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Consolation: A Novel Hardcover – January 10, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Redhill's signature poetic touch and finely drawn characters are on display in his second novel (after story collection Fidelity and novel Martin Sloane), an homage to Toronto, from its rough and tumble past to its contemporary civility. After avid historian and archivist David Hollis dies, his widow, Marianne, takes on the task of confirming his unfounded claim about the location of the long-lost first photographs ever taken of the city. She's joined by her soon to be son-in-law John, an earnest writer's assistant who seeks to bring his fiancée and mother-in-law together in their grief. Their examination of the past, both in the purview of David's completed life and the panoramic city history, is interwoven with the story of Jem Hallam, a Londoner who moved to Toronto in its Wild West days and found himself allied with a female portrait model and a brokenhearted Irishman. The stories fit together in an unexpected way, and Redhill's taste for quiet examination of relationships, grief and small failures of love make for a thought-provoking read. (Jan.)
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From School Library Journal

Adult/High School—David Hollis was a modern historian and archivist believed to have discovered the existence of a collection of glass photographic plates in the ruins of a shipwreck in Toronto Harbor. Jem Hallam, the photographer, was a young apothecary struggling to survive in the Toronto frontier of 1857. Hollis's story is told through the lens of his widow, Marianne, who is staking out the site her husband claimed was the location of the plates. It is now the construction site for a future sports arena, but Marianne, aided by her daughter's fiancé, is scouring it for both the plates and vindication of her husband's shipwreck theory. One hundred and fifty years earlier, Hallam's story is of his struggle for survival with a failing business, absent family, and ferocious climate. Both men had something to prove, with their links of shared temperament and inclination, and both suffered from the humiliations of failed hopes and dreams. This is a book as chilly, profound, and subtle as a cold winter day. In spite of its deliberate pace, the lives of the characters creep up on and wholly engage readers. Redhill is primarily a poet and that is evident in this prose work. It is as precise and nuanced as his Martin Sloane (Little, Brown, 2002) and will appeal to readers with a taste for a carefully constructed story told with a haunting turn of phrase.—Sallie Barringer, Walnut Hills High School, Cincinnati, OH
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; First Edition edition (January 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316734985
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316734981
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,247,213 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Interviews on January 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Throughout history, humankind has been fascinated with those who lived before them. At any given moment, hundreds of archaeologists and historians are searching for remnants of lost civilizations and peoples from aeons past.

In this new novel, Michael Redhill introduces us to one such historian, David Hollis. Through much research, Hollis feels he has pinpointed the location of a steel strongbox, containing an enormous treasure: glass negatives from the earliest pictures ever taken of Toronto when it was still in its newborn stages. Unfortunately, we no sooner meet Hollis than we lose him. He has Lou Gehrig's disease, and commits suicide in the very first chapter. We learn more about Hollis from his wife, Marianne, than from observing him.

Marianne, upon her husband's untimely demise, determines that she will vindicate his life's work, and sets out to find the strongbox. She learns the exact location, underneath a landfill being excavated for a sports stadium. She takes up residence in a hotel overlooking the project, and watches and waits for her opportunity to find the treasure.

Throughout the book, we also become aquainted with the citizens of early Toronto. This is a remarkable glimpse into the past for those of us firmly rooted in the 21st century. I found these chapters more enjoyable than the present-day chapters.

This book provides a haunting look at the past, the present, and what men will do for fame, honor, and money.

Armchair Interviews says: Unique look at Toronto's history.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Killian HALL OF FAME on February 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
My mother recommended this novel to me not long before she died, so it will have a bittersweet memory to it as long as I live. Neither she nor I have ever been to the mighty city it illuminates so gravely, Toronto, but maybe that fact added to the childlike wonder and mystery with which poet Michael Redhill has composed his story. There is something Oz like, something Byzantian, to the life history of any great city, and Redhill piles this sense on thick, at the same exact time as his narrative becomes literally a place of deconstruction. This leads to a peculiar sense of being given something wonderful, and of losing something equivalent, as the novel's plot seesaws back and forth between the present day and the world of early Ontario, back in the 1850s when a hardy band of winterized pioneers were making a mini-England out of a cursed and chilblained landscape. Not to mention that it was the early days of photography, an infant art that, in recent years, has seen a huge market constructed around it, so that everyday photographs, not only "art" photography, of a certain era has been widly prized behind its makers' wildest dreams.

On top of which, CONSOLATION has the rich characters and the exotic spectrum of histories churning that animated Pasternak's DOCTOR ZHIVAGO or indeed Tolstoy's ANNA KARENINA. If i turn to Russian models to get at my experience of living through CONSOLATION, maybe it is because Redhill's novel has a moral authority that haunts the reader long after he or she has finished the very last page. Up until then we have been anxiously awaiting the results of a mystery--so the photos exist, the photos that researcher David Hollis staked his professional reputation on?
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Janet Riehl on April 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Michael Redhill's "Consolation" layers memory, perception, place, time, grief, secrets, relationship, and hope in an irresistible rubbing of century against century and life against life. Throughout the lifespan of the book Redhill's character's gain compassion, and this compassion dawns as wisdom--for many of the lives that we follow so intimately here. I can only feel gratitude that this book exists.

--Janet Grace Riehl, author Sightlines: A Poet's Diary
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