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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An daring experimental novel of failure & redemption.
I was dismayed by the negative reviews of Watson's fine experimental novel, The Double Hook (1959). Most of them came from high school students who were required to read a book when they didn't really want to read anything. Clearly some students are being given this book prematurely in Canada.
For someone willing to give the book a chance, I have some...
Published on June 13 2000

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3.0 out of 5 stars The Double Hook- Sheila Watson
This is NOT the worse novel that I have ever read! The symbolism and imagery bleeds out of this novel and the writing style makes the reading a challenge. However, the same way that Shakespeare's works are difficult to understand there is a reward when you discover the true meanings. When you read this book for the first time take it with a grain of salt and guess at...
Published on Nov. 29 1999 by rebecca j hardy


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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An daring experimental novel of failure & redemption., June 13 2000
I was dismayed by the negative reviews of Watson's fine experimental novel, The Double Hook (1959). Most of them came from high school students who were required to read a book when they didn't really want to read anything. Clearly some students are being given this book prematurely in Canada.
For someone willing to give the book a chance, I have some suggestions. It concerns a frightened group of people living at the edge of civilization, in British Columbian Cariboo country. A former population of Native Canadians has been displaced by settlers like them. Each character is haunted by the spectral presence of Coyote, a trickster figure revered by the former natives. Although Coyote is a symbolic presence, and feared as a curse by the whites, he brings redemption because his continuity means the destruction of native influence isn't complete, or even possible. That relates to the "double hook" of the title--literally a hook that points two ways, so that "you can't catch the glory on a hook and hold on to it. That if you hook twice the glory you hook twice the fear" (61, Kip's thoughts).
The book is written largely in dialogue without quotation marks. Modern writers like Joyce and Woolf experimented with varied presentations of fiction in the early 20th century, and Watson is playing with these techniques. Do not be dismayed by them, though. The book is presenting characters deeply fearful of what is happening around them. What they most fear is their ability to control their own existence. When Mrs. Potter dies, she becomes part of that fear (like Mrs. Moore in Forster's A Passage to India, who becomes part of the legends of the caves when she dies). Fire ends the influence of Mrs. Potter, and characters who have been alienated come into a better alignment with each other. Shrewdly, the narrator tells us, "Coyote plotting to catch the glory for himself is fooled and every day fools others" (61). Finally, a new child born is named "Felix" (Latin for "fortunate"). Here Christian redemption in a newborn babe blends with native beliefs, again hooking us doubly.
Failure in this book derives from an unwillingness to look at the alien and accept its presence and importance. When characters stop doing that, they create a place for themselves in the most inhospitable locale Watson ever found herself (as a teacher in the early 1930s). The book reflects her mental struggle to reconcile the bleakness of life in the Cariboo with her sense that the remote locales of Canada matter as much as the sophisticated soirees of Montréal and Toronto.
Finally, a book by William Faulkner--As I Lay Dying--greatly influenced this book's characters and style. Watson's book makes a good deal more sense if you read Faulkner's book first, or at least get a plot description of it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime poetry of silence, Nov. 30 2009
By 
John Steven (Cowichan Valley, BC) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Double Hook (Paperback)
Sheila Watson's 'The Double Hook'

I loved this book from first reading, largely >because< I didn't understand it. There is a silent beauty, an intriguing mystery about it. I had to read the book again - What was going on? What did I miss? The Double Hook emphatically is not pablum, but raw grain, dry husk, stalk, and root.

Spare prose, insubstantiality of shifting imagery, provide a reader opportunity to attune emotionally with the dry, sparce, minimal life of the place, the people.

Waking or dreaming? - living or dead? - How can we know?

This work is sublime poetry of silence, emptiness, subtle suggestion.

One's reading of The Double Hook may be helped by anticipating such quiet subtlety as in Haiku, perhaps appearing simple, but with much to offer the reader who remains open to the author's gentle art.

I agree with an earlier reviewer's comment in response to the complaints of student readers here. It appears that the novel is being offered to students who don't have the emotional and artistic maturity to understand it. Perhaps teachers could offer the novel selectively, to students thought able to appreciate it.

Sheila Watson's novel, The Double Hook, is a treasure, worthy of being passed on through generations.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Hardship and Beauty, Oct. 10 2003
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Sheila Watson's selective and allusive prose reveals the lives of a small isolated community in Western Canada where hardship and kindness shape daily existence and make it extraordinary. When reading this classic, one must let the various images flow to get the whole picture---it is truly a unique and refreshing reading experience. The atmosphere created is heavy with emotion--Greta's resentment, Ara's disappointement, the Widow's loneliness, James' struggle for independence, the mysterious death of the the old lady, and the touching birth of a little boy are fused together to create a rawness that is both scary and beautiful. It is a compelling novel that reveals the true force of Canadian talent, and is very much demonstrative of the endless possibities when one moves beyond traditional form
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3.0 out of 5 stars The Double Hook- Sheila Watson, Nov. 29 1999
This is NOT the worse novel that I have ever read! The symbolism and imagery bleeds out of this novel and the writing style makes the reading a challenge. However, the same way that Shakespeare's works are difficult to understand there is a reward when you discover the true meanings. When you read this book for the first time take it with a grain of salt and guess at the symbols your probably right. Reading is a personal experience and you can't be wrong if you can explain your view. Don't be discouraged, if I can do it, you too can catch the glory. When all else fails read the earlier edition from 1969 and peruse Grubes introduction, it's pratically Cole's notes.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Get yourself thinking, June 13 1999
By A Customer
Unquestionably the book is difficult and the plot weaves every which way around the characters of a small community. There is a horrific tone within the symbolic play of light/dark, water/earth, and the meaning of the double hook.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Can't get past the tenth page, Aug. 23 1998
By A Customer
Don't get me wrong: I'm used to stories without plots, or told in images, or told in very complex ways. So when I say that I have no wish to go beyond page ten in this page, it has nothing to do with the complexity: the book is just bad. Your literature prof may try to tell you it's great, and you may be happy that it's such a short book. But give me a 1000-page Dickens novel anyday over this. I don't care about the characters, and the writing is silly, and tries to be deep. It is not deep though--it's just a very sticky novel and you would get more out of your life by painting happy-faces on your toenails than by reading this schock.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The double hook , more like the double dud, April 26 1999
By A Customer
The book was confusing and too descriptive, okay we know sheila watson is a great descriptive writer but you don't have to describe every little thing with a paragraph. I grew tired of this book about a small country community which is quite uninteresting after the first 30 pages.
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What can I say? It sucks!!!!!!!!!!!!, April 24 1999
By A Customer
I read this book and it is so boring and it does not make any sense. I had to read it for english class and I have to answer questions on it and I have no clue what the book is about. I'm trying to read it again but it is soooo.. mind numbing. It is the dumbest book that I've ever read.
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This book is awful -- IT IS THE WORST BOOK I EVER READ., April 18 1999
By A Customer
This book is horrible. You may find it very hard to get past the 12th page and it lacks in everything a book can possible lack in. It is a waste of valuable time to actually sit and TRY to read this book. It is confusing and boring.
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Avoid at all costs, Feb. 24 1999
By A Customer
How can this book be considered a classic? It makes little sense, the images created are hard to understand. Basically, this off- the beat book is irritating and senseless, and leaves no impact on the reader whatsoever.
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The Double Hook
The Double Hook by F.T. Flahiff (Paperback - Aug. 5 2008)
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