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Corcoran, David.

Toronto, Macmillan, c1986. 346pp, cloth, $24.95, ISBN 0-7715-9683-9. CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Eve Williams

Volume 14 Number 3
1986 May

If Clan of the Cave Bear married Chesapeake, the resulting offspring would be The West Coasters. Sitka, the Nootka woman, who survives tragedy after tragedy; Abby, beautiful daughter of a prostitute who becomes a successful businesswoman; Mei-Fu Chang, who runs a brothel with flair and fails miserably at everything else; and Madeline Cains, who can best be described as downwardly mobile; are its long-suffering heroines. The male heroes, with the exception of Jonas Cains, merchant, and Amor de Cosmos, politician, live lives of such short duration that the reader must keep notes on each character in order to avoid confusion. I tried to like this book, which the publishers describe as "a sweeping saga of the people who changed the face of Canada's west coast -a piece of Canada's past brought vividly to life," but I failed.

The mood is pessimistic, the characters (with the exception of Sitka) do not arouse our sympathies, despite their struggling with the most awful setbacks, and the tone is plain noisy. David Corcoran has won awards for creative writing and he dedicates page after page to sound descriptions. Everything in the book chugs, thuds, chops, whistles, rustles, jangles, bangs, slams, creaks, chatters, snickers, giggles, screeches, hoots, or screams. The noise never stops. The bad luck never stops. Man's inhumanity to man never stops.

It is a pity, because the concept of a sweep through approximately thirty years of British Columbia history holds promise. The blend of history, romance, and adventure is usually an enjoyable brew. Corcoran uses too many humourless characters and tries to pack their lives too full of incident and accident. A softer, more hopeful book might have caught the imagination of the reader and provided a satisfy ing novel. Not recommended.

Eve Williams, McNaughton H.S., Moncton, N.B.
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