Friday, 22 April 2011
Shadows on the rock (Cather)
I am enjoying my Willa Cather subsection of my journey through the VMC list, and Shadows on the rock is my latest. It's really quite different from other Cather novels, and I wouldn't recommend it as a starting point for her work, but nonetheless I really enjoyed it. Whilst other Cather novels frequently involve strong women characters and/or a compelling plot, this one has neither, but is undeniably beautiful.
Set in Quebec, it tells of an apothecary, Euclid Auclair, and his daughter Cecile, who have come to the Canadian province from France after the death of Cecile's mother. Set in 1697 and 1698 the book describes life at that time, the development of Quebec as a place in its own right, and not just as an outpost of the French, although the French influence is certainly both seen and felt. Cecile is 12, and runs the household admirably. In the second half of the book the focus moves to the endurance of a long and hard winter, which is especially difficult as no boats can get through from France, isolating the pair, and the other residents from the relatives that they have left behind.
It's been published twice by Virago, once in an original green edition, which I own, and once