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Canada [Hardcover]

Richard Ford
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)

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Book Description

7 Jun 2012

First, I'll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then the murders, which happened later.

In 1956, Dell Parsons' family came to a stop in Great Falls, Montana, the way many military families did following the war. His father, Bev, was a talkative, plank-shouldered man, an airman from Alabama with an optimistic and easy-scheming nature. Dell and his twin sister, Berner, could easily see why their mother might have been attracted to him. But their mother Neeva - from an educated, immigrant, Jewish family - was shy, artistic and alienated from their father's small-town world of money scrapes and living on-the-fly. It was more bad instincts and bad luck that Dell's parents decided to rob the bank. They weren't reckless people.

In the days following the arrest, Dell is saved by a family friend before the authorities think to arrive. Driving across the Montana border into Saskatchewan his life hurtles towards the unknown, towards a hotel in a deserted town, towards the violent and enigmatic American Arthur Remlinger, and towards Canada itself - a landscape of rescue and abandonment. But as Dell discovers, in this new world of secrets and upheaval, he is not the only one whose own past lies on the other side of a border.

In Canada, Richard Ford has created a masterpiece. A visionary novel of vast landscapes, complex identities and fragile humanity. It questions the fine line between the normal and the extraordinary, and the moments that haunt our settled view of the world.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing; 1st Edition edition (7 Jun 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747598606
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747598602
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16.2 x 4.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 206,776 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A vast, magnificent canvas. This is one of the first great novels of the 21st century (John Banville Sunday Telegraph)

Astonishing ... Reviewers will be quick to proclaim that Richard Ford has written a great American novel, another masterpiece, and he most emphatically has. Canada is his finest work to date ... A powerfully human and profound novel that makes one sigh, shudder and weep. Here is greatness. No doubt about it (Eileen Battersby, Irish Times)

Ford is possessed of a writer's greatest gifts ... Pure vocal grace, quiet humor, precise and calm observation ... Ford's language is of the cracked, open spaces and their corresponding places within (Lorrie Moore, New Yorker)

One of the wonderful things about Richard Ford is that he can make people who do outlandish things, such as rob banks, seem almost normal ... Ford is superb at suspense ... This is a book about dysfunctional lives in a North America that existed half a century ago - it sometimes has the feel of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. What a backdrop - you feel as if anything might happen here ... This is a story about adolescence, about crime, about broken families, and about trying to escape. It's very engaging, and in the end, quite sad (William Leith, Evening Standard)

His most elegiac and profound book yet ... Marilynne Robinson (without the theology) and Cormac McCarthy (without the gore) (Washington Post)

A real king returns ... a story, and a vision, as sweeping as its landscapes (Boyd Tonkin, Independent)

A rather brilliant realisation of our particular voice ... a brilliant piece of work (Pat Kane on BBC Radio 4 Saturday Review)

His books will save you


A scrupulously rendered coming-of-age story (Anthony Cummins, Sunday Telegraph)

The strength of the book is Ford's examination of flawed fatherhood, of the failures that push Dell into an uneasy maturity, one that allows him to achieve what remains the modest but profound goal of Ford's fiction: simply, to make a life ... his coda is as precise and measured as anything he has conjured before. The end, like a piece of origami, could fold right into the beginning of Ford's greatest novel, The Sportswriter. The sombre and gorgeous final two thirds of Canada rest next to Ford's best fiction (Craig Taylor, The Times)

A true master of the modern American novel (Independent)

Exceptional American novel ... Breathtaking ... its unique shape disconcerts and enchants the reader equally (Phillip Hensher Spectator)

Richard Ford's arresting new novel is - on one level - an intriguing variation on this American Childhood Gets Derailed theme ... as this highly original voice begins to take hold, you find yourself drawn into Ford's uneasy, ever-skewed, narrative world. It's a world which speaks volumes about the reclusiveness and violence at the heart of the American experience - which, like the solitary terrain, engulfs those who try to find a sense of self or meaning amid its hard-scrabble vacuity. Audacious in its narrative technique (observes Ford's frequent use of short chapters, his varied pacing, the way he never rushes any plot points, and allows the story to unfold in its own enigmatic way), Canada both grips and haunts (Douglas Kennedy, Independent)

As opening lines go, they're corkers. The rest of the novel is quieter than you'd imagine but it amply fulfils their promise ... The result is prose so sonorous in its melancholy insightfulness that you'll want to linger over each sentence. Meanwhile, the story itself - a tale of what happens when uncrossable lines are crossed - will have you turning its pages ever faster (Daily Mail)

Although its subjects are disarray and bewilderment, there is barely a dishevelled sentence in this awesomely calm book ... Canada is soaked in a subtle sadness, then, born of the foreknowledge of error and loss, and reading it isn't always easy. But we persist despite ourselves, because of the beckoning fluency of Ford's prose and the painful sharpness of his insights ... Ford has always been a clarifier, slowly making lucid the lines of the everyday. Canada is perhaps his most transparent novel yet: shorn of tricks, sparse and expansive as the plains on which it is set ... By looking "straight at things", Ford has written another novel about the fine lines that separate the humdrum and the calamitous, and about those schisms of existence that can be anticipated only in retrospect (Sunday Times)

***** A superb stand-alone novel from Richard Ford (Metro)

Ford really excels in his virtuoso command of narrative suspense ... each part of Canada is superb in its own way ... [Ford is] a serious artist (New York Review of Books)

A novel whose masterly poise partners a story of chaotic characters in flight from themselves (Liz Thomson Independent Books of the Year)

Demonstrats yet again Ford's incomparable talent as a storyteller (Alan Taylor Herald Books of the Year)

Book Description

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Ford's masterpiece

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The earth moved 28 Oct 2012
Better reviewers than I have given chapter and verse on this book. I can only tell you that I have come late in life to Richard Ford and feel as if I have struck oil.

Canada has made a greater impression on me than probably any book since We Need to Talk About Kevin, and yet they are so different. Canada doesn't shock; indeed I find it hard to explain what it does do other than to tell would-be readers that it has a hynoptic quality that means you never want it to end, even as you sit up nights devouring each page. The writing style is modest, the plot minimal, some of the characters a tad fantastic, but the sum is so much more than the total of the parts. I love this book, I love Richard Ford and I love the thought that I now have his entire back catalogue to look forward to. Life is sweet.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars benign malevolence writ large. 15 Aug 2013
I felt compelled to write a review after only just having read this book in the space of 24 hours- correct, I couldn't put the damn thing down!. Now, given this review is , well shall we say 'late in the day', I don't suspect many people will read this, nonetheless, onwards and upwards eh?

I see this novel divides opinion,some on here castigate it for being longwinded and lacking in plot, then I have read some reviews that celebrate the plot.

For me the difference with this novel is in the layers of characterization, in particular the central charcter - Dell. I have no intention of discussing the plot/story line, others have done so handsomely.

Purposefully written in a strange style, whereby you are told an outcome in advance of the story that leads to that outcome; a clever ploy methinks, particularly considering this book is partly about unravelling the mysterious way in which people, and in particular, families become enmeshed and develop behavioural patterns that have consequences. All human behaviour is ultimately consequential, but how we reconcile ourselves to the path that follows is another thing. This is where Mr Ford excels, by announcing an outcome he can beautifully take us on the journey that led to that outcome, thereby the journey is more important than the outcome, mmmmm ...I think we call it life. The title is therefore a simplistic representation of where we get to, and the journey therein, the novel being 'how'.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A novel that will achieve classic status 18 Jun 2012
By J. H. Bretts VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition
Dell Parsons, a school teacher at the end of a long career,thinks back to 1960 when he was 15 and living in Great Falls, Montana,his parents robbed a bank and his life was changed utterly...

Richard Ford is at the top of his game. He has woven an extraordinary and emotionally draining novel about growing up,full of compellingly strange but real characters and absorbing incident, and written in a plain but vivid style in which a strong atmosphere of menace is evoked from telling detail.Ford creates a whole world for the reader - the wheat fields of Montana, the geese-filled Canadian skies, run down hotels and families split apart. Told in three distinct parts, yet completely integrated, the book is both clever and moving. And there is something optimistic there too perhaps.

Highly recommended- and for £4.99 a real bargain.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
By J. Coulton VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This beautifully written novel from American author Richard Ford has a very striking opening paragraph. He is confident enough that his exemplary story telling will keep the reader on board that his narrator reveals at this early stage that his parents are going to commit a robbery, and that murders will subsequently take place. This gives an unusual sensation of knowing that these events will occur, and grimly waiting for them to unfold.

The narrator is Dell, who is recounting events back when he was fifteen years old. His family are living ordinary humdrum lives in a small city in Montana in 1960. His father has recently left the air force and is something of a loser, dabbling in selling black market meat. His mother is doing her best, despite a lingering unhappiness with her lot, and the notion that she could and should have done much better for herself, to grit her teeth and get on with caring for her family. Dell is close to his twin sister Berner, but the earlier onset of her adolescence is pulling her away into a different world from his. Their family, imperfect though it is as their parents' dissatisfaction with each other seeps into daily life, is shattered by a single event.

Ford is a master at creating a claustrophobic and tense atmosphere, vivid with description and empty with the tedium of the family's lives at the same time. It is reminiscent of Anne Tyler at her brilliant best. He captures perfectly how the twins must have felt in that domestic setting: 'Being a child under those circumstances was mostly waiting - for them to do something, or to be older - which seemed a long way away.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A quiet, soulful gem
The writing is unobtrusive – almost transparent – but evokes the uncertainty of a young person's life, with depth but without melodrama. Read more
Published 3 days ago by Bahi
2.0 out of 5 stars Not very much happened in this book. Whilst some ...
Not very much happened in this book. Whilst some other reviewers raved about this, for me the style of how it was written, plus everything taking place in the mind of the... Read more
Published 11 days ago by rebecca m
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
An excellent read
Published 23 days ago by chris forrest
4.0 out of 5 stars Slooooow burner
In the end I concluded that Canada is a good novel which explores some really profound themes, but boy did I find it hard work at times. Read more
Published 24 days ago by P. G. Harris
4.0 out of 5 stars dry fiction
read for me like a long essay of characterisation - rather than a gripping story line - except that i did want to read on and finish it - i am always looking to see if i recognise... Read more
Published 25 days ago by Leslie Gardner
5.0 out of 5 stars good book good service
Very good
Published 27 days ago by chocolatecat
4.0 out of 5 stars Canada.
Really interesting and moving book, life is difficult but we can find a way to cope and develop despite that! Again excellent delivery time, well exceeded my expectations! Read more
Published 1 month ago by Pam Reeve
2.0 out of 5 stars Richard Ford's Canada
Have attempted this book several times and just find it boring. But I am determined to try it again. The first chapters are very dreary. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Eugenie Perceval
1.0 out of 5 stars Pancakes without the maple syrup!
I have read one of this authors books, The Sports Writer. I remember thinking that it had something, an acute observation and and an honesty that I could relate to, and ultimately... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Steve
5.0 out of 5 stars A new classic?
Whilst I didn't like the publisher's decision to put this into an unnecessarily large book with widely spaced print and very wide margins, it is a brilliant portrayal of a 15 year... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Jac
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