Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Women's Fiction Book Review - A Long Shade by Corinne West

The year is 1911 in drought-stricken rural Southern Alberta, and although times are hard, young Brian Dance’s future seems full of promise. But when tragedy strikes, one loss follows another, and words are spoken that can never be taken back. Many years later, as a grown man, Brian returns to the small town of his youth thinking he has left his past—and his pain—behind him. Instead, he finds that he is troubled about many things, in particular his deepening affection for the sister of an estranged childhood friend. Spiritually and emotionally bereft, he runs from the love he desperately needs. But a man can only go so far before coming to the end of himself. 

Set against the stark beauty of the prairies and the lofty majesty of the Rockies, A Long Shade traces a journey from the burgeoning centers of a young province to the rarefied mountain retreats of affluent jazz-age internationals. West explores both our yearning for meaningful connection and the buried reasons that drive us to resist it. 

In her debut novel, Corinne West has brought to life the turbulence of the early 1900's in the Canadian prairies. From Medicine Hat to Banff, West takes us on an unbelievable journey of sadness, despair, betrayal, love, and redemption. Brian Dance is a fascinating protagonist, troubled, solitary, enigmatic. Surrounded by a strong cast of colorful supporting characters, the story comes alive with credibility and poignancy. In this fascinating character driven story, the reader is swept into a rustic country setting and becomes immersed in the lives and troubles of the unforgettable characters. The author delves deeply into their mindset, their passions, their mistakes and the impact upon others. Reconciliation is a strong theme throughout. 

Corinne West is an excellent writer. A native Albertan, her research is thorough and accurate. There is a lot of factual information in the story, but it is incorporated seamlessly into the story and through dialogue. She is able to set a mood, a gentle but steady pace until the story's satisfying ending. Poignant scenes throughout evoke emotion - sometimes I laughed, sometimes I cried. From first page to last, this was a thoroughly compelling and engrossing tale. Highly recommended, especially for those with a passion for Canadian historical fiction. 

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