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The Danger Tree: Memory, War and the Search for a Family's Past Paperback – April 1, 2001

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Editorial Reviews


“[An] uncommonly wise and moving book.” ―Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post

“An altogether remarkable, frequently funny, genuinely moving, and utterly original book.” ―Jan Morris

The Danger Tree is absolutely riveting: an extraordinary mixture of history, memory, fiction, and technique that succeeds at every level. I was touched, I was exhilarated, and I was thrilled to read a book that has risen to the challenge of recording...the past in all our hearts.” ―Michael Ignatieff

“I've just discovered The Danger Tree and am stunned. It is so good.” ―Alice Munro

From the Inside Flap

Emulating the circuitous tales told by his mother's relatives, the Goodyears of Newfoundland, David Macfalane weaves the major events of the island's twentieth century--the ravages of tuberculosis; the great seal-hunt disaster; the bitter Confederation debate, and above all, the First World War--into his own tale of the ill-starred fortunes of his family. He brings to life a multi-generational cast of characters who are as colourful as only Newfoundlanders can be. With humour, insight, and genuine love for those heroes and charlatans, pirates and dreamers, he explores the meaning of family and the consequences of forgotten history. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 307 pages
  • Publisher: Walker Books; 1st edition (April 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802776167
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802776167
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #789,545 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Peter D. Kinder on June 4, 2001
Format: Paperback
Pitifully few Americans are even aware of Canada's participation in World War I. Fewer still know Canada suffered horrible casualties which it honors on Rememberance Day, a deeply felt, painfully observed day of mourning.
David MacFarlane's father was the only one of six brothers to survive World War I. Unlike them, he didn't go to France. One of his two sisters served as a nurse there, too.
The Danger Tree traces the lives of these siblings from Newfoundland and the effects of the war on the survivors and the survivors' descendants. It is in part a memoir and in part a carefully researched work of journalism by a gifted "light" columnist for The Globe and Mail in Toronto.
The ordinary deaths of these ordinary young men from a hard-working Scots family surviving in a very tough environment have found a memorial in MacFarlane's writing. But of greater significance is MacFarlane's insistance that the effects of their deaths, the effects of the First War, live today.
It occurs to me that The Danger Tree is a book one should read immediately after Robert Graves' Goodby to All That. For MacFarlane adds dimensions of time and distance to the soldier's pain. MacFarlane is a fine writer, but Graves was a great one. Still, the two books sit comfortably together on my shelves.
A brilliant book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 10, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is an amazing book: history, biography, auto-biograhy, philosphy all combined into a powerful tale of family character (and characters)that stays with you. In essence, a simple reflection on long past lives from a little corner of the world, Newfoundland, all wound up in the Great War, it becomes a haunting tour-de-force of the power of great events on everyday people.
The chapter "Fire" is in itself a small masterpiece and one I find reading again and again even now two years after the first read.
I picked this book up by sheer accident in a small bookstore in Banff and have been thankful for my good fortune of discovering this gem.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Pookie on May 5, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I don't have a lot of time to write reviews, and I don't often write them, but I enjoyed this book so thoroughly that I'm sad to be finished reading it. It's one of the best memoirs I've ever read, though it's not really a memoir. One of the best family history books I've ever read, and yet it isn't that either. It is hands-down my favorite book about Newfoundland that I've read, though there are many more I want to read. Macfarlane is a masterful writer, and his work is filled with insight, thoughtfulness about the past, dead ancestors, and what they mean to those of us still living, even if we'd never met them. Though I'm wary of reviews that say things like this, he really does, quite improbably, tell a compelling story of Newfoundland itself through the story of his ancestors. The book somehow never descends into the maudlin or sentimental; it's quite a clear-eyed view of the meaning of World War I for Newfoundland and for the Goodyear family. The ending was striking--I'll probably never forget the image he painted on the last page. Loved it from start to finish.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 4, 2002
Format: Paperback
I am ashamed to say that although I have lived in Canada for 37 years, I knew nothing about Newfoundland's history and consequently nothing about Newfoundland's participation in the First World War. A university lecturer recommended this book to me, and I heartily recommend it to anyone with an interest in the First World War (and in Newfoundland, more broadly). It is a beautifully written, poignant book which compares favourably with Robert Graves' Goodbye to All That and in some ways is better than Graves; it has none of Graves' cynicism.
This book inspired me to visit Beaumont Hamel on the Somme, where so many men from Newfoundland lost their lives on 1 July 1916. In the rest of Canada, 1 July is considered a day for celebration, because the country came into being on that date in 1867. Now I understand why Newfoundlanders cannot and will not celebrate 1 July as a holiday. For them, it is a day of mourning.
Ironically, for us on the west coast of Canada, Beaumont Hamel is easier to reach than Newfoundland. Having visited the former, I hope one day to visit the latter.
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