Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Good Man, By Guy Vanderhaeghe- Review

Guy Vanderhaeghe is a fellow Saskatchewanite, and long ago when I was attending the University of Saskatchewan, he used to teach a creative writing course.  Although I didn't ever take the class (I was a total chicken shit), I did buy his then latest book for my grandpa- The Englishman's boy.  He loved it, and after he passed away the book came back to me and has spent the past few years sitting on my shelf waiting for me to get around to reading it.

Imagine my surprise when the hype around A Good Man started and I realized that it was the end to a trilogy of frontier books that started with The Englishman's Boy?

 In A Good Man, Guy Vanderhaeghe weaves the story of the American and Canadian dealings with the Sioux and Sitting Bull, after the battle with Custer at Little Bighorn, together with the fictional story of Wesley Case. An ex-north west mounted policeman, Case has settled down to ranch and is helping American Major Ilges and Canadian Major Walsh communicate about the movements of the Sioux.  No small task as the two can barely stand each other and need some major inter-mediating.

This was a totally engrossing story with really nicely layered characters and was a fascinating study of several men and one woman, their struggles, their loves, and their disappointments. By weaving together third person narration, and first person letters, you come to know all the players intimately, while getting a sense of how historical moments of significance unfolded around every day people. 

Likely to appeal as much to the lover of westerns as the lover of literature, or even the lover of history, A Good Man is a story with many levels to it. The art of Guy Vanderhaeghe’s writing is that he excels at them all. Canadian History might have been a boring grade school subject, but A Good Man might just make you want to give it another try.

Among many other awards and accolades, Good Man was longlisted for the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

A Good Man, by Guy Vanderhaeghe
Published by McClelland and Stewart, September 13th 2011
My copy kindly provided by Random House Canada
Buy a Good Man on Amazon