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Margaret Laurence

Toronto, McClelland & Stewart, 1989. 288pp, paper, $6.95
ISBN 0-7710-9967-3. (New Canadian Library series). CIP

Grades 11 and up/Ages 16 and up
Reviewed by Clare A. Darby.

Volume 18 Number 1
1990 January

Freedom is one of the unifying themes in all of Margaret Laurence's works. This Side Jordan, her first novel, is set in Ghana in the days preceding its independence from British rule. Against this realistically rendered backdrop, all the main characters strive for freedom.

The black protagonist, Nathanial Amegbe, seeks to free himself and his family from the tensions between his tribal past and his Christian upbringing. His struggle is complicated by his need to define where he fits in the new order of things. The white protagonist, Johnnie Kistow, must discard his white preconceptions of blacks if he is to survive in an "Africanized" Ghana.

Through rich description, convincing dialogue, and extensive interior mono­logues, Laurence conveys the interplay between all the characters in a rambling plot, which climaxes in the birth of two babies. The symbolism, like the theme, is perhaps too obvious. However, the characters are believable types and the style gives evidence of the vividness that would characterize Laurence's later works.

It is in its foreshadowing of the Manawaka series that This Side Jordan achieves some degree of notoriety. Its place in the school library would be as supplementary reading in a course on Canadian literature.

Clare A. Darby, Three Oaks Senior High School, Summerside, P.E.I.
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