Be omnivorous, don't just read one kind of book, read everything. - Richard Wagamese

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Review: The Deserter by Paul Almond

Publisher: McArthur & Company
Pages: 266
Source: Publisher
Category: Canadian Fiction
Rating: 5/5


Thomas Manning, a young, British Naval officer wanted to take a leap of faith and begin a new life in the New World. Spending months on a navy ship left oneself to imagine, and beyond Thomas' ship was a world to be discovered. Thomas recognized the potential, vast unchartered territory, new settlements and a new beginning. The only way to get to dry land was to jump ship and land in the freezing St. Lawrence water. The risk increases, if he's caught and branded a deserter, he will be subjected to death by one thousands thrashings. Thomas decides to take the risk and jump. After the initial jump, within minutes Thomas is disoriented- the frigid water leads to stiffening of his limbs, and Thomas is not sure he can get to shore. His new life begins...After fighting the water, he makes it, only to seized by the Mik'maq. Thomas is immediately petrified, he's heard many harrowing, brutal stories concerning Europeans being held captive and killed by the savage Indians. Instead of being tortured and mistreated, the Mik'maq assist Thomas. Life in the New World is much different than . While he is initially able to obtain part-time employment with the French settlers, winter is very grueling and Thomas is left of his own. Living conditions are drastic, winters long, and food scarce. Thomas wonders what his outcome will be. Will he survive his first Canadian winter? Fortunately, the Mik'maq take him under their wing once again and show him the way. Survival is still not guaranteed, but much less perilous than being on your own in the bush.

Overall Impression:

I believe this one should be placed into the hands of every young student learning the history of Canada. This saga will cover 200 years of invigorating Canadian history, hidden by the colorless classrooms in most Canadian high schools. Often Canadian history is referred to as 'boring' but a few pages into 'The Deserter' and you will change your mind. First and Foremost, I will declare that I am Mik'maq from the Gaspe region. Paul Almond's research is impeccable, and I read his Acknowledgments before starting the novel. When I saw the research he undertook, I was very pleased and decided to see what this book was about. What I quickly learned was this was a book written by a very skilled writer. The language is simple, the tale action-packed. Every little task in Thomas Manning's life is life-threatening. Every man for himself, rewards are very tempting, and threats are exceedingly substantial. Paul Almond's portrayal of the Mik'maq is very accurate, he embraces the true circumstances and includes the significant legends of the people. I will be passing this book around, or possibly buying others copies and holding tight to my copy. This is the first in a six book saga, I will placing all the others on my wishlist.

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