on 26 September 2007
I saw this book on the Richard & Judy Summer read and thought I'd try it on for size. I'd never read anything by Mary Lawson before and immediately fell in love with the characters Ian and Arthur.
Lawson beautifully creates a scene of growing up in a small town, both pre and post WW2 and uses realistic description of the town's scenary throughout the seasons.
She also creates a marvellous relationship between Arthur and the rest of his family (and later his wife) and encapsulates the very essence of sibling rivalry - with a more vicious twist.
It's a moving and somewhat heartbreaking tale of love, loss and humanity. I liked the way that Arthur and Ian's stories were structurally broken up by chapters; there was no jumping backwards and forwards that often loses a reader.
I'd definitely read more of her work; I read this in 2 days on holiday and felt sorry to finish it.
I was a little disappointed by some of the Richard and Judy choices so came to this late, but it was sheer reading pleasure from beginning to end. It's a story of good people doing the best they can with the lives they have and how one small action can cause so much damage and such sad consequences.
I loved everything about this book. It had me in tears more than once, the whole thing fitted together so beautifully, and the detail was loveley, from the repercussions of the war to the spots on the throat of the little girl with measles. It's beautifully written, it's a lovely story and it has real soul.
on 8 January 2008
The Other Side of the Bridge for me exemplifies a novel of ordinary life which examines some of the important themes in life. It is another example of how female authors writing about the everyday in a deceptively simple style can often cover subjects that novels with loftier ambitions don't approach.
The novel hops between two generations in the same quiet Canadian settlement Struan. The 20s/30s chapters deal with the brothers Arthur and Jake, growing up on a farm with their parents. Arthur is five years older and, like his father, a stolid, solid worker whose silent exterior belies an inner sensitivity and aching for love, notably from the two people he can never seem to get them from - his mother (whose favourite has always been Jake), and, later, Laura. Jake is cocky and has the gift of the gab; his easy charm and quick wit manipulate and seduce everyone around him. Everyone that is, except his father. For me, one of the tragedies in the book is that although Jake has the unconditional adoration of his mother, which Arthur would die for, Jake craves the approval of his father, something that can only be earned by hard work on the farm. One of the reasons for Jake's spite towards Arthur seems to be this jealousy - although Jake on the surface has everything - looks, wit, brains, girls, adoring mother - as is human nature, he longs for the one thing he doesn't have; the only thing his plain, lumpen, monosyllabic brother Arthur has, which is the approval of his father. This explains a lot of Jake's spite towards his brother.
A generation later, Ian, the teenage son of the village doctor, develops an adolescent crush on the beautiful Laura, wife of a local farmer, and decides to seek part-time work on the farm in order to be near her. The local farmer is none other than Arthur, who has somehow managed to marry the local beauty.
And so the story unfolds. In alternate chapters, we learn about events in both the past - the 30s - and the present - the 50s. Lawson writes in an ostensibly simple style but her sensitive, empathic descriptions of everything from farm animals to the emotions bubbling in inarticulate men gives the novel a haunting power. The reader is transported totally back to this era of Canadian rural life and reminded, as only the finest novelists can remind, that the important themes of life - love, longing for the approval of indifferent parents, sibling rivalry - endure through all generations and all settings. A beautiful, evocative book. ****0 1/2
on 1 April 2008
Here it is again. The gentle but persistent voice of the author of "Crow Lake," as she tells another story set in the same area of Northern Canada.
This time it is a tale of two brothers, just about as different as brothers could be. Inevitably they are rivals and whilst Arthur is the strong dependable one, Jake is spoilt and over protected by his mother.
There is little, if any, love between the brothers, and as time passes and the boys grow up, not surprisingly they find themselves in competition for the same girl.
The narrative is divided between two time spans, one leading up to and during the Second World War, and the other in the 1950's, and these alternate, chapter by chapter throughout the book.
Mary Lawson writes with compelling style and her characters are well drawn and complex, but nevertheless easy to empathise with. I simply loved this story although not quite as much as Mary Lawson's first novel, "Crow Lake." There again that was a hard act to follow.
The tension builds slowly as the feeling grows that somehow, someway something has to give; something has to happen to break the spell, redress the balance and bring justice.
It does, and it is well worth the wait!
After reading, and loving, Crow Lake, ML had rather a lot to live up to with her second offering.
Essentially, this is the tale of two brothers - Arthur, hardworking, solid and dependable and Jake, flighty, spoilt and just a little bit mean - and how their very different personalities shape their lives and those of their families. Flipping backwards and forwards through time, we learn how those who constantly take will always override those who constantly give. With pretty dramatic consequences.
Not as enjoyable as her debut novel, The Other Side of the Bridge is still destined to be a classic.
on 21 June 2007
I absolutly adored Crow Lake - and Mary - you owe me some of your royalty payments - because I must have given this book as presents to over 30 people. However, The other side of the Bridge is good and a real page turner - it is not to the same standard. I think that this is because you tried to explain more, rather than allow the reader to calmly make their own conclusions with you just leading. The last part is rushed and a little garbled where as Crow Lake was so measured, even , balanced and calm.
Look forward to book number three, but dont rush it.
on 30 June 2010
What a wonderful second novel by Mary Lawson, it is such a powerful but subtle story of life in the Canadian town of Struan. It tells the story of sibling rivalry; Jake and Arthur are brothers who are worlds apart, Jake being the smart handsome one, adored and spoiled by his mother whereas Arthur is more like his father, sullen and preferring the solitude of the fields and hard work. Jakes deviousness causes problems throughout, always wanting to get one up on Arthur who in turn feels the need to protect him no matter what he has done but he gets his comeuppance.
WW2 breaks out and we see the young men signing up for war, the tragedies and worries of parents for their children and the people left behind to work the farms.
Ian is the son of the town Doctor and he has his own problems, what career path he should follow, his doggedness to become anything but a doctor even thought the reader can see his natural ability for placating patients. His feelings regarding his mother, his friendship with Pete, these are all his personal struggles. He goes to work with Arthur and it shows his developing relationship with the family and his awe of Arthur's wife.
I can't praise it highly enough, it is beautifully written, thought invoking and one of those books that will be kept for another read. I wanted to turn around and read the book again straight away. It is miles ahead of `Crow Lake'; her first book. I loved all the main characters in this book, they were so believable and I felt their pain and joy. A must read.
This book has a well written prologue which immediately made me interested in the relationship between Arthur and Jake.
Throughout the book the swapping between the two periods in time worked very well with none of the confusion that can happen in some books.
There are beautiful descriptions of the countryside around the town, paying particular attention to the seasonal differences in the scenery, which are dramatic in that area.
The narrative articulates the thoughts in Arthur's head in words that he could never be able to speak himself which works very well and adds huge depth to the story.
Also there is a great ending - time moves on but doesn't seem to move at all.
Struan - a small town in Canada's far north. The Dunns - a farming family with two sons: hard working Arthur, dull but dependable; charismatic Jake, a wastrel and troublemaker. Their tale covers several decades, doctor's son Ian witness of its later stages.
Wholly absorbing, here is a novel powerful, tender and true. The tightly knit community comes over strongly, struggling to cope with life's challenges - anything from devastating weather to a world war. Strongly etched characters include the Dunns' German neighbours, the POW youngsters brought in to help keep the farm going, the doctor with his workload increased by logging and sawmill accidents, even his cook whose stews are best binned.
Arthur is central - slow to show emotion, doing what he believes right, ever the victim of his brother's excesses. How long before enough is enough and he erupts?
The novel has heart and concerns people discovering where their own heart is. Originally, for example, Ian wanted out, Struan too boring. Over the years, however, whatever the latest drama, hardship, tragedy, Ian is afterwards off to join his mate Pete fishing - both content simply to sit and wait for "the big one" that so eludes. Struan is, after all, where he belongs.
That is just one of this fine book's many evocative images. Emotions are stirred, perhaps even a tear or two shed.
I came to this novel after so much enjoying “Crow Lake”. It is not going to appeal to those in search of sensationalism or those who lack the patience for a meticulously worked out story, whose characters develop slowly as the plot progresses. I found it beautifully written, the shifts in time most skilfully handled, genuinely adding to our understanding of the world in which these characters have their being.
We are taken inside a hard and bleak world, but with its own charms and beauty. Lawson is adept in showing us how this world forges the nature of those who are born into it and the challenges it presents to those who move there from city life. We see those who cannot escape fast enough and those who in spite of themselves cannot elude the pull of this community. Then there are those like Arthur Dunn one cannot imagine in any other context. Family life has its challenges in any society. Here the additional dimension of northern Canada adds ingredients that help to make this such an absorbing novel Highly recommended.