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The Last Crossing: A Novel Paperback – Bargain Price, November 30, 2004

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Editorial Reviews Review

Set in the late 19th century, The Last Crossing, Guy Vanderhaeghe's first novel since his acclaimed Englishman's Boy, is the story of three well-off English brothers: twins Simon and Charles Gaunt and their elder sibling, Addington, a former soldier and an arrogant scoundrel. At the behest of their dictatorial father, Charles and Addington travel the prairies of the U.S. and Canada in search of sensitive Simon, who has disappeared. Much of the novel concerns their journeys--bottles of port and claret rattling in their wagons--through Indian country with a cast of intricately drawn, fully realized characters. The small troupe is led through the whiskey-coloured light by Jerry Potts, a half-breed with one foot firmly in each world. The heart of the plot involves the love that Charles, a painter, feels for Lucy Stoveall, a simple but lovely country woman who accompanies them, secretly intent on avenging her sister's murder. However, the most intriguing character in this marvelous collection of all-too-human personalities is Custis Straw, a Bible-reading, heavy-drinking Civil War veteran who hides his tremendous dignity behind a bumbling facade, and who also loves Lucy.

Vanderhaeghe's rich language reveals a genuine feel for the prairies and their rough settlements: "a boom town draws rogues like a jam jar draws wasps," he writes, and describes "miles of wet plain patched with apple green, new penny copper, glints of silver." Though this is a Western in the traditional sense, Vanderhaeghe never sinks into parody. Rather, he uses the Western motif to reveal a number of profound universal truths about personal honour, and human failings and strengths. His humane character depictions reach emotional depths found in few novels today. --Mark Frutkin, --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

This sweeping epic novel of the search for a lost Englishman in the raw Indian territories of the U.S.-Canadian Western borderlands in the late 19th century was a Canadian bestseller and award-winner last year, but has only just made it here. That's puzzling, for Vanderhaeghe (The Englishman's Boy) is a prodigiously gifted writer who makes the West, its fierce weathers, rugged landscapes and contrary characters come to life in a way comparable to McMurtry at his best. He tells of the disappearance on the prairie of a wealthy and idealistic young Englishman, Simon Gaunt, in the company of a devious missionary who is later found dead. Simon's tyrannical father sends brothers Charles and Addington to see if they can find out what happened to him and if, by chance, he is still alive. The dreamy, artistic Charles and the preening, choleric Addington get together with a Scots-Indian half-breed, Jerry Potts (a real person of the time), as their guide and set out into a wilderness inhabited only by warring Indian tribes and rogue traders selling them whiskey. They are accompanied by Lucy Stoveall, a tough beauty in search of the renegades who raped and murdered her young sister, and Custis Straw, a battered Civil War veteran desperately in love with her. Their adventures are pulse-poundingly exciting and graphic, and if the book has a fault it is that it is almost overstuffed with drama and incident. A pair of brilliant set pieces-Straw's memories of a bloody Civil War battle, and a murderous encounter between warring Indian tribes-are not really essential to the narrative, and the elegiac ending seems oddly off-key. But the book's rewards far transcend these excesses, and no reader once embarked on this hugely involving adventure will be able to stop until it is done.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press (November 30, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802141757
  • ASIN: B002HJ3JFA
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.7 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,002,511 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Candace Siegle, Greedy Reader on February 2, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The good news is that Canadian writer Guy Vanderhaeghe has published six other books besides this one. This is important because once you finishedhis new novel "The Last Crossing" you will be scouring libraries, bookstores, and the internet for more.
What a good writer! His 1996 novel "The Englishman's Boy" was also excellent, but his newest book reaches an even higher level. His use of multiple points of view is marvelous and the characters have a depth and appeal that adds excitement, pathos, and surprise to a really good plot.
In the 1870's, a young Englishman named Simon Gaunt travels into Montana as a missionary and vanishes. His difficult, heartbroken father orders his two other sons to go to Ft. Benton and find him at all costs. Addington is a disgraced military man and Simon's twin Charles is a painter disappointed in himself for his own shallow nature. Charles is desperate to find Simon but Addington seems to look on the whole trip as one big outdoor adventure, showing up at the fort with a seedy, sycophantic "newspaperman" who plans to record Addington's feats in the wilderness for the penny press. They contract the Blackfoot/Scottish guide Jerry Potts to lead them, but by the time the Gaunts' wagons leave Ft. Benton, they have also collected a woman searching for her sister's killer and are trailed by the man who loves her, and who in turn is trailed by his best friend. The search for the missing missionary is in danger of being derailed by the quirks and passions of his search party. But Simon Gaunt remains the lodestar for this group, and only later do we find out why.
"The Last Crossing" is satisfying, readable, thoughtful, and thrilling. If you have not read Guy Vanderhaeghe before, he is a wonderful discovery.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on February 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
In this broad saga of the New Territories, from Montana into Canada, Guy Vanderhaeghe brings to life the search of two Englishmen for their lost brother, Simon Gaunt, who has pursued a charismatic preacher in the hopes of converting the Indians to Christianity. No word has been heard from him in over a year. While twin brother Charles genuinely misses Simon, older brother Addington sees the search as a grand, selfish adventure-an excuse to hunt at his father's expense. The three brothers share the same blood and have had the same upbringing, but they have taken very different paths in life, and the sojourn in North America provides the stimulus which allows each one to discover his own inner nature. As Addington becomes more brutal and selfish, Charles becomes more sensitive and realistic. Gradually, an image of Simon emerges, through Charles's descriptions, as a "man dreaming so deeply as to be incapable of wakening to reality."
As the search party departs, every member is seeking some kind of love, acceptance, and a sense of connection to the wider world. Jerry Potts, the scout, is half Scots and half Blackfoot Indian and yearns for his small son from whom he is estranged. Lucy Stoveall is searching for the brutal killers of her 13-year-old sister Madge Dray. Custis Straw, who loves Lucy, suffers from nightmares about the Civil War and the loss of his family. Addington, who becomes deranged as time progresses, hunts and kills animals and Indians for the sheer bloodlust. Constant motifs of blood and bloodlines pervade the novel, as the trip challenges each member to understand who s/he is by birth and who s/he has become through the accidents of history.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Milko McGillicuddy on January 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
Once in awhile, a book comes along that haunts its readers' thoughts for years. The Last Crossing is such a book.
Set in the latter part of the 1800s, in the western U.S. and Canada, and in Victorian England, this is a tale of a a man lost in the wilderness, and those who seek to find him, including his very stiff British father, two very different brothers, a pair of star-crossed lovers, a quirky journalist, a saloon-keeper, and an Indian guide. They all suffer from painful pasts that taunt them into life-changing courses of action.
Telling the story from their own points of view, the characters look back at their own lives. This drives each of them to live up to their sense of duty, to defend their own honor, and ultimately to act in one way or another because they either love, or can't love.
Scenes of the early west tear at the heart--caravans, Indian villages, conflicts, battles, disease, death, tragedy, comic relief. And love, sometimes unrequited, and at a distance. There is one scene that will stay with me for years. In it, two lovers find each other, their desperate searches ending and beginning in an instant. The night air, the stars, the prairie wind and their hearts carry them to where they couldn't dream of going.
The characters speak with undeniable truth to and about themselves. They narrate, but also wonder about their own personal honor and how they can love despite their pasts and the hard lessons that duty and love teach them.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ron Franscell, Author of 'The Darkest Night' on February 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
For more than 100 years, authors have sent their heroes into the twin uncharted territories of the wild West and the untamed heart, but few have risen above horse opera or dime novel. Owen Wister's "The Virginian" and Larry McMurtry's "Lonesome Dove" remain the gold standard for literature of the frontier West.
Uh, make that the American West. It's good to be reminded, as Guy Vanderhaeghe's "The Last Crossing" does, that Canada also had a vast, unexplored western territory. And while rails were rapidly being laid across virgin earth and Custer was hurtling toward his last stand, no territorial border truly divided the American and Canadian wildernesses. Marauding Indians, greedy whites, hungry animals and a budding mythology simply didn't appreciate international boundaries.
Blending intense action with masterly characterization, Vanderhaeghe appeals on various levels. Whether his huge popularity in Canada will trickle south of the border remains to be seen, but this new novel is a sharp and eloquent import. The big question is: Can American readers embrace a sprawling adventure of higher literary value?
He has sometimes been dunned by critics for excruciatingly detailed prose, but such criticism is neither warranted in this case nor unexpected in modern commercial publishing, where action is more highly valued than character.
Vanderhaeghe disregards those boundaries. "The Last Crossing" is a far more satisfying story of a small band's westward journey than McMurtry's rambling, four-part Berrybender Narratives, which began in 2002 with "The Sin Killer" and will end later this year with "Folly and Glory.
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