on January 17, 2001
Childhood by Andre Alexis McClelland & Stewart Inc. 1998
The story follows the life of Thomas MacMillan from early childhood until the death of his mother, Katerina, and Henry Wing, one of his mother's lovers. The main characters are superbly drawn while Thomas remains for us only a wispy image generated by his thoughts.
The love of Henry for Katerina is constant, undemanding and rises above the everyday demands of mere mortals. Katerina, on the other hand moves by her own light and one is never sure if she is capable of loving and one wonders too what has caused this strange disconnectedness.
There are wryly funny sections and clear bright narrative bits that draw the reader in. At the end one realizes that the story is touchingly sentimental while being questioningly honest. I liked the book but had a strange unsatisfied feeling when I was finished. I wanted to know more of Henry, Katerina and Thomas.
on December 13, 2014
Andre Alexis' unique journey unites the past and the present in this story of Thomas McMillan, a Trinidadian-Canadian boy left to the care of his grandmother. He is later claimed by his wayward, restless mother whose inability to settle into a long-term romance sees Thomas bouncing around Canada and in tow from suitor to suitor until he and his mother stumble upon the honorable, if eccentric Henry Wing who brings the novel's first and only period of stability.
Alexis' work is well-written and nicely executed although after completing the book I have questions about Katerina (Thomas' mother) that remain unanswered. We never do fully understand why she is the way she is -- strangely and utterly disconnected and cold and unable to fully commit to anyone. The book was a relatively quick read, but it was detailed and lush. We understand Thomas far more by the end of the novel than at any point before.
on May 18, 1998
Alexis presents a well crafted novel that meanders between the past and the present, the truth and illusion. His use of the French language, poetry and allusion is skilled, though at times intimidating. Overall, the honesty and maturity of the novel made for a very delightful, if too short, read.