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The Englishman's Boy Paperback – 1 Sep 1997

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Paperback, 1 Sep 1997

Product details

  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Mcclelland & Stewart Ltd (1 Sept. 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 077108692X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0771086922
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 14 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,336,160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Guy Vanderhaeghe is simply a wonderful writer. THE ENGLISHMAN'S BOY, spanning as it does two countries, two centuries, two views of history - the Canadian wild west as 'imagined' by Hollywood - is a great accomplishment. Readers, I think, will find this book irresistible' Richard Ford 'Bristles with rare vitality... it had not admire the skill with which Vanderhaeghe dramatises two quite different worlds' Julia Flynn, Sunday Telegraph 'A strong, hard novel... Vanderhaeghe is a fine writer' Phil Baker, Sunday Times --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

* Vanderhaeghe deftly weaves two parallel narratives - one about the old Canadian West and the other about Tinseltown in its most extravagent era - in this irresistible novel about power, greed, betrayal, and the pull of dreams. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on 18 Oct. 2003
Format: Paperback
Had this beautifully wrought novel not received some publicity for winning the Governor General's Award in Canada in l996, it might have remained "undiscovered" in this age of pop culture and instant bestsellerdom for many books whose primary value seems to be their bankability as future films. Yet author Vanderhaeghe probably would not have been surprised by this. In fact, one of the main themes of this absorbing and satisfying book is the power of film, "the glory of American lightning," and the different goals to which it can be adapted by "artists" and "visionaries."
Structurally, the book tells two stories in alternate chapters set in the Canadian Wild West of the l870's and in Hollywood in the l920's. The author makes no real attempt to create suspense about the identity of the Englishman's boy of the 1870's and who he has become by the 1920's. The author has a bigger vision than that.
Instead, he chooses to reveal small parts of the continuum of history between these dates until at the end the full story of the Englishman's boy is revealed. At the same time, the thematically subtle juxtaposition of specific events from these dramatically different times and places shows how little human nature has changed and how much it is important to be true to ideals and values, whatever they may be and however they may have to accommodate the changes of history.
In this astutely crafted story of wolfer/hunters, Indians, Hollywood moguls, young strivers toward success, Socialists, preservers of the status quo, barely surviving traders, immigrants, hard men, and "visionaries" who would impose their dreams on the masses via film, the reader is caught up in the swirl of history and asked to think about the extent to which history is simply a succession of random events, whether the events have been imposed upon us, and how much, if at all, we can control our own dreams and our futures. Mary Whipple
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By "bryn1945" on 20 Nov. 2000
Format: Paperback
Spanning as it does two centuries and two distinct ages, this book manages to catch the true hardships of the real "Wild West", and by clever juxtaposition tie them in with the madness that was Hollywood in the twenties. The central character, a Canadian working as a caption writer in the early days of the silent movies, is commissioned by a movie magnate of suitable sinister characteristics, to trace a real cowboy glimpsed only as an extra in a movie. Cutting as it does, cleverly between the then present day Hollywood and a relic of the Old West, the reader is transported simultaneously between the lawless frontier and Indian Fighters to the equally lawless Hollywood scene where movie moguls and the stars of the day did exactly what they wanted without regard to humanity they destroyed along the way, The parallels are clear and the comparisons which at first seem unlikely, become plain as the novel progresses. The descriptions both of the West and the Hollywood scene are graphic and truthful. The scenes of the Old West one suspects are much more truthful than any western movies with the exception of possibly those of Sam Peckinpah and the more recent "Ride with the Devil" A well crafted novel of considerable power, but which unfortunately seems to go slightly off the rails at the very end. Nevertheless a masterly accomplishment, a very good read, and for those interested in Hollywood or the Old west, or both, a book not to be missed
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Joe HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 28 May 2010
Format: Paperback
"It was a force mounted and armed and accoutered without consistency, piebald and paint buffalo runners, blooded bays and chestnuts, Henrys and Sharps and Winchesters and Colts and double-barrelled scatterguns, a Derringer in a coat pocket, skinning knives and Bowie knives, hatchets, a Confederate cavalry sabre hung scabbarded on a saddlehorn, smoke-stained buckskins and bar-stained broadcloth, broken plug hats and glossy fur caps, loud checked shirts and patched linen, canvas dusters and wool capotes, parfleche-soled moccasins and high heeled riding boots. Every face bearing a different mark of vice or virtue, motive or resolve." - The punitive expedition ready to ride against American Indian horse thieves, in THE ENGLISHMAN'S BOY

The Great American Myth, or Legend if you will. As I understand it having been born shortly after World War II, it's the American Western; stout-hearted pioneers and brave cavalry troopers battle marauding Indians on the endless plains, lonely lawmen out-draw desperadoes in the main streets of dusty settlements, and honest (and sometimes singing) cowboys - spurs a janglin' - drive herds across an unforgiving landscape to cow towns where gold-hearted saloon girls await. The Myth, first created by writers of cheap pulp fiction for the masses, was adapted to the Silver Screen by Tinseltown in the first half of the twentieth century and the legend became firmly established as God's Own Truth in the minds of an idolizing and fulfilled citizenry.

The Myth has been perceived as national in scope, but is, I think, more accurately appreciated as "tribal." The intrepid heroes of the sagas, especially those in the Moving Pictures, are virtually always WASPish.
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Format: Paperback
This is a real gem. For those who enjoy history, particularly US late nineteenth century and the golden age of silent movies in the 1920s, then this is a must read.

Vanderhaeghe cleverly weaves a tale involving two strands: one part of the story sees writer Harry Vincent looking back on a time in his life when he worked for (fictitious) movie mogul Damon Ira Chance in the 1920s; the other part concerns the story of two Assiniboine Indians rustling twenty horses from a group of sleeping white men, wolf hunters taking in their pelts for trade. The wolf hunters then form a search party to retrieve the stolen horses which includes a young drifter known to them only as `The Englishman's Boy.'

Meanwhile Vincent is employed by Chance to track down the enigmatic and evasive old-time Western actor Shorty McAdoo in Hollywood. Chance wants to make the ultimate film about the American West and he needs McAdoo to add authenticity.

This is a highly ambitious project with Vanderhaeghe's story taking place in America and Canada as well as two different centuries. Vincent tasked with finding McAdoo is a Canadian himself and through him we get added perspective.

With characters like the feisty, intelligent and desirable Rachel Gold and the thuggish and intimidating Denis Fitzsimmons this one crackles and sparkles with strong as well as believable characters and snappy dialogue. Both the 1920s and 1870s are equally well evoked and it's clear that Vanderhaeghe has done his research.

This is a world of DW Griffith, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Lillian Gish and of course cowboys and their story, which forms the meat and potatoes of this novel.
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