Sunday, February 05, 2006

Reader's Dairy #27- Joseph Boyden: Three Day Road (up to Trenches)

Anyone checking this site lately will have noticed that this is NOT the original posting I had on this book. For some very frustrating reason that makes me want to swear, Blogspot has erased my last two postings. Guess I need to back these up.

That said, I barely have the desire to remember or rewrite my initial comments. So if anyone remembers the original, sorry if this seems like the Reader's Digest version.

Parts of me wanted to read this novel and parts of me didn't. I'm intrigued by native populations in Canada, maybe due to my time teaching in Nunavut. It seems like many Canadians go all over the world hoping to learn more about other cultures, when really there's a lot of diversity right in our own backyard.

When I first went to Rankin Inlet to teach, I remember the school having a big Remembrance day celebration. Being an ignorant qaplunaat, I hadn't even known that the Inuit participated in the great wars. I had a lot to learn, and still do.

But that was the Inuit and this book is about the Cree, of whom I know next to nothing. That's one of the reasons I looked forward to reading this novel. The biggest reason, of course, being it's inclusion on this years CBC program, Canada Reads.

My reluctance about this book comes from its war theme. I've already discussed my reluctance with war books but suffice to say, Deafening didn't change my mind. So far however, I'm enjoying Three-Day Road much more. Whereas Deafening was slow paced and ripe with overly indulged literary devices, Three Day Road has begun with action, and seems to flow much more easily without being unintelligent.

One thing I'm appreciating so far is its depiction of the Cree. I'm always a little skeptical when an author takes on an aboriginal culture. Are we getting an accurate picture or some overly sentimental generalized depiction? From what I've gathered this far in, I don't think that will be the case. Maybe because Joseph Boyden has Cree ancestry he avoided it. There's also a danger of presenting a caricature of a first nations person, rather than a character. At first glance, it might look like Boyden fell into that trap. Almost all of Xavier's comparisons come from moose similes or other wild game. However, while it would seem like a stereotype if the book were set in the 1990s, this was set back in a time before television and the bombardment of American cultural influence and so I think these comparisons fit. I look forward to seeing if they change as Xavier becomes more exposed to white European culture through the war.


Unknown said...

I'm also not a huge fan of war stories, but I LOVED this book- despite all of the gruesome details. This was my pick, and I chose it because I also have a fascination with native culture in Canada... not because of any one experience, simply because I relate to their spirituality more than any other "religion".

I think Boyden gave us a pretty accurate depiction of the native WWI sniper, as accurate as can be, anyways. Rather than a stereotypical native caricature.

"Qaplunaat" = "wikwemishiw" ??

John Mutford said...

Yes qaplunaat means wikmemishiw (white man) in Inuktitut.

Incidently, Is your username "Ravenswift" inspired by your fascination with native culture?

Unknown said...

Why, yes it is!! Ha...

The Swift family is an imaginary native tribe my best friend and I made up in high school. I was Raven, and she was Hawk. Super cheesy, I know! But it's stuck with me now!