CM . . .
. Volume XXII Number 5. . . .October 2, 2015
The protagonist of George Bowering’s latest novel is wise-cracking 13-year-old Harry Fieldstone. Harry has found a comfortable role as class clown with fellow middle schoolers and Poet’s Club members Neville, Viv, Feet and Norm. Harry is also an amateur archaeologist, spending his off-hours digging for treasures in neighbourhood construction sites. After months of digging at his current favourite spot, Harry shovels up a gold ring with the letters SPQR engraved on it. Curious for some insight into the provenance of the ring, Harry refers to his go-to expert on most things, Professor Purzlebaum.
The eccentric professor identifies it as the Kauderwelsch ring, an ancient artefact imbued with the ability to empower its wearer with a variety of special powers, including invisibility, telekinesis, the ability to mind-read, and levitation. And that a group called the Toga Gang will stop at nothing to obtain the ring for evil purposes.
This novel has great potential in both plot and character, but it struggles in two areas: creating multidimensional characters with whom the reader will identify, and in creating dialogue that rings true to the characters. Harry is a 13-year-old boy, but he continuously uses turns of phrase, and cultural and historical references from earlier eras that do not ring true to a teenager. This prevents the reader from being able to identify with him. His classmates and friends from the Poet’s Club aren’t fleshed out much beyond mere clichés: Neville the ‘brain’, Viv the brassy red-head, Feet the vegetarian hippy, and new-guy Norm. The narrative tension deriving from the Toga Gang’s efforts to gain possession of the ring is minimal, and readers are never given a clear backstory on who the gang is, where they are from, why they want the ring, or what they intend to do with it. The result is an ending that lacks climactic effect.
George Bowering, a poet, writer, biographer, and historian, has written over ninety works and was the first Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada.
Chris Laurie is an Outreach Librarian at Winnipeg Public Library.
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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.