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Curtis, Herb
Fredericton (N.B.), Goose Lane Editions, 1991. 291pp, paper, $14.95, ISBN 0-86492-105-5. CIP

Grades 11 and up/Ages 16 and up

Reviewed by Katheryn Broughton

Volume 20 Number 4
1992 September

This novel is set not in Tasmania, but in the Miramichi region of New Brunswick, in a village called Brennan's Siding, and covers about a year of its life. The people, unpretentious, are caught up in life's ordinary dilemmas; they are more or less uneducated but often wise, and their hearts are usually in "the right place."

The characters are varied and memorable: Dryfly Ramsay, a sixteen-year-old in love with the daughter of a vacationing American millionaire; his pal, Shadrack Nash, none too bright, but capable of love for an elderly, ailing teacher, Hilda Porter; Nutbeam, a local outcast, recently married to Shirley, Dryfly's mother; and John Kastan, newly appointed (by himself) as a fundamentalist preacher to a non-existent congregation. There are others, too numerous to mention, but the result is a community portrait rich in detail, wonderfully amusing and compelling.

The title supplies a motif that spans the novel. Hilda Porter tells Shad the tale that her great-grandfather, a sailor, had told about the last Tasmanian aborigine, whose tribe had been decimated by the marauding British. The story of the slaughter is one that should not be forgotten, and Hilda has always intended to write it down. She is the last of her family. While it took about fifty pages for this reviewer to get caught up in the novel, it gradually becomes apparent that the author deserves the approbation given him by the Halifax Daily News: "Garrison Keiller has Lake Woebegon, Mark Twain the Mississippi, and Herb Curtis ... has claimed the Dungarvon River." High praise, indeed.


Katheryn Broughton is a retired high school teacher-librarian in Thornhill, Ontario.

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