The Sweet Edge Paperback – July 19 2005
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- Paperback : 284 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1551927837
- Item Weight : 386 g
- ISBN-13 : 978-1551927831
- Product Dimensions : 13.34 x 1.91 x 20.32 cm
- Publisher : Raincoast Books (July 19 2005)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #803,890 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Pick writes with authority: "Words are useless, she thinks. Words are a breath expelled, the part of the body that rises and disappears." Adam's difficult journey is the high point of the book, and the northern bush country is especially well depicted, with its lack of trees and its icy lakes, the wilderness that is "essentially unknowable." When Adam loses his way (echoing the relationship), the story turns into a thrilling struggle between one insignificant man and the overwhelming power of nature. Less successful are the author's attempts to describe in complex detail the contemporary art installations at the gallery where Ellen works. The characters throughout are readily imagined and the story skilfully told. In the end, Ellen and Adam both learn their lessons in different ways, finding that "wilderness is ... the core of everything." --Mark Frutkin
From Publishers Weekly
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Top reviews from Canada
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What I was expecting was the usual CanLit, spare writing so typical of the genre. That wasn't quite what I ended up with.
Yes, it was spare. Yes, it was CanLit. But there was more.
I've always thought of CanLit as the literary version of indie flicks. A film based more on characters within situations than a movie with a story containing characters. Here, Alison pushes the boundaries so that what results is more than the novel equivalent of a precious art-house film; she's managed to season the tale with no small amount of 'populist fiction' attributes.
I loved her depiction of the main characters' world in contrast to their individual adventures; all three threads of the narrative we evocative. So 'Well done, you!' to her for that. But she managed to top herself with how she made Ellen and Adam elicit distinct reactions in me: I didn't like Ellen for being a wuss, no matter the reasons (yes, I'm talking about YOU, Ellen's Mother...), and I really, really, really didn't like Adam. At all. He seemed like the poster boy for the 'All Men are D&%$heads Society'...but somehow –for me– she manage to present him with all his galling attributes without making him into a boring stereotype. (But I did wish him a cruel end. LOL)
'The Sweet Edge' might not be for everyone. But I certainly enjoyed my time reading it.
That summary pretty much tells you what's annoying about these characters, neither of whom I liked much at the beginning of the novel. Adam is the poster boy for Self-Absorbed Jerks Afraid of Committment, while Ellen is typical of the kind of woman I meet so often in novels and so rarely in real life: passive, indecisive, a bystander in her own life.
Things change during the novel, however. Adam's trip up North is the classic man-against-the-wilderness-finding-yourself journey, but there are twists he hasn't forseen: the trip forces him to confront his own weakness and his need for other people. Meanwhile, Ellen goes on her own journey of self-discovery without ever leaving Toronto, though she does travel around it quite a bit. Her voyage is made not in solitude but in community; the group of new friends who help Ellen "find herself" are among the most engaging characters in the book.
Starting out by disliking the major characters is not usually a good sign for a book but by the end of The Sweet Edge I found myself caring about Ellen and Adam in spite of their flaws. I was interested to see how Pick would end the novel and I wasn't disappointed (though a bit frustrated by a detail that, in a very postmodern way, is left hanging at the end).
The language is one of the delights of The Sweet Edge. I'm not always keen on novels by poets (Pick is best-known as a poet and recent winner of the prestigious CBC literary award for poetry) because too often the language takes centre stage, leaving plot and characters to fend for themselves. Here, however, Pick's subtly elegant prose is always used in the service of the story, so that you never forget you're reading a novel -- a very well-written novel, but not one that screams, "Look at my prose! How lovely it is!" Rather, we're drawn to look through the clear window of Pick's prose into the lives of two people who are flawed and fallible, but who are also able to change.