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Between Mountains Hardcover – May 6, 2004

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Editorial Reviews


"[Helwig’s] political commitment adds unusual forcefulness to this eloquent combination of war report, courtroom drama and love story. The subject is inevitably grim, but the story is so well structured, the writing so elegant, that it manages to be enjoyable as well as moving, an easy though never light read."
Sunday Telegraph

"In Between Mountains . . . [Helwig] explores the less well-traveled road of post-war horrors, when nightmares return to haunt those who have witnessed or perpetrated them."
Books in Canada

"Helwig achieves a rare weave with Between Mountains. … an unexpected pleasure are the sections on translation. Leave it to the author of seven volumes of poetry to describe the act of changing languages so that it seems as dangerous and thrilling as the work of a California firefighter, with twice as many split-second decisions. …"
Quill & Quire

"The depth of her understanding — both of Balkan particulars and universal human flaws — fills this book with moving scenes and striking perceptions."
The Globe and Mail

"A profound novel."
Winnipeg Free Press

"This is a stunning novel from a new voice, a deserving contender for this year’s prize shortlists."
Ink (UK)

"One of Maggie Helwig’s many accomplishments in this astonishing novel is her ability to render murderers, victims, and helpless bystanders as equally human. Her political intelligence and spiritual generosity make Between Mountains both a profound gesture of remembrance, as well as a deeply moving work of art."
—Michael Redhill, author of Martin Sloane

"Maggie Helwig’s novel puts a human face to the criminal destruction of a place once called Yugoslavia. She reminds us that war ravages the souls of all who find themselves caught in its grasp, including journalists from afar; and of the healing power of love."
—Erna Paris, author of Long Shadows

"When guns and flags stop talking, writers come to heal. Between Mountains is a rare novel about the repercussions of war. From Helwig’s beautiful novel one can learn more about honesty, passion for truth and love than from almost any other book on the tragic conflict in the Balkans."
—Goran Simic, author of Immigrant Blues

"A passionate and poetic love story which never flinches from its task of exploring the way history compromises our lives."
—Ben Richards, author of The Mermaid and the Drunks

Praise for Maggie Helwig:

"[Helwig is a] passionate observer and witness to the world around her."
Broken Pencil

"An inventive, intelligent, and unorthodox thinker."

"Helwig knows the precise details that render a scene true."
Quill & Quire

"Helwig’s strength is to take concrete subjects and generalize about the mystery of what it is to be human."
Malahat Review --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Inside Flap

A spellbinding, profound novel from one of Canada?s most accomplished poets, Between Mountains sets a heart-rending love story amidst the aftermath of the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

Daniel, a Canadian journalist, has been living in Bosnia for ten years, long after most correspondents have moved on to other global ?hotspots.? On a visit to Paris he meets Lili, a Serbian-Albanian interpreter at The Hague, entrusted with hearing and telling the stories of victims and perpetrators of brutality. Their lives intersect at the trial of a man accused of war crimes, interviews with whom have formed the bedrock of Daniel?s career.

Peripatetic, driven people, Lili and Daniel are also both damaged by the horrific things they have witnessed. Each hopes to find in the other some kind of understanding, and in impossible circumstances they are drawn into an affair which could destroy everything they have worked for.

Reminiscent of The Quiet American and Fugitive Pieces, Between Mountains is at once a complex love story and a gripping novel of war and politics. Exquisitely written and vividly imagined, it explores issues of the greatest human importance within an intensely intimate landscape.

He paused in the doorway of the hotel, automatically charting the safest route. There was a little bar across the street that would probably make him an omelette in mid-afternoon, and he found himself calculating that there was not much exposed ground to cross, then forcing himself to remember that this was Paris, that there were no snipers in the neighbouring buildings, not for now at any rate. -- from Between Mountains --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus; 1st edition (May 6, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0701176911
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701176914
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,001,132 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By E. Peterson on April 3, 2005
Format: Paperback
"Between Mountains" is a harsh and beautiful book; it is sobering, but not, in the end, depressing. The story centers on Daniel, a war correspondent, and Lili, a translator, who are brought together and then kept apart by their roles on the fringe of the Balkan conflict.
The strictest integrity and impartiality are demanded by Lili's career as a translator for high-level international negotiations; any sort of friendship with a journalist is out of the question. Yet she and Daniel become closer and closer to each other as they also get closer to a true conflict of interest: Lili will be translating at the war crimes trial of Nikola Markovic, whom Daniel has interviewed extensively. Events spiral out of control, the past reaches out to blight the future, and through Markovic's own unwilling recollections, the reader is drawn into an understanding of the terrible weight of war.
Okay, that sounds depressing. And on some level, it is. At the core of the book is this awful paradox: that war and hatred feel like they have their own agency, they feel like inescapable forces that no one creates and no one person could possibly sway -- and yet in the end they are composed of *nothing* but the choices of individuals. The book provokes a lot of thought about what can and can't be accomplished by individuals in that context; given the world we live in, those thoughts aren't especially rosy, but they're not hopeless either. The book holds out some hope for its characters, and for our prospects of finding ways to live without war.
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