The Stone Carvers by Jane Urquhart (McClelland & Stewart), 390 pages, $34.99 cloth. Rating: NNN
the plot of the stone carvers
flows like a wide, strong river that'll sweep you off your feet and carry you along, no matter how hard you fight.
Not that you won't want to fight it. While there's no doubt that Jane Urquhart is a powerful storyteller, The Stone Carvers reads suspiciously like historical fiction written by a woman with a master's in fine arts.
The compelling story explores the humanness of the determined German people who struggled to carve out workable land in an isolated southwestern Ontario region, from the end of the 19th century into the Great Depression. The omission of any mention of the area's native people is noticeable.Urquhart understands her characters' complex reasons for doing things, and has no qualms about demonstrating their imperfections.
The plot thickens when the first world war starts and the protagonist's lover gets drafted. Then Urquhart shifts gears to spin a heart-wrenching story of the building of the Canadian war memorial at Vimy Ridge.
The protagonist, Klara, who had previously had a one-way ticket to spinsterhood, suddenly reclaims her missed youth and realizes that a new love is the most powerful curative for a broken heart.
The book's a pretty good history lesson, and there's a dose of romance. But don't go looking for sex. It's alluded to but entirely skipped over -- so on second thought, the characters seem to be missing one important dimension.