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Williams, David.

Toronto, Anansi, c1985. 186pp, paper, $12.95, ISBN 0-88784-144-9. CIP

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Volume 14 Number 2
1986 March

Eye of the Father is the third novel in David Williams's Lacjardin Trilogy. I have not read the first two, The Burning Wood (Anansi 1975) and The River Horsemen (Anansi 1981). To be frank, this novel did not make me want to read them. I found Eye of the Father to be an ill-structured work with weakly realized characters. The publisher's blurb that came with it calls the novel "a modern epic." However, Eye of the Father attempts to chronicle three generations of Norwegian-Canadians in just 186 pages. Much is left out, including credibility.

The action begins with the story of Magnus Vangdal, the founder of the family. Here also begins the problem of characterization. Magnus changes from a naive Norwegian country boy who runs away to "Amerika" (his naiveté is his greatest charm) into a black-hearted sexual sadist who abuses his wife and neglects his daughters. I think we are supposed to conclude that experience has warped Magnus, but the rapidity with which he changes, and the utter nastiness he exhibits, are more believably attributed to brain damage than to rough luck. Williams tries to cover up this weakness in character development by jumping forward into the next two generations (Magnus's children and grandchildren), whose members, after his death, try to fathom the mystery he is to them. They fail to, and feel somewhat inadequate in the process. But there is no mystery to solve, unless we can call a gaping hole in a novel a mystery.

There are other problems with the characters. Williams relies a bit too heavily upon the Canadian prairie fiction tradition. Magnus is a Grove character, minus the will to succeed, while his wife Hilda, who narrates a portion of the book, is Hagar Shipley in an ethnic costume. The modern characters (the children and grandchildren) are all lost souls who are unable to live fulfilled lives because their grandfather was a scoundrel. They win very little sympathy from the reader. Not recommended.

Don Precosky, College of New Caledonia, Prince George, B.C.
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