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Sanctuary Line [Hardcover]

Urquhart Jane
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 Oct 2010
Alice Munro hails Urquhart’s “most compelling depiction of the sense of place in human lives.” “Urquhart's writing is poetic, in the sense that it is beautifully compact and restrained when describing the most powerful emotions,” says The Times. The author Claire Messud praises her as having “a great gift for the historical novel, for the melding of ideas, events and individuals into a significant whole.” 

In Sanctuary Line Urquhart has created a nuanced and moving novel about family legacies, love, and betrayal. Solitary, nostalgic Liz Crane returns to her family’s now-deserted farmhouse—once the setting for countless happy summers spent on the northern shore of Lake Erie—to study the migratory habits of the Monarch butterfly. Encompassing all the colorful stories and blarney of successful Irish immigrants who have made the most of their relocation to North America, the Cranes’ rich family history is now circumscribed by sadness. Liz’s beloved cousin Amanda, a gifted military strategist, has been killed in Afghanistan, a loss that had been foreshadowed many years in the past by the disappearance of Amanda’s charismatic father.

Reflecting on the fragility and transience of human life and relations—mirrored in the butterflies’ restless flight patterns and transcontinental migrations—Liz finds that love is there to be found where, and when, you least expect it.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: MacAdam/Cage Publishing (4 Oct 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596923660
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596923669
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 15 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,515,946 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'The most compelling depiction of the sense of place in human lives' Alice Munro.

'Urquhart's beautiful prose propels this quiet tale of familial love, parental absence and loss. Finally, as Liz's memories sharpen, there is a revelation that forces a complete re-evaluation of the narrative. A thoroughly engaging read' We Love This Book.

'This is a mesmerising, beautiful book ... it is a book to keep and which will be just as good on subsequent readings' Bookbag.

'Powered by the dense symbolism, intense emotion and preoccupation with nature that marks the romantics ... Sanctuary Line is a book lover's novel' Donna Bailey Nurse, Globe and Mail.

'Urquhart has a great gift for the historical novel, for the melding of ideas, events and individuals into a significant whole' Claire Messud.

'Complex and thought-provoking ... Urquhart builds stories like an architect ... and the brilliance of [her] powerful ending is that it makes us want to start again' Emily Donaldson, Toronto Star.

'Urquhart's prose is as smooth and uncluttered as Margaret Atwood's' Lisa Allardice, Observer.

'Like the monarch butterflies at the heart of the story, Jane Urqhuart's novel Sanctuary Line is a delicate work of rare beauty' The Tablet Summer. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

From the Inside Flap

Jane Urquhart's stunning new novel weaves elements from the nineteenth century in Ireland and North America into a contemporary story of events in the lives of one family. Recently returned to Lake Erie, Ontario, to study the migratory patterns of the monarch butterfly, entomologist Liz Crane moves into her family's now-deserted farmhouse. Casting a shadow over her life is the recent death of her cousin, Amanda Butler, a gifted military strategist killed in Afghanistan, and the disappearance many years earlier of Amanda's father, an irrepressible chronicler of the Butler family lore and a charismatic authority figure. A storyteller in her own right, Liz explores the intriguing history of the eccentric Butler family, ancestral lighthouse-keepers, agriculturists and dreamers, and re-evaluates the destinies of the seasonal workers who were imported each summer from Mexico to harvest the fruit on the farm, among them Teo, a boy alone in his apartness. Surrounded by memories, Liz is haunted by a deeply buried family secret, by four different, unexpected love affairs, and by the tragic events that ultimately re-shaped all their futures. In an eloquent and powerful narrative, Jane Urquhart brings to vivid life those fragile patterns of the past that make us who we are, and shows the extent to which we can be influenced by absences on the difficult path to understanding and forgiveness.

--This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Look out the window... 6 Dec 2011
Format:Hardcover
"... The cultivated landscape of this farm has decayed so completely now, it is difficult to believe that the fields and orchards ever existed outside my own memories, my own imagination... ". With these opening lines Liz Crane, forty-year old entomologist and the central voice in Jane Urquhart's new, engrossing and most personal novel invites us into her world and into her mind. Having recently returned to the old Butler homestead, Liz feels she needs to reconnect with all that is familiar from the past. She lets her memories return to the fun-filled summers of her childhood, spent amongst her cousins and the rest of the extended family. They bring to mind the annual migration of the Monarch butterflies that she now and studies at the nearby Sanctuary Research Centre. Important questions have lingered on about the whereabouts of some loved ones. Will her going through the remnants of memorabilia kept in the farmhouse shed some light on these?

Much of the story takes place in the nineteen eighties at the Butler family farm on the northern - Canadian - shore of Lake Erie, a landscape that is depicted with detailed and loving attention. Liz, the city girl, is the enthusiastic "summer cousin" immersed in play and exploration, especially with her cousin Mandy. Mandy and her father Stanley, the head of the Butler clan, are often on Liz's mind now in her ruminations about the past. Mandy, the poetry lover turned military officer, was killed on duty in Afghanistan not long ago, and Stan, the life-loving "innovative" farmer, disappeared without a trace one day, twenty years earlier. Reminiscences also take her back to Teo, the Mexican boy, whom she got to know over several summers at the farm. His mother was one of the Mexicans working there each season. They had become close friends, until...
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sanctuary Line 25 July 2013
Format:Paperback
If this were a painting, it would be classed as impressionist. The style is different to Jane Urquhart's usual writings but just goes to show what a versatile mind she has. Imaginative, evocative, emotive, descriptive - this book has it all. She brings to life not only the characters but the farm, the river, the Line itself. There is sadness and even abject misery, but also the sheer joy of the children's summers and the easy interaction over those summers that only children can experience. The book is the result of the reminiscent musings of Liz (the 'speaker') and not the usual 'telling of a story' at all; nevertheless, a story is told. Such a pity that Ms. Urquhart writes only one book every 4 years!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sanctuary Line by Jane Urquart 12 Mar 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I loved this book especially the beautiful prose and the way he described the places and the people. At the end when one understood who the "you" was alot of things came together and the book benefitted from a repeat reading.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  18 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Relax yourself before reading 12 Nov 2013
By Neal C. Reynolds - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
SANCTUARY LINE isn't for the impatient reader. So prepare yourself. Have some calming music playing in the background, and a beverage that has a relaxing effect on the table next to you. This may be one you want to read over several days rather than in one or two sittings.

There's much about butterflies here and that's one learning experience you can expect while reading this. There's poetry here as others have pointed out. There's definitely plot here, but you will need patience since it does move slowly, maybe I should say Luxuriously.

Prepare yourself properly, and you'll love this book. Highly recommended for those willing to travel slowly to a beautiful conclusion.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Of Monarchs and Memory 4 Oct 2010
By Roger Brunyate - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is a novel about memory, nostalgic, partial, sometimes painful, but always intriguing. At any time, a person's mind potentially holds the sum total of all her experience, though she may not be able to access all of it. She may have forgotten details, until reminded by revisiting a place or picking up a keepsake. There may be memories too hurtful to recall, until the recounting of simpler things clears a pathway to them. There may be things that she cannot understand until the light of maturity suddenly reveals their meaning. Unlike a tale told chronologically, a novel based on memory contains its entire story in outline from the first pages on -- although it remains unclear in detail, emotion, and significance until we have lived long enough in the narrator's mind to explore her past from within. And Jane Urquhart, in the gradual unspooling of memory that is the essence of her latest novel, allows us to inhabit the mind of Liz Crane, her protagonist and narrator, as though it were our own.

Liz is an entomologist, working at a sanctuary situated on a promontory of the Canadian shore of Lake Erie. She studies the Monarch butterfly, which migrates annually from Canada to Mexico and back again, the task being spread between several generations, dying so that others may live. Urquhart makes this a metaphor for the theme of human migration over successive generations that threads through this book. As a child, Liz would spend her summers at her uncle's orchard farm, worked each year by families flown in from Mexico, whose children she would get to know. Her own family, the Butlers, emigrated from Ireland a century before, settling on both the American and Canadian sides of the lake; the novel is full of their stories of risk-taking and loss. Her uncle himself was given to unexplained disappearances, and one year he simply walked out of their lives for good. More recently, her cousin Mandy, a senior officer in the Canadian army, spent several years in Afghanistan, dying there shortly before the book opens. There are other deaths also that will emerge as the memories come into focus, but there is also life, love, and friendship, and golden echoes of those endless summer evenings of childhood in the country.

The three novels by Jane Urquhart that precede this -- AWAY (1993), THE STONE CARVERS (2001), and A MAP OF GLASS (2005) -- have all been panoramic stories told chronologically. SANCTUARY LINE is different in being intimate, personal, and reflective, the same events coming back again and again, growing in meaning with each telling. Urquhart has always been a poet, even in her prose, and this book has the structure of poetry itself -- a quality that is found also in CHANGING HEAVEN (1990), though its atmosphere is altogether wilder than the relative quietness here. Poetry, which was Mandy's passion, actually plays a large part in it, with well-placed quotations from Robert Louis Stevenson (whose greatness I cannot see) and Emily Dickinson (whom Urquhart makes me appreciate as never before). This is distinctly an older person's vision. Its prevailing poetic moods are pastoral and elegy: Urquhart's love of the country and her lament for its disappearance. In this, she echoes themes from her earlier novels, especially A MAP OF GLASS. All her books draw strength from their local roots.

But she very much needs those roots. When Mandy goes to Afghanistan, she is in an utterly different environment that Urquhart does not entirely manage to connect to her own; she is absent from this world, but never convincingly present in that one. This matters most in the final section, when Urquhart attempts to close the circle and does not quite succeed. Which is a pity since this epilogue is intended to balance the opening book-end, showing Mandy's hearse being driven along Canadian highways as policemen, firemen, and members of the public gather on overpasses. It is a hero's return, a poignant image of loss and homecoming, the themes of this entire book. But the most hopeful symbol is that of the Monarchs, flying to and fro between Mexico and Canada, and converting the trees on which they land into tongues of living flame.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully descriptive, multi-layered family story 8 Oct 2013
By Leslie - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Liz Crane has returned to her family's farmhouse on the shore of Lake Erie, a once happy place where she spent many summers as a young girl. Now the house is empty, the farm falling into ruins and most of her family has moved on or passed away. Liz is now an entomologist studying the migratory habits of the Monarch butterfly; the old farm seems like a good place for her to do her research.

Before long Liz is haunted by nostalgic thoughts from the past. Triggering these thought were the recent death of Amanda, her cousin and constant playmate during those lakeside summers. The summer when Liz was sixteen, her uncle, Amanda's father, left the farm one night never to be seen again. Eventually Liz reveals the mystery of his disappearance and the sorrow and pain surrounding it.

The story is told by Liz in a beautifully descriptive narrative, delicately peeling back the layers of her family history and their relationship with the land. Slow moving, richly detailed and with well-developed characters, the reader needs to have patience to appreciate this novel. The pace is leisurely and meandering.

This is a very literary, multi-layered novel, with symbolism throughout. The plot doesn't come together until the last quarter of the book. There were a few times when I considered abandoning the book because, while I do enjoy literature, nothing was happening to move this story along. Yes, the pace of the novel was slow, but the ending was powerful, thought-provoking and one that will linger. The wait was worth it.
5.0 out of 5 stars Blown Away! 22 May 2014
By H. Barlow - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I received a copy of this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion. This review was also posted on [...].

Sanctuary Line is a beautifully written story in which Liz Crane returns to her Uncle Stan’s farmhouse, once a thriving farm and orchard that had been in the Butler family since their migration from Ireland to Canada hundreds of years before. Her return to the farmhouse where she spent summers as a child prompts memories to come flooding back and Sanctuary Line is an emotional journey as she tries to make sense of one night that changed the Butler family forever.

Liz is also coming to terms with the death of her cousin Amanda who was killed in Afghanistan, with only two years between them (Liz the eldest) they grew up more like sisters than cousins. Many of Liz’s cherished memories include her cousin Amanda, who grew up on the family farm with her parents and brothers.

Stan was one of the first farmers to hire Mexican workers and flew them in each summer providing them with lodging. Seemingly successful and happy, Stanley would often disappear for days, weeks, even months at a time. During Liz’s last summer at the farm as a child, he disappears for good. Nobody hears from him again.

Sanctuary Line almost reads like a memoir of the last person (Liz) left of a family. She is unraveling her family history piece by piece trying to make sense of the events of her life, and figuring out why her Uncle disappeared and why he never returned like he had so many times before.

As in the synopsis above, Liz Crane is an entomologist studying the migratory habits of the Monarch butterfly, and throughout the story there are details of her research and how it takes four generations before they are strong enough to migrate and then return home to start a new generation in the spring time. I wish I was able to articulate my thoughts on the significance of the Monarch butterfly habits to Liz’s story, but I find myself without the right words, certainly without the ones that would make sense. But they do have a place in the story much more so than it just being the career path chosen by Liz.

I was utterly blown away by Sanctuary Line…it is unlike any other book I have ever read. It has been constructed so eloquently and Jane Urquhart is clearly a talented writer, weaving in and out of past and present. Sanctuary Line offers a number of mysteries that keep you guessing, with Urquhart skillfully releasing answers at just the right moment. This is one of the best books I have read this year, and it came as quite a shock that I enjoyed it so much.
5.0 out of 5 stars present and future decisions 11 Feb 2014
By W. Jamison - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a book well worth reading. It’s about “going home again” and the memories that need to be dealt with. Each family member has his or her own way of coming to terms with the past and how that affects their present and future decisions. The main character’s biologic study of the Monarch Butterfly is a thread throughout the novel.
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