THE ARCHITECTS ARE HERE by Michael Winter (Viking), 372 pages, $34 cloth. Rating: NNN
There’s a section of The Architects Are Here that really got to me. It describes hard-assed tech biz whiz David Twombly’s knack for getting rich, and uses the metaphor of stacking plates – a stand-in for stocks – until they’re just about to collapse and then selling out fast.
Reading it gave me that feeling I love – a thundering in my head that I don’t notice until I’ve finished the passage and my brain calms down. It’s the feeling I get when I’m being moved by fiction.
Funny thing is, this section contains the longest sentence in the entire novel. Otherwise, author Michael Winter can be very terse. He writes in a minimalist style that can undermine the story’s emotion.
And The Architects Are Here has lots of that. Winter resurrects his fictional alter ego, Gabe, who has a complex relationship with best friend David, both of them raised in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, where the story begins.
Gabe gets involved with Nell after they’ve moved separately to Toronto, knowing she’s given up the child she had with David’s father back in Corner Brook.
When Gabe finds out Nell’s been seeing David – who’d also made the move to T.O. – on the side and David’s father has a near-fatal car accident back home, Gabe decides to drive with David to Corner Brook, hoping to engineer some kind of shift in their friendship along the way.
These characters are very strong, especially David, who has a menacing quality, as if he’s about to blow at any time – we just aren’t sure when. The Hurley family that is bringing up David’s half-brother is also full of vivid personalities, and the Rock itself is so skilfully evoked that it almost becomes a character, too.
Wish Winter could give us more of the thundering prose he’s so obviously capable of. The brittleness of his style sometimes feels almost like a literary affectation.