- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Thomas Allen Publishers; 1 edition (Aug. 8 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 088762412X
- ISBN-13: 978-0887624124
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.8 x 22.9 cm
- Shipping Weight: 567 g
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,250,834 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
David: A Novel Hardcover – Aug 8 2009
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Quill & Quire
Ray Robertson has experimented with recent history in his fiction, chronicling the waning of Kerouac and the Beat dream in What Happened Later and examining the kaleidoscope of the late 1960s country-hippie milieu in Moody Food. In his new novel, however, the Toronto writer expands his historical reach with an exploration of the racial (and other) tensions of the second half of the 19th century. The results are mixed. David is the story of David King, who was born a slave but was rescued by the intercession of Reverend William King, who bought the freedom of David and his mother and brought them to the Elgin settlement, a community of freed slaves near Chatham, Ontario. The narrative alternates between David’s coming of age, his struggles with racism and the religious rules of Reverend King’s community, and his middle years as a quasi-respectable underground tavern owner in the company of his lover and soulmate, Loretta, a former prostitute. Robertson demonstrates a comfort with both the more outsize aspects of David’s life – including his career as a grave robber (which ends bloodily) – and its more intimate moments, such as his bonding with Loretta, who reads to him from foreign philosophy tomes. Robertson has clearly done a significant amount of historical research for the novel, and the results are ample and immersive on the page. The research is somewhat undercut, however, by the language of the book. Too often, Robertson slips into what feels like current vernacular, with lines like, “The first time I saw Loretta naked, I thought: You could crack an egg on that stomach, you could fry it on that ass” and, “Of course, there was the matter of Loretta fucking other men for money.” In the context of the novel, these phrases jar the reader from the historicity, and from the narrative. It’s not a terminal issue, but it is problematic, distracting as it does from David’s otherwise impressive qualities.
...a wonderful read where complex issues are expressed through eloquent language. With David and Loretta, Ray Robertson has introduced two of the most magnetic characters in modern Canadian literature. Historical accuracy and vivid depiction of time and place is coupled with imagination to offer a fascinating alternative to a deeper story. Not only does this novel make an important contribution to our growing knowledge of local Black history and life in late Victorian Canada, it is a powerful and timeless insight into the human condition. (Northern Terminus: The African Canadian History Journal)
Apart from its vivid sense of time and place, the strength of Robertson's novel is the steely distinctiveness of this voice, as unwavering in its prickly pessimism as it is touching in its untethered yearning. (Toronto Star)
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I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Simply put, a good story well told.
A little detail: Told in the first person it's a coming of age, coming to maturity, and getting pretty close to redemption tale. The characters are well written, real, and develop at a pace; the situations are interesting, sometimes exciting, and laid out in a beautiful, matter-of-fact prose that carries the story with no superfluous drama. Finally, there are two dogs in this book - neither of them narrates, neither of them thinks aloud, and neither are anthropomorphized into cartoons. (Stars for dogs, extra stars for keeping them real.)
I've already sent out one gift copy, I'll probably send more.
Canadian. Deserves a wide audience. And isn't it interesting about Canadians: Robertson Davies, Robbie Robertson, now Ray Robertson. Robert seems to have had a lot of sons.
Once in a while a book comes along that stays with you for a long time....whose characters are so human that you want to keep them close, anticipating the next chapter in their lives. I got this book from the Merida English Library and now have ordered a copy of my own. The writing is solid, inviting you to keep going, neither too laden with history or heavy with description to keep you from wanting to know more about the people and where the plot is taking them. David's character is so finely crafted, his humanity so carefully defined in his every day activities that he becomes as real as the person sitting next to you. Quotable sentences abound.....in the last 40 pages I met numerous phrases that I wanted to commit to memory they were so eloquent. I wanted to put them on facebook, by themselves, and let the world feel their presence.
I'd taken this book out for my husband, a history buff, but found myself avidly savouring every paragraph and the philosophical insights expressed therein.This is a good story, a well written, down to earth story, about very real people in very real situations. What I thought would be rather tedious turned out to be a page turning read, each page leading beguilingly on to the next. Beautifully paced....the story unfolds just as it should, with the plot taking you backwards then forwards without confusion or apology. An unpretentious book, by a masterful writer with one of the best endings I have had the pleasure to read. A treasure that I will keep near me always.