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Graeme Gibson.

Toronto, McClelland & Stewart, c1979, 1982.
(New Canadian Library #175).
333pp, paper, $6.95.
ISBN 0-7710-9328-5.

Reviewed by C. H. Mountford.

Volume 11 Number 5.
1983 September.

Stylistically, these two novels are difficult. They are not presented in a straightforward, realistic way, although the details are realistic enough. This does not mean that they are not well written. The characters are interesting, as are the situations in which they find themselves. Very few writers could handle a first novel, such as Five Legs, with the aplomb that Gibson brings to the task. It is an honourable and worthwhile attempt to bring a difficult manner to the matter of a specific Canadian region, southwestern Ontario.

The matter itself is quite traditional. Gibson is concerned with the fundamental issues of love, the human response to death, the situation in a particular physical landscape. He is not afraid to consider these topics from a variety of non-traditional angles.

Moreover, there is a strain of mordant humour running through the stories. Partly this is achieved, as in Five Legs, through the ironic responses of Lucan, for example, to his environment and to the people who share it with him. Lucan cannot take even himself seriously. Felix, the main character in the second part of Five Legs, shares Lucan's caustic awareness of the shortcomings of the world.

A problem arises, however, as well it might considering the technical difficulties of the novel as a whole, in distinguishing between the consciousness of Lucan and the consciousness of Felix. One begins to feel that they are not distinct people but are mouthpieces of the same omniscient narrator. Perhaps this is the intent of the author. Perhaps this is the reason there does not seem to be much character development in the stories. Perhaps such character development is not necessary, considering the author's intent.

In any case, these novels would be extremely difficult for high school students of whatever level. They require a developed sensibility to appreciate them. Recommended for mature readers.

C. H. Mountford, F. E. Madill S. S., Wingham, ON.
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