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Spadework [Paperback]

Timothy Findley
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

2 Sep 2002
On a summer evening a gardener's spade slices a telephone cable into distant silence. The resulting disconnection is devastating. With the failure of one call to reach the house, an ambitious young actor becomes the victim of sexual blackmail. The blocking of a second call leads tragically to murder. And when the telephone repairman arrives to mend the broken line, his innocent yet irresistible male beauty has explosive consequences. In Spadework, Timothy Findley, a master storyteller, has created an electric word-play of infidelity and morality. Spadework tells a story that ripples with ever-widening repercussions, a sensual, witty and completely absorbing novel.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber; 1st Faber & Faber Edition edition (2 Sep 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571214533
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571214532
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 3.1 x 21.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,098,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

(Findley’s) new novel is set against the backdrop of the Stratford Festival in Ontario, a milieu that he expertly cracks open. -- New York Times

A scandalously juicy novel... Entertaining backstage backstabbing exposes the staggering consequences of overweening ambition. -- Seattle Times

Spadework is Findley's darkest comedy yet. -- The Gazette (Montreal)

About the Author

Timothy Findley was born in Toronto in 1930. His first career was in the theatre; he was a charter company member of Ontario's Stratford Shakespearean Festival in 1953, and toured several European capitals.$$$In 1963, Findley turned to writing full-time and in 1977 his third novel, The Wars, won a Governor General's Award. It is now considered a Canadian classic. Following his bestsellers such as Famous Last Words, he won an Edgar Award for The Telling of Lies, while his collection of short stories, Stones, won Ontario's Trillium Award.$$$Findley's first work of non-fiction, Inside Memory: Pages from a Writer's Workbook, made him the first two-time winner of a Canadian Authors Association Award; he had earlier won its fiction counterpart for his novel, Not Wanted on the Voyage. He has also written plays, and his third, The Stillborn Lover (1993), won the CAA Drama Award, as well as winning an Arthur Ellis Award and Chalmers Award. His later novels include Headhunter (1993) and The Piano Man's Daughter (1995). His most recent play, Elizabeth Rex, was produced at the 2000 Stratford Festival in Canada.$$$Along with the likes of Michael Ondaatje and Margaret Atwood, Timothy Findley has become one of Canada's most acclaimed and best-selling authors. In 2000, Faber published Pilgrim and reissued The Wars and Famous Last Words. His last novel, Spadework, was published in 2002, the year in which Timothy Findley died.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One wonders why Findley wrote this book. 23 Dec 2002
By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAME TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
From a writer whose publicity bills him as "Canada's greatest living writer," this book is both a surprise and a disappointment. Telling the story of a group of participants in Ontario's Stratford Festival, the book includes many subplots, all dealing with some issue of love--love from the past, young love, new love, love of children, homosexual love, thwarted love, love of self, love of career--and the extent to which the characters are willing to sacrifice for it.
While some of the dialogue, such as that in an early birthday party scene, pops and crackles, as one would expect in the writing of a playwright like Findley, other aspects of the book creak and groan, weighed down by irrelevant details and a shocking number of cliches. Ten pages into the book, Jane comments that she is the luckiest girl in the world. "I've got everything I wanted," she says. One is not surprised, then, when fate decides to teach her a lesson in the ensuing 400 pages.
The personal conflicts which evolve are too shallow to allow for the illumination of great themes, and the characters are one-dimensional, prone to observations one has read many times in many other novels. Upon seeing the Bell telephone man, Jane decides, "He was the most beautiful man she had ever seen. But his beauty was more than physical. There was something...indefinable." Her psychiatrist has a print of Paul Klee's "Scholar 1933" on the wall, "his inner eye, his daily reminder...that life was full of endless mystery and that nothing was known." An outdoor love scene takes place against a background with "not a single cloud. And yet...There was thunder." And it is difficult to take seriously a reference to "the voice of a man she barely knew, but a man she also knew she loved."
For those who enjoy sentimental stories and can do not mind cliches, this novel provides a look at life in a theater company and a great many love stories, which end, literally, with "the sound of water flowing over the dam." Mary Whipple
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Amazon.com: 2.9 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Work Indeed 6 Feb 2002
By Michael Younder - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Not one of Timothy's strongest books. There's a lot of material in Spadework with several little stories being carried through. But I got the sense that some of the more interesting ones were left underdeveloped. As the book finished, plot lines were wound up too quickly is if to make way for the six o'clock news. A slight disappointment but an engrossing backstage peak at the theatre scene.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One wonders why Findley wrote this book. 8 Mar 2002
By Mary Whipple - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
From a writer whose publicity bills him as "Canada's greatest living writer," this book is both a surprise and a disappointment. Telling the story of a group of participants in Ontario's Stratford Festival, the book includes many subplots, all dealing with some issue of love--love from the past, young love, new love, love of children, homosexual love, thwarted love, love of self, love of career--and the extent to which the characters are willing to sacrifice for it.

While some of the dialogue, such as that in an early birthday party scene, pops and crackles, as one would expect in the writing of a playwright, other aspects of the book creak and groan, weighed down by irrelevant details and a shocking number of cliches. Ten pages into the book, Jane comments that she is the luckiest girl in the world. "I've got everything I wanted," she says. One is not surprised, then, when fate decides to teach her a lesson in the ensuing 400 pages.

The personal conflicts which evolve are too shallow to allow for the illumination of great themes, and the characters are one-dimensional, prone to observations one has read many times in many other novels. Upon seeing the Bell telephone man, Jane decides, "He was the most beautiful man she had ever seen. But his beauty was more than physical. There was something...indefinable." Her psychiatrist has a print of Paul Klee's "Scholar 1933" on the wall, "his inner eye, his daily reminder...that life was full of endless mystery and that nothing was known." An outdoor love scene takes place against a background with "not a single cloud. And yet...There was thunder." And it is difficult to take seriously a reference to "the voice of a man she barely knew, but a man she also knew she loved."

For those who enjoy sentimental stories and can do not mind cliches, this novel provides a look at life in a theater company and a great many love stories, which end, literally, with "the sound of water flowing over the dam." Mary Whipple
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Slapdash 8 April 2002
By Candace Siegle, Greedy Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Timothy Findley's earlier novel, "Famous Last Words" is a very strange and disturbing book. The question is whether "Spadework" is a shift into a more traditional kind of storytelling for this Canadian author, or whether it is in fact stranger than anything else he's done. That's what's hard to decide.
As opposed to being set in Europe, where Findley always seems finds the smell of rot just below the surface, "Spadework" is set in Canada, in the fresh, bonnie territory of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. Jane designs props, and her husband Griffin is a promising actor. Findley knows theater well, and the setting is one of the novel's strengths. The art of theater is lovingly explored--the building of props, the use of lighting to create an environment- all the individual elements that make the artistic whole.
Ambitious Griffin suddenly leaves Jane and their son for an affair with the theatre's artistic director. Distraught, Jane is drawn to a Bell Canada lineman who disconnects her telephone, interrupting a phone call vital to the plot. Griffin gets the roles he wants for the next theatrical season and returns to Jane. She accepts him back. Does she really think anything will be the same again, or that his return can mend the destruction of their son's world? Why would she want this man back anyway when he has proven that his family is far, far down the list of his priorities? Is this an unbelievable ending, or is "Spadework" Findley's creepiest book of all?
It is my appreciation of Findley's earlier work that makes me want to give him the benefit of the doubt. The truth is that unless you put some work into coming up with alternative scenarios, this is a pretty haphazard book. It lacks the kind of quirk Findley excels at, and as a conventional novel of a family in crisis "Spadework" is a flop. It is a readable but mediocre outing by a writer from whom we are accustomed to getting only the best.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Spadework - Bury this book 25 Nov 2006
By B. A Libby - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This novel is to books what "Plan 9 From Outer Space" is to movies. So laughably bad, the only thing that kept me reading it was the wonder that the author could go on for so long and be so consistantly terrible in his writing. I'm not going to reprise the plot, but here's a little background and an example. The main character, Jane, flees from her controlling and straight-laced Southern lady of a mother. When she announces her intention to leave the mother replies (and so help-me-God this is a quote), "...You don' just stan' up an' walk away f'm Cloud Hill. F'm family. You just don' do that. All them years o' history..." It goes on like this, but I'll spare you reading the rest. Real believable dialogue from well-mannered Southern lady isn't it? That's just a small example. The dialogue in this book is all pretty horrible, and the descriptions of conversations only make it worse. People will be having an argument, then suddenly "beam" at each other. The act of opening bottles of wine should really be thought of as a main character it happens so often and with such over-blown description. None of the interaction of any of the characters is believable, in fact, they are so odd there is a kind of sick fascination to reading this as you have never, will never, know people who react or talk like Mr. Findlay's characters. This book is billed as a "National Bestseller". The only plausible explanation I can think of is; (a) Guam is suddenly declared a sovereign nation (b) a shipment of these books is mistakenly shipped to Guam (c) a bookseller on Guam unfortunately sells 3 of these books and is subsequently lynched. A far-fetched scenario you think? Good Lord, let's hope Timothy Findlay doesn't read this review as he would probably think it was a reasonable plot line and explore it for an excruciating number of pages.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Really 2.5 stars 14 Aug 2008
By B. Wilfong - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Inconsistent. That is the best way to describe this novel. As a person who loves the town of Stratford Ontario, and its Shakespeare Festival, I was intrigued and amused by the set up for the novel. Many of the text's characters are in some way affiliated with the Festival, and the little details about daily life in Stratford are fun reading for anyone who has an affinity for the town.
However, the book's plot and most of its dialogue feels cinematic, and not at all in a good way. There are moments (alas only moments) of brilliance in this novel, but they are quickly replaced by soap opera scenarios, and scenes out of left field. Too many times while reading this text, I found myself at a complete loss as to what the purpose was. If Findley's goal was to create a domestic drama, it was simply too unrealistic. The ending reeks of being contrived, and only the most ludicrously optimistic people will find it even the tiniest bit plausible.
I really wanted to love this text. It did not happen. Not my fault, I was predisposed to like it. Findley simply did not provide any reason for me to do so.
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