by Jonathan Campbell
ISBN: 1894031946

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A Review of: Tarcadia
by W. P. Kinsella

This novel is above all a portrait of an era, the 70s summer Nixon resigned, a time when community and family values were changing, and new social mores were being explored. The Chisholm family live in Sydney, Nova Scoria. Michael, who tells the story, is 14, the second of four children of a tough union organizer. His parents are especially permissive, almost neglectful. In the opening lines of the novel Michael informs us that his older brother Sid, dies in a boating accident in Sydney harbor. The story then works toward that event. I'm not sure the device is successful, for it takes away whatever suspense there might be. I do give the author credit, for when the boys steal and hide a gun early in the novel, it is used late in the novel, though not in the way many readers would anticipate. The disintegration of the Chisholm family is chilling, the father tries to integrate his girlfriend into the family, and for a time the mother goes along with it. This is by far the strongest part of the book. The many, many pages used to catalogue the mundane boys will be boys pranks of Michael, Sid and their friends as they trespass on CNR property and have minor adventures with a raft and a kayak in the tar ponds of north Sydney, are unexciting and could be condensed by 90%. Those parts of the book are so boring they must be autobiographical. In the end, the good parts are more numerous than the bad, and the story is worth reading for the crystal clean portrait of the early to mid-70s.

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