________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 8 . . . . December 14, 2001

cover Stained Glass: A Novel.

Michael Bedard.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2001.
297 pp., cloth, $22.99.
ISBN 0-88776-552-1.

Subject Headings:
Glass painting and staining-Juvenile fiction.
Amnesia-Juvenile fiction.
Family-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 8-11 / Ages 13-16.

Review by Joan Marshall.

*** /4



The scar began at the base of his baby finger and ran halfway round. When you stroked it with the thumb of your other hand, there was a strange numbness to it, and when you squeezed the skin, the flesh around it turned red and the line of the scar stood white against it, and you could count how many stitches there were.

When he sat thinking, he had the habit of rubbing the scar. He sat rubbing it now, and a memory rose whole and spontaneous in his mind like a genie streaming from a lamp - the memory of a Saturday morning when he was six.

In Stained Glass, the story of a serious, honest teenager named Charles Endicott, who cares deeply for his family, is layered over with that of George Berkley, the caretaker at St. Bartholomew's church and a former stained glass worker. One day while he is escaping his piano lesson by reading in the old church, Charles is surprised by the sound of breaking glass. He finds a strange girl named Ambriel lying in what remains of a stained glass window which had been broken by Mr. Berkeley's fall from a ladder as he cleaned windows outside. Leaving reluctantly, Charles returns the next morning to check on Ambriel and spends the rest of that day with her, wandering around Caledon trying to help her figure out who she is. Meanwhile, George reconstructs the stained glass window. As the day progresses, Charles decides to take Ambriel home to his Gran and tell her everything. Ambriel, however, disappears from the shed where Charles has hidden her. As Charles visits St. Bart's the next day, he observes George installing the repaired stained glass window with Ambriel's image in it, now intact.

     Stained Glass is a philosophical, thoughtful novel. At every turn, memories bubble up both for George and Charles while Ambriel struggles to remember who she is. Charles' reflective, compassionate character comes to life as he trails along behind Ambriel, keeping her out of danger and trying to think of ways to jog her memory. While the day continues on, his memories bring him to a better understanding of his emotions and who he is. As George rebuilds the window, his methodical, determined, artistic nature emerges. Readers are moved by George's love for his past wife and his persistent determination to remain strong, sane and useful in the face of tragedy. Even the secondary characters, like Gran and Charles' older sister, Emily, are vivid and memorable.

     Caledon, an old Canadian town, is evocative, a colourful place for Charles and Ambriel to wander through looking for meaning in their lives. Bedard's writing is brilliant and thought provoking, opening achingly raw emotions for the characters and readers alike. At the same time, students will have difficulty relating to this contemplative, almost plotless novel. Only the most serious of literature students will persist and make connections. This would be an excellent choice for grade 8 to 11 enrichment students who are meeting for a literature circle or who want a challenging, quiet read.

     Stained Glass is a beautifully designed book, from its stunning stained glass window covers to its clear, elegant font and repeated headers and chapter icons. It is a pleasure to find such elegant craftsmanship.


Recommended with reservations.

Joan Marshall is the teacher-librarian at Fort Richmond Collegiate in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364