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The Winter Vault (Vintage International) [Kindle Edition]

Anne Michaels
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $9.99
You Save: $6.01 (38%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

In The Winter Vault, award-winning poet and novelist Anne Michaels crafts a love story of extraordinary depth and complexity, juxtaposing historic dislocations with the most intimate moments of individual lives.
 
In 1964, a newly married Canadian couple settles into a Nile River houseboat moored below the towering figures of Abu Simbel. Avery is one of the engineers responsible for moving the temple above the rapidly rising waters of the Aswan Dam. At the edge of a world about to be lost forever, Avery and and his new wife Jean begin to create their own world. But it will not be enough to bind them when tragedy strikes and they go back to separate lives in Toronto. There Jean meets Lucjan, a Polish artist whose haunting stories of his shattered childhood in occupied Warsaw draw her further away from Avery. But, in time, he will also show her the way back to consolation and forgiveness.


From the Trade Paperback edition.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Profound loss, desolation and rebuilding are the literal and metaphoric themes of Michaels's exquisite second novel (after Fugitive Pieces). Avery Escher is a Canadian engineer recently moved to a houseboat on the Nile with his new wife, Jean, in 1964. Avery's part of a team of engineers trying to salvage Abu Simbel, which is about to be flooded by the new Aswan dam. His wife, Jean, meanwhile, carries with her childhood memories of flooded villages and the heavy absence of her mother, who died when she was young. Now, the sight of the entire Nubian nation being evacuated from their native land before it's flooded affects both Avery and Jean intensely. Jean's pregnancy seems a possible redemption, but their daughter is stillborn, and Jean falls into despair, shunning the former intimacy of her marriage. When the couple returns to Canada, they set up separate lives and another man enters the picture. Michaels is especially impressive at making a rundown of construction materials or the contents of a market as evocative as the shared moments between two young lovers. A tender love story set against an intriguing bit of history is handled with uncommon skill. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Anne Michaels has published several acclaimed poetry collections, including The Weight of Oranges and Miner’s Pond. Her background as a poet shines through in The Winter Vault, which awed critics with its many elegant, vibrant, and luminous passages and Michaels’s endless curiosity about science, engineering, and architecture. Unfortunately, many of these same critics were conflicted in their overall reviews: they reluctantly felt hampered by rolling monologues, pedantic segments, uninspiring characters, and an awkward story structure. The San Francisco Chronicle even remarked: “[T]hese long recitations of memory and conjecture, while exquisite, grow exhausting.” Overall, critics cited this latest from Michaels as a beautiful, important novel, but they were skeptical of its widespread appeal.
Copyright 2009 Bookmarks Publishing LLC

Product Details

  • File Size: 398 KB
  • Print Length: 354 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0307455769
  • Publisher: Vintage (April 18, 2009)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0026UNZBI
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #430,268 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Eleven years after the publication of Fugitive Pieces: A Novel, her only other novel, Anne Michaels has published a monumental philosophical novel which is also exciting to read for its characters and their conflicts. Complex and fully integrated themes form the superstructure of the novel in which seemingly ordinary people deal with issues of life and death, love and death, the primacy of memory, the search for spiritual solace, and man's relationships with earth and water--huge themes and huge scope, reflecting huge literary goals. And Michaels is successful, not just in dealing with the big issues and themes affecting mankind itself, but in bringing them to life through individuals who muddle along, seeking some level of personal connection with the world while trying to appreciate life's mysteries.

Avery Escher is a young engineer in 1964 when he and his wife Jean travel to Egypt's Abu Simbel site, where he is charged with the task of helping to remove the Great Temple and reconstruct it in the cliff sixty feet higher. Gushing water, which will be released when the Aswan Dam is finished, will flood the area where the temple lies, and the new Lake Nasser will cover all the land downstream. As he works on the site, Avery feels that "Holiness was escaping under the [workers'] drills," and he comes to believe that "the reconstruction was a further desecration, as false as redemption without repentance."

All the Nubian people who have lived in the area below the dam for tens of generations have been relocated, but they are bereft of their roots, their memories, and their dead. This is not the first time Avery has been exposed to the dislocation of long-time residents.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Loss April 27, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Readers will doubtless encounter rave reviews of this book, and indeed it deserves them for its greatness of scope, generally fine writing, and thematic resonance. But compared to Anne Michaels' previous novel, FUGITIVE PIECES, this is less a story than a poetic meditation, a collection of evocative images and pregnant thoughts, tied to characters who seldom spring into independent life. Most people will admire Michaels' ideas, which certainly have an integrity of their own, but those looking for narrative consistency may well be disappointed.

The start is promising. The setting is Egypt in 1964, during the construction of the Aswan High Dam that will hold back the Nile, creating the huge Lake Nasser, and displacing thousands of Nubian villages. One of the engineers supervising the removal of the temples of Abu Simbel to higher ground is Avery Escher, who lives on a small houseboat with his new wife, Jean. The story of their courtship and marriage in Canada is interwoven with their year in Egypt, as both Avery and Jean are affected by the human tragedies that they see around them, and by a loss that touches them more personally. Something of Anne Michaels' evocative scale of reference, together with a poesy that can veer into silliness, can be seen from the following:

"When Avery lay next to his wife, waiting for sleep, listening to the river, it was as if the whole long Nile was their bed. [...] The river, he felt, heard every word, wove every sigh into itself, until it was filled with dreaming, swelled with the last breath of kings, with the hard breathing of labourers from three thousand years ago to that very moment.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The audacity of words... May 7, 2009
Format:Hardcover
Not many authors would have the boldness to connect three completely unrelated examples of engineering ingenuity in three different continents under one thematic arc, however complex and multilayered. Anne Michaels has done just that in her new, long awaited second novel, THE WINTER VAULT. Michaels' passion is, however, less focused on the impressive visible results of these engineering achievements - the Aswan Dam in Egypt, the St. Lawrence Seaway in Canada and the post-World War II reconstruction of Warsaw's Old City - and centred more on the people who have been involved in these constructions or those who have been impacted by the resulting changes. In rich poetic prose, the author interweaves the intimate experiences and musings of her protagonists with broad societal questions and her own philosophical reflections.

The story begins in 1964 when the ancient Abu Simbel temple complex in Upper Egypt needed to be carved up and moved block by block, through a complicated process, to higher ground, to protect it from the impending flood waters of the dam. Avery Escher, a British engineer, is overseeing this delicate operation. His relevant experience stems from his training through his father during the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Avery is a practical, forward looking man, who can only imagine positive change emerging from such major redesigning efforts. His young wife Jean, having grown up in this region of Canada, had a different perspective on the project, and as a result is less convinced of the potential benefits of change for the affected people. She is also concerned with the need to preserve what was there, such as the local flora and fauna.

What brought those two very different people together, other than some parallel aspects in their personal lives?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars This is one of the best novels I've read in the past 10 years (and ...
This is one of the best novels I've read in the past 10 years (and I've read a lot of novels). I'm waiting eagerly for Michaels' next book.
Published 6 months ago by doc
5.0 out of 5 stars She has a wonderful way with words
I love Michaels’ writing.
She has a wonderful way with words and images stay indelibly in my mind. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Alumine Andrew
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
It's alright. It was a difficult read for me personally!
Published 8 months ago by Linda S.
5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite prose telling a compelling story - couldn't put it ...
Exquisite prose telling a compelling story - couldn't put it down!
Published 9 months ago by Carole
1.0 out of 5 stars winter vault
I did not understand thw theme I was reading,I thought it was about something else.It tookMe a long time to finish it. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Elda E Colon
3.0 out of 5 stars An intense read
I struggled with what to rate this, because Anne Michaels is clearly brilliant, however, in the end, I felt that the book was 'okay. Read more
Published 20 months ago by SimplyV
1.0 out of 5 stars Not what it seems
I thought this novel would be set in Egypt, in the time of the building of the Aswan Dam, but it wanders all over the place, disguising with poetic language the lack of any... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Nancy S. Cunningham
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
After reading Fugitive peaces I wonted to read Ann next book. This book is really nice but very different from first one.
Published on March 23, 2013 by D. Popadic
5.0 out of 5 stars the winter vault
I like the writing, the beautiful imageries and how the story is built and progresses.
This is like a poem about life, losses, and love.
Published on February 27, 2013 by Bara Salmon
3.0 out of 5 stars winter Vault
the first half was beautifully written , very moving and full of wisdom but the 2nd half was just too much and so i did not finish then book
Published on February 12, 2013 by Kathy
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More About the Author

Anne Michaels's first novel was the international best seller Fugitive Pieces, now a major motion picture. It won several awards, including the Lannan Literary Award for Fiction, the Chapters/Books in Canada First Novel Award, the Guardian Fiction Award, and the Orange Prize for Fiction. Michaels is also the author of three highly acclaimed poetry collections. She lives in Toronto.

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