Friday, February 15, 2013

'Canada' by Richard Ford

15 February 2013

"First, I'll tell you about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later." The opening sentences of Richard Ford's 2012 novel, 'Canada', seemed immediately destined for classic status. It's an intriguing start to an interesting book (which I read as an unabridged audio book, read by Peter Marinker). The narrator of the novel is Dell Parsons - a 15-year old boy throughout the novel's main events, though the narrative voice is the adult Dell remembering these events. It's 1960 and Dell and his twin sister Berner are the children of an apparently 'normal' family in Great Falls, Montana. 'Canada' looks at the relatively small steps that can transform ordinary lives into the extraordinary. When Dell's father gets into financial difficulties he decides to rob a bank. But he's not really a bank robber and his ineptitude splits his family apart. Though once he has robbed a bank he is a bank robber isn't he? Dell is puzzled by the way in which people become defined (and redefined) by their actions. Despite its focus on dramatic, life-changing events, 'Canada' is a slow book which builds a detailed picture of the ordinary lives which are to be forever changed. And it has a strange structure: halfway through we are suddenly in a new setting with a completely new set of characters in which Dell is the only link to the first part of the novel. Soon, however, we realise that we are following a familiar pattern as Dell's new life is turned upside down. 'Canada' takes us "where many bad events originate, from just an inch away from the everyday".



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