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It's not an easy thing to write a novel about a family. Of necessity--and as the narrative years advance--characters proliferate, success and tragedy accrue, events maneuver to the fore with faintly arbitrary impetus. First-time novelist Bonnie Burnard, however, evades such worn grooves with the purest renunciation: a patient and lovely voice. In A Good House, awarded Canada's Giller Prize in 1999, Burnard documents an Ontario family over half a century with unadorned, deliberate, and tender sympathy.
Flush with post-World War II optimism, veteran Bill Chambers and his wife Sylvia settle in to the business of raising their three young children. Bill logs full days at the local hardware store; Sylvia strings the family's clothes out to dry in the backyard and proffers dinner punctually. Her wasting health, however, leaves her husband yearning for a contentment now stolen and her children disquieted by the sudden tenuousness of their security. When Sylvia dies and Bill remarries, his staunch and pragmatic bride Margaret displays a three-fold capacity: she allows him his sluggish and methodical affection; she preserves Sylvia's memory with untainted regard; and she cultivates a deft empathy with her stepchildren.
Burnard's meticulous pacing nearly, but never quite, upstages the story itself, although her unwieldy and expanding cast of characters occasionally threatens such harm. Margaret is the real wonder of the book. While the requisite affairs, divorces, and funerals intervene--and as Bill declines excruciatingly into a belligerent stranger--she summons a reserve of affection, the source of which is admirably opaque. She perseveres in "hoping as mothers and fathers almost always do that the difficulties could be examined, could be broken apart and fixed one by one by one." Burnard's tale is dignified and generous. --Ben Guterson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
In 1952, 12-year-old Daphne Chambers falls from a trapeze and is left with a permanently asymmetrical face. In 1955, Daphne's mother, Sylvia, dies of cancer at age 40. From these two life-altering events, Canadian short story writer Burnard spins her engrossing debut novel, a traditional generational saga that unfolds with quiet grace and measure. Told from a variety of points of view, the book traces the upheavals and affirmations of the very ordinary Chambers family of Stonebrook, Ontario, from 1949 to 1997. The year after Sylvia's death, her husband, Bill, an injured WWII vet, remarries. His new wife, the unflappable Margaret, who used to work with him at the town hardware store, helps him raise his three children. Paul, the baby, becomes a hockey star and eventually a farmer, marrying young; oldest brother Patrick, a lawyer, is destined to be the keeper of family secrets; and middle child Daphne makes an eccentric choice for that time and place: she'll become the single mother of two daughters. As the years pass, the family, in nuclear and then extended form, gathers around the kitchen table to celebrate and to mourn. There are no saints, no Jobs, no Hamlets in Burnard's tale, just flawed people making the best possible choices given the passions and options of the moment, choices that sometimes require disingenuousness, stonewalling and outright lies. Changes in the initially remote town of Stonebrook are a significant strand in the narrative weave. Flashes of sly humor and an ability to avoid sentimentality are some of Burnard's skills, and the narrative's calm flow (once one gets past an initial excess of detail) builds to a deeply moving story of the truths of family life. 50,000 first printing; major ad/promo; author tour. (Sept.) FYI: A bestseller in Canada, this novel won the 1999 Giller Prize.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
This was an interesting book - easy to read. Following the life of a family through several years allowed for personal reflection and understanding.Published 10 months ago by Trudy
I really thought I'd enjoy this book: it won a prestigious prize, I was born and brought up in Ontario, and return there every year (and I love Alice Munro!). Read morePublished 16 months ago by J. Epstein
Like Richard B. Wright's The Age of Longing (which more or less takes place in the same neck of the woods) A Good House is a small tale full of ordinary people making their way as... Read morePublished 21 months ago by VG
This book is set in Stonebrook, Ontario. It begins just after WWII, and the book ends in the year of 1997. Read morePublished on April 10, 2012 by S. Schwartz
Dear Cat Scan Reviewer
Obviously you have never been to this "implausible" neck of the woods. I was born in Sarnia and spent the next 21 years living approx. Read more
A well written family saga that follows a family over almost 50 years starting just after WWII. The family goes through so much from the mother's death at 40, to the father (a... Read morePublished on November 16, 2008 by Angelena Zahler
A Good House basically follows about 50 years of the Chambers family, and their lives. A young couple starting out in their first house with three small children becomes a... Read morePublished on August 22, 2007 by L. Toll
The review about the CAT Scan says it all. I am an avid reader, and it is rare that I not finish a book, but I cannot and will not finish this book. Goodnight.Published on June 5, 2005 by Jennifer P. Graham