I didn't really begin to appreciate this book until I was nearly 300 pages into it; fortunately, I stuck with it and was rewarded with what in the end turned out to be a great story.
My difficulty in the beginning was Vanderhaeghe's method of relating the story -- by constantly changing narrators from one character to another. It's impossible to determine who the real central character is. Virtually every one of his main characters has a few turns at it and I found it difficult to really latch onto any of them, since they would just get started relating the story from their point of view when they would leave the scene for a while and the reader was presented with a completely different perspective. It was sort of like a play made up of an endless series of soliloquys but hardly any real dialogue.
Although the tale centres around the three Gaunt brothers, with all of their individual (and less than endearing) personalities, it's the secondary characters such as Lucy and Custis who really add depth and dimension. An account of an idle, spoiled, religious zealot who sets out to "save the red Indian" or one who embarks upon an expedition across the North American frontier, with a flunkey journalist in tow to record his adventures may remind one of why Englishmen abroad have often been so cordially detested but it would hardly make for an interesting read. The problematic position of "half-breeds" like Jetty Potts also greatly enriches the story, along with wonderfully detailed local colour and touches of humour. Fiunally, I must mention the author's tremendous skill in the use of descriptive language, which raises the level of the book to a work of prose.
The Last Crossing by Guy Vanderhaeghe bites off a significant chunk of Canadian history: the intrusion of American whisky traders north of the 49th parallel in the years immediately following the U.S. Civil War and Canadian Confederation. None of what ultimately led to the formation of the Northwest Mounted Police (RCMP), a very different pattern of settlement from the American frontier, and a less confrontational co-existence with prairie First Nations was ignored by Vanderhaeghe, but neither was it made the raison d'être of the novel. Crossing is a beautifully worded, skilfully crafted story of human frailty and determination, of ignorance and pride told from multiple points of view by characters whose voices are real enough to make the reader want to enter their conversations. Inevitably the grit and violence and irony of the times shapes the plot, but it never overshadows the narrative. I recommend it highly.
A sweeping tale of wild-west adventure, that stretches from Victorian London to the rough trading posts of the Canadian prairies and the Indian villages of Montana. Addington Gaunt leaves London in search of his brother, who has gone missing somewhere in the wilds of the American west. A must read for all Vanderhaeghe fans and anyone who loves an exquisitely crafted tale of romance and adventure.
Most romantic story I ever read, despite some upsetting graphic content due to the harshness of life at the time and place the book is set.
Addington Gaunt leaves London in search of his brother who has gone missing somewhere in the wilds of the American West. This sweeping tale of wild-west adventure stretches from the colleges of Oxford and the pleasure houses of London to the rough trading posts of the Canadian prairies and the Indian villages of Montana. At the centre of this exquisitely crafted tale is an unusual and moving love story.
The Last Crossing by Guy Vanderhaeghe.
Three brothers, one lost in the west, two searching for him. A young girl killed. Sundry other scoundrels fitted into the plot neatly. The chief protagonist is a nineteenth-century gentleman (read upper class) with a most peculiar and curious fetish involving purloined pieces of my ladies clothing.
Unlike some of Vanderhaeghe’s novels that are too diffident and timid to propel the reader into a story that seems not to exist, that wander seemingly without aim, this novel begins to tell a story. It may not be riveting and hair-raising in the tradition of a good detective novel but it does, at least, tell a story that invites you to pursue the plot a little further. But not for long.
His vocabulary is at times challenging; his images keenly interesting; his development of characters engaging. The story grows, slowly, gradually. Too gradually for me. This shall be my last attempt at Vanderhaeghe. Modern times and fast moving novels, pulp fiction, have spoiled me for soething as slow moving, sedate as this novel. Some novels can beckon me away from the television but not the last crossing. I wanted desperately to like reading this book but no, it wasn’t in the cards. Halfway through the novel I must say this has been my last reading.
In the second half of the nineteenth century, two Englishmen find themselves on a journey across the unknown landscape of the American and Canadian West in an attempt to trace their brother's past.
wonderful continuing cowboy saga
This book has almost everything: amazing characters (complete with individual voices), incredible depth of story, and to top it off the story is historical fiction. I am biased in that I love Guy Vanderhaege and I find objectivity impossible, in other words if you like Vanderhaege's writing then this book is for you.
Another Great Book by Vanderhaeghe
This was a fantastically written book – he has a wide vocabulary and uses just the right word for everything. He’s not melodramatic, and the story moves emotionally without you ever realizing it. He also manages to make every character flawed and thus human. It’s a testament to his great writing that I liked this book, because it’s about frontier life (kind of a western) and I don’t even like westerns at all, except for this one! This is definitely one of the few must-reads I recommend to people.
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