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Showing 1-8 of 8 reviews(4 star). Show all reviews
on October 21, 2009
[Cross-posted to LibraryThing and LivingSocial]

Being a visual person, I'm not normally a fan of audio books. I like to see the words on the page. But as I was reading Through Black Spruce, I really wished that I could listen to it instead. Boyden's writing flows so beautifully it's almost like poetry. He writes as if he means for it to be read aloud. It's just simple, gorgeous prose that makes you slow down and think about the words and images being created.

Through Black Spruce is the second book, following Three Day Road (while not necessary to have read it first, I'd highly recommend it), in what will be a trilogy. While Three Day Road took place during WWI, this novel is set mostly in the present day. As with Three Day Road, I think Through Black Spruce does a good job of emphasizing the interconnectedness of all things: our human relationship with nature, our relationships with each other, how our actions can have consequences far beyond anything that we might foresee.

The story is told using alternating narrators: Will Bird (Xavier's son from Three Day Road) and his niece, Annie. I felt for all of the characters and was drawn into their stories, but it didn't keep me up at night and it often felt like something was missing. I think this was because I was expecting something as intense as Three Day Road was, but much of the suspense and tension there came from the fact that there was a war going on so it was probably not realistic to expect the same here.

In any case, Boyden is an incredible story teller and I'm really looking forward to finding out where Boyden takes us next with this series.
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on June 28, 2016
Really enjoyed this - a very different book to 'the three day road' but equally compelling and for me as a white British person, a very interesting look into the culture of Candian First Nations. Whetted my appetite to read more like this.
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on April 4, 2014
Everything Boyden gives voice to resonates with what a semi-northern white academic knows about life there. Not the sensationalized Attawapiskat drama of 2010 media, not the glorified Northern Rangers, not the glam exotica of Montreal fashion display, but small elements of each. The characters are as fully engaged in their lives as any of us, even if their life settings are alien to us. Their normal existence is remarkably unremarkable to them, yet, are a fascinating melange to outsiders. What Boyden builds is insight and empathy for the struggles that are foreign to southern urbanites yet are common as breathing to high latitude northerners. The commonality of remote northern life, circumpolar in fact, includes excessive alcohol use, social marginalization, tremendous living expenses, long and intense cold winters, and an erosion of the ancestral links to the land. So, when a family simultaneously has members in subsistence living, a coma, at large as a missing person, operating as a renegade bush pilot, and supporting a young woman who can both walk a Toronto catwalk and run a trapline, we are offered a believable and privileged insight into alternate ways of making sense of the world. This can reflect surprising ways in which our lives can be viewed and reminds us that the common links of love, security, adversity, family connections and a search for meaning are common to all humanity regardless of setting. This book made an exceptional backdrop to the recent seven stops of the Aboriginal Truth and Reconciliation hearings travelling across Canada. Great book.
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on June 6, 2009
The best way to describe this book is that it is fundamentally about people at the crossroads -- between the traditional and the modern, good and evil, young and old. The novel is a slightly complicated read since Boyden uses a double monologue of both his protagonists Will and Annie. Although slightly distracting at first, both narratives intersect together nicely so it isn't all that difficult to follow.

Boyden is a great storyteller there is no doubt about that. I would have appreciated slightly more lyricism in his writing though which at times feels a little mechanical -- for such a great story, it lacks that literary touch. The characters are rich and complex and Boyden does a great job to explore their inner feelings.

Overall, I highly recommend "Through Black Spruce" -- it is well-deserving of the Giller Prize. I would call it a Canadian classic, but definitely a true gem.
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on October 27, 2014
Another great book by Joseph Boyden. I like his writing style and how he approaches the subject from two perspectives. He sets the scene and then takes you back and develops the story from the beginning.
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on February 3, 2016
Excellent book.
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on August 12, 2015
Great book
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on January 7, 2009
Joseph Boyden knows how to tell a tale. There are moments in this novel where his storytelling abilities keep you enthralled. But I would question some of the decisions that were made, the amount of time spent in certain places, and the emphasis of particular characters.

The novel weaves two different points of view from several different slots in time to construct an intriguing tapestry. But not everything works. I found almost all of the narrative provided by Annie while she's in New York and Montreal to be disposable. (A textbook example of the need to 'show, don't tell'.) I especially felt the inclusion of the character Butterfoot was unnecessary; it went nowhere and revealed nothing. The fate of her sister is never really dealt with. And I felt I was constantly longing for a more lyrical tone, given the melancholic undertones. Maybe the energies expended in switching points of view and back and forth between past- and present-tense took its toll on the end result.

It's a fine effort. An engaging premise. And it's executed with aplomb, with just enough attention to detail in the 'northern' parts to have you nodding with appreciation. I just wish he'd had better editorial backup on hand.
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