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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
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...
Published on March 5 2003 by Milko McGillicuddy

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars ... following Sergio Leone
This is an excellent depiction of what we imagine life to be in the North American wilderness in the last part of the XIXth century, without the airbrush effects that plagues this sort of epic.
The author, building on previous successes (notably The Englishman's boy), wants us to stay with his book far too long. Some of the "stories within the story" may be...
Published on Nov. 10 2002 by Montcler


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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
This review is from: The Last Crossing (Hardcover)
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
This review is from: The Last Crossing (Hardcover)
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."
While Vanderhaeghe doesn't rival McMurtry in his prime, - these characters are not nearly as engaging as "Lonesome Dove's" Gus McCrae and Woodrow Call, nor are their travails as gripping - he has contributed a new frontier novel that is braver and more eloquent than all but a handful in the Western oeuvre, Canadian or American.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling read, Nov. 19 2002
This review is from: The Last Crossing (Hardcover)
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
This review is from: The Last Crossing (Paperback)
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. There are several violent confrontations which are part of the infamous whisky trade of Fort Whoop-Up. One comes across a ghost camp where an Indian band has been wiped out by small pox. There is a dramatic battle between two Indian tribes. There is also an excellent account of the civil war battle in the Wideness. I thought these actions sequences were particularly well written.
This novel is an excellent portrayal of human beings from whatever age who must confront the uncertainty and ambiguity of existence. I would highly recommend it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lively melodrama of the Northwest frontier in the 1870s., Feb. 29 2004
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This review is from: The Last Crossing (Hardcover)
In this broad saga of the New Territories, from Montana into Canada, Guy Vanderhaeghe brings to life the search of two Englishmen for their lost brother, Simon Gaunt, who has pursued a charismatic preacher in the hopes of converting the Indians to Christianity. No word has been heard from him in over a year. While twin brother Charles genuinely misses Simon, older brother Addington sees the search as a grand, selfish adventure-an excuse to hunt at his father's expense. The three brothers share the same blood and have had the same upbringing, but they have taken very different paths in life, and the sojourn in North America provides the stimulus which allows each one to discover his own inner nature. As Addington becomes more brutal and selfish, Charles becomes more sensitive and realistic. Gradually, an image of Simon emerges, through Charles's descriptions, as a "man dreaming so deeply as to be incapable of wakening to reality."
As the search party departs, every member is seeking some kind of love, acceptance, and a sense of connection to the wider world. Jerry Potts, the scout, is half Scots and half Blackfoot Indian and yearns for his small son from whom he is estranged. Lucy Stoveall is searching for the brutal killers of her 13-year-old sister Madge Dray. Custis Straw, who loves Lucy, suffers from nightmares about the Civil War and the loss of his family. Addington, who becomes deranged as time progresses, hunts and kills animals and Indians for the sheer bloodlust. Constant motifs of blood and bloodlines pervade the novel, as the trip challenges each member to understand who s/he is by birth and who s/he has become through the accidents of history.
The great Northwest, with the power and grandeur of its scenery, its wildlife, and its rapidly changing weather provides for innumerable dramatic scenes. The honorable and caring Lucy and the venal Addington are as much the personifications of good and evil as the heroines and villains in western melodrama. Ultimately, all the plot elements unite in a satisfying conclusion which extends twenty-five years beyond the search for Simon and ties up loose ends. Rousing and absorbing, this melodrama highlights the settlement of the frontier at the expense of Indian cultures, and one can almost hear echoes of a melancholy honkytonk piano in the background. Mary Whipple
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4.0 out of 5 stars "A boom town draws rogues like a jam jar draws wasps.", April 11 2004
By 
S. Calhoun "rhymeswithorange" (Chicago, IL United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Last Crossing (Hardcover)
Part historical drama, romance, and character study THE LAST CROSSING has a lot to offer - and rightly so. Hailed as a bestseller in Canada for two years and only recently published in the United States I've been waiting patiently to get my hands on a copy of this book and now I'm far from being disappointed. Guy Vanderhaeghe takes the reader on an adventure through the British Territory (Canada) filled with remarkable characters and wonderful prose. At the center of the novel are Charles and Addington Gaunt who are sent from England to North America in 1871 by their overbearing father to track down their missing brother Simon who has mysteriously disappeared.
After arriving Charles is distressed to learn that Addington is not as concerned about Simon; in fact, Addington has hired a writer to document his journey through the Frontier in an effort to later write a book. The Gaunt's caravan into the British Territory in search of Simon is without incident or danger. Vast and wild pastures filled with dueling Indian tribes and scrupulous whisky traders provide the grand backdrop to this impressive tale. To complement the depth and realization of the landscape Vanderhaughe does a great job of getting into the heads of his characters. I was deeply impressed with his depiction of Charles' torment and grief over his stressed relationship with Simon, and how he wishes he could mend the fences between them. Another successful aspect was how multiple narrators were utilized which enables the reader to gain a better-rounded perspective unlike the reliance of one narrator.
It's rare indeed that I become so enthralled while reading a book that I virtually sink into the prose and see the story unfolding in three-dimension around me, and that was exactly what happened each time I picked up this book. For this simple fact I wouldn't hesitate but recommend this book to others. It's been well worth the wait.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Top-notch, Feb. 2 2004
This review is from: The Last Crossing (Hardcover)
The good news is that Canadian writer Guy Vanderhaeghe has published six other books besides this one. This is important because once you finishedhis new novel "The Last Crossing" you will be scouring libraries, bookstores, and the internet for more.
What a good writer! His 1996 novel "The Englishman's Boy" was also excellent, but his newest book reaches an even higher level. His use of multiple points of view is marvelous and the characters have a depth and appeal that adds excitement, pathos, and surprise to a really good plot.
In the 1870's, a young Englishman named Simon Gaunt travels into Montana as a missionary and vanishes. His difficult, heartbroken father orders his two other sons to go to Ft. Benton and find him at all costs. Addington is a disgraced military man and Simon's twin Charles is a painter disappointed in himself for his own shallow nature. Charles is desperate to find Simon but Addington seems to look on the whole trip as one big outdoor adventure, showing up at the fort with a seedy, sycophantic "newspaperman" who plans to record Addington's feats in the wilderness for the penny press. They contract the Blackfoot/Scottish guide Jerry Potts to lead them, but by the time the Gaunts' wagons leave Ft. Benton, they have also collected a woman searching for her sister's killer and are trailed by the man who loves her, and who in turn is trailed by his best friend. The search for the missing missionary is in danger of being derailed by the quirks and passions of his search party. But Simon Gaunt remains the lodestar for this group, and only later do we find out why.
"The Last Crossing" is satisfying, readable, thoughtful, and thrilling. If you have not read Guy Vanderhaeghe before, he is a wonderful discovery.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Duty, honor, and love, sublimely rendered, Jan. 10 2004
This review is from: The Last Crossing (Paperback)
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Great novel about the real wild west, Nov. 11 2003
By 
Gail Moore "avid reader" (vancouver canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Last Crossing (Paperback)
Set in the late 1800's around the character Simon Gaunt an idealistic young gentleman from England who goes as a missionary to the New World to convert Indians. He disappears and when no word is heard from him back at home, his father sends Simon's two brothers, his twin Charles and the elder brother Addington to the New World on a mission to find Simon and bring him home. "The Last Crossing" is the story of their journey away from civilization and into the raw wilderness. Some unforgettable scenes for me were the dance at Fort Edmonton, the "ghost village" where everyone had died of smallpox, the story of the Blackfoot going south past Salt Lake on a raid for horses, and the grizzly hunt.
The story is usually told in the first person, but with continually changing and fascinating viewpoints as there are 6 different main narrators - the two brothers Charles and Addington, - Jerry Potts, the half Blackfoot/half Scottish hired guide, - Lucy Stoveall, a woman with her own motivations for accompanying the posse, - Custis Straw who is in pursuit of Lucy, and Aloysius, the saloon owner going after Custis for his own protection. The characters are richly developed and believable, all completely different, some more likable than others.
I read this book in a day and a half, reading whenever I got an opportunity, it was so hard to put down and the ending was great and uplifting, filled with possibilities. Guy Vanderhaeghe is one of those authors whose books get better and better, I first read "Homesick", a moving family story, then "The Englishman's Boy", an intriguing look at early Hollywood and the wild west and now this "The Last Crossing", not just a western but really suspenseful historical literature.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The writing alone rates, March 8 2004
By 
Michael Moore (Statesboro,, Georgia USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Last Crossing (Hardcover)
a top score. The author writes a 19th century novel the way it might have been written 150 years ago. In terms of scope, I think this novel closely resembles A.B. Guthrie's, The Big Sky, more than anything else. It takes time to tackle these Post Modern pieces and it takes a while to care about anyone in here but gradually the reader begins to understand the relationships. A lot of stuff goes unsaid which I think speaks well for any writer. We know that Aloysius is a devoted friend to Custis and we figure it out without being clubbed with it. The relationship between Jerry Potts and Custis also figures in this vein. I would like to have read more of Potts' story. My only criticism and it is mild is that Charles narrates a bit too long.
If you want to read something ultimately satisfying in non traditional ways, this might be your ticket.
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The Last Crossing
The Last Crossing by Guy Vanderhaeghe (Paperback - Sept. 23 2003)
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