Good Reading : September 2005
14 goodreading In the first of a series of interviews and articles on the Canadian literary scene, ALISON PRESSLEY chats to JOHN BEMROSE, whose first novel was longlisted for the UK’s Man Booker prize and shortlisted for Canada’s Giller prize. But he hasn’t burst onto the literary scene out of nowhere – he has been quietly leading up to this success for many years. author profile the quiet canadian The Island Walkers is one of those massively satisfying novels that make you sit back with a regretful sigh when you finally tur n the last page. For the duration of the read you’ve been wholly transported into the time and place of the story – in this case a small Canadian town called Attawan in the 1960s. The book follows the downward trajec- tory of the Walkers, a working-class family who live on an island in the Attawan River, over the course of a single year. Alf, the father, is a fixer in the local knitting mill, as his father was before him. His wife Margaret – who ‘married down’ – begins to suspect that Alf is cheating on her. Meanwhile their eldest child, Joe, aged 18, is planning to go to university (he’ll be the first in his family to go) and is falling in love with the beautiful, intellectual Anna, and younger son Jamie is befriended by a native boy, Billy. Things begin to go awry for this essentially happy family when the mill is taken over by new owners and Alf is offered his dream job of foreman – but only if he tells the new owners’ vice-president, the oily Prince, the names of those present at a recent union meeting, thereby betraying his friends. Joe’s love object Anna appears to be happily coupled with the flash-car owner Brad. And Jamie’s new friend Billy has a creepy ‘friend’ of his own, the Candy Man, and a very sexy mother.