on December 18, 2008
White Bird Black Bird is a must read for those who want to define the northern areas of Canada by more than ice and snow, blizzards and polar bears in a wilderness. Val Wake brings those areas to life. He is an author of quality who tells a story with a brisk Hemingway economy in the episodes of violence and who shows a sensitive humanity in handling the clash of cultures implicit - and more and more explicit - in the inevitable evolution of self-assertion by indigenous peoples. The plural of that last word is important. I had never heard of some of the "indigenes" before but there are more than one or two in that vast territory and harmony between them takes on much the same complexities as the relationship between new settlers and indigenous inhabitants anywhere. The "other" next door might be even harder to tolerate than the monster in Ottawa. Wake, who knows the Territory well at first hand, has written an intriguing book, well worth a five-star rating.
on December 7, 2008
A gripping account of a period in the Far North of Canada that is little known or understood. The plot twists through politics, relationships and extremism to reveal some fundamental truths about the fragile landscape of the North and its diverse population. The story's main character is a dedicated journalist who moves North to recharge his professional batteries but finds he has more than a professional interest in the people who make the news. He arrives at a time when native land rights are rising up the news agenda and gas and oil men are lobbying to build a pipeline in the virgin forest. The clash of interests triggers a series of events that culminates in violence but ultimately brings redemption. A really good read with characters you care about and issues that are still contentious.