 'Melanie McGrath's tragic tale has an icy ring of truth that wrings the heart.' The Times 'Melanie McGrath is a gifted, passionate and sensitive story-teller and through her the authentic voice of the Arctic, not the clarion call of great white explorers, rings loud and clear. She gets right under the Inuit's seal-skin parkas; her research is meticulous, her touch is light, her understanding and invisibility are the absolute opposite of the years of foreign domination. Her play with language is disarming and original. Fresh, illuminating and heartbreaking history.' Sunday Telegraph 'Poignant and humane book. McGrath, who tracked down some of the survivors as well as traveling in the territory, tells an impressively researched and often poetic story.' Observer 'McGrath also has a wonderful feel for landscape and so the Arctic itself assumes the life of a character.The language is lovely. Modulated, lyrical and beautiful as the stark nature it describes, it makes McGrath's book more than a fascinating and instructive read. It makes it a joyful one.' Evening Standard

About the Author

Melanie McGrath is the author of three previous books, 'Motel Nirvana', 'Hard, Soft & Wet' and 'Silvertown'. She is a regular contributor for the Guardian, Independent and the Express. She lives in Vauxhall, London.

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars High Arctic Horror Story - On TWO Levels Aug. 31 2007
By David Wineberg TOP 100 REVIEWER
While all the reviews I have seen praise Melanie McGrath's The Long Exile for being fascinating, well documented, and different, none of them looked at the second level. At bottom, this is the story of how the government of Canada manipulated people through the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). While most of us in the west think of police as enforcing the law, the RCMP was used to implement social and political policy, deploy civil service directives, and herd people to where government departments thought they would more good for the political agenda. That this has never been the subject of a criminal investigation is a horror story in and of itself. The RCMP lied to the Inuit, they got them to give up their homes on false pretenses, treated them like dirt on their awful journey, did nothing to help them in the dire straits the RCMP placed them in, lied again about going home, trapped them into a hopeless, miserable life, and of course, denied all of it.

Yes, it's fascinating that the high arctic is actually a desert where the Inuit can't find enough snow to build a winter home. Yes, it's fascinating that this whole fifty year story has a common thread through Robert Flaherty and his Nanook of the North, Yes, it's astonishing that anyone can live in these conditions - and how they do it is both spellbinding and heartrending. But the political aspects are at least as horrifying, especially in seemingly peaceloving, friendly Canada.

This is an excellent book for more reasons than a snowy cover would indicate.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Burdened with necessary background information March 8 2014
By irene
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The first third of the book was very detailed with historical and cultural background information. So, this book was difficult initially. However, the overall presentation provides the reader with a deeper understanding of the injustices perpetrated by the Canadian government policies to the Inuit in the North, and their cultural impact. Although not an easy read, this book is a must read for those interested in social and political history.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Awesome Book April 4 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Very well researched.....Shows that the white man did nto know about other cultures and what hardships they would face.. MCGRATH puts you in the book and makes you feel very emotional with the way things were done to other human beings!!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Beautifully written, poignant and engaging, McGrath's book is at once horrifying and hopeful. Her descriptions of the Inuit relationship to place and their fierce will to survive, first, the harsh landscape they so love and, second, the idiocy, cruelty, racism, arrogance and "good intentions" of those whites they find themselves in contact with, are inspiring. (Although, at least in this reader, I was also both ashamed as a Canadian, and furious at the treatment these people received.)

This is the story of Robert Flaherty's famous film "Nanook of the North," and the child, Joseph, he fathered (but never recognized) while living among the Inuit. Thirty years after the film was released to mammoth acclaim, the Canadian government forcibly relocated three dozen Inuit, Joseph Flaherty and his family among them, from the east coast of Hudson Bay to a region of the high arctic 1,200 miles farther north.

Whereas the area they came from was rich in caribou, arctic foxes, whales,seals, pink saxifrage and heather, their destination was Ellesmere Island, an arid, desolate landscape of shale and ice virtually devoid of life, and certainly not the promised land of abundant game and spring flowers they had been promised. The most northerly landmass on the planet, Ellesmere is blanketed in darkness for four months of the year. There the exiles were left to live on their own with little government support and few provisions.

The reasons for the relocation were, in large part, political: Canada hoped the presence of Inuit on Ellesmere Island would discourage Greenland, Denmark or the United States from staking a claim to the island.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Resolute Bay and Grise Fiord July 4 2011
By Susan Huyck - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
I had the privilege of reading this book while living in one of the communities mentioned and even meeting the son of one of the main characters, Paddy. It was truly informative. It may not all be accurate but the main message is. Not enough emphasis was placed on the fact that the Canadian gov't was well meaning and really thought the Inuit people were people with extraordinary abilities to live anywhere. While the existence and flourishing of these communities makes that latter true, it is not without suffering that this has happened. There are still issues between the people of Pond Inlet and those of Quebec but unity is growing. I consider this book a good introduction to two communities in the High Arctic.
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