Volume 10 Number 4.
When Percy Janes released House of Hate a dozen years ago, it was hailed on many fronts as a powerful book—a convincing story of family conflict as well as a realistic portrayal of Newfoundland setting and dialect. This is his first published novel since the controversial House of Hate, but it is a letdown. It does little to satisfy the sense of anticipation accumulated in the long wait for a second novel.
Unlike House of Hate, most of the characters are shallow and unconvincing. We feel little dislike for the money-grubbing Craig and little empathy for the idealistic socially-conscious Morley, the two sons of wealthy Andrew Wareham, whose conflict supposedly forms the basis of the novel. Only Rabbit Ryan is believable as the bitter, alcoholic, unemployed longshoreman father of Morley's girlfriend, whose philosophy is, "The Canadian gover’ment t'rew me out o' work, so now the Canadian gover’ment kin support me." Incidentally, the dialect (when it is used) is accurate, except that a Newfoundlander's response to a query about his health is "first rate," not "first straight."
Like House of Hate, many of the characters are thinly veiled caricatures of real life people. Readers familiar with the St. John's social hierarchy may have fun trying to identify the models for some of the characters. Raff Dowling, the mystic guru of local radio and TV, is not hard to , figure out, but others I suspect are conglomerates; bits and pieces of a number of real personalities welded together to form a fictional personage.
In summation, this novel is a puzzle. While it has its moments (particularly the scene in which Craig convinces Rabbit to sell out), overall it still reads like an early draft. After twelve years we expected better. Even the cover better illustrates a Frank Yerby yam of the American South than a narrative set in fog-bound St. John's. A classic example of "you can't judge a book by . .." Not recommended.
Roy Babstock, Green Bay Integrated School District, Springdale, NF.
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