Winner of the International Impac Dublin Literary Award'A brilliant and haunting novel'Daily Mail
Alistair MacLeod was born in 1936 and raised in Cape Breton, Nove Scotia. MacLeod is the author of two short story collections, The Lost Salt Gift of Blood (1976) and As Birds Bring Forth the Sun and Other Stories (1986) and the novel, No Great Mischief, published in 1999. Written over the course of thirteen years, No Great Mischief won numerous Canadian literary awards and the 2001 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. All of his published short stories, plus one new piece, were collected in Island, published in 2000. Alistair MacLeod died in 2014.
MacLeod, a Canadian of Scottish lineage, has earned a sterling reputation north of the border based on two collections of stories (Barometer Rising; As Birds Bring Forth the Sun), and with his first novel he will only add to that acclaim. Already a bestseller in Canada, No Great Mischief (the title comes from General Wolfe's callous reaction to the death of Highlanders enlisted in Britain's efforts to wrestle Canada from France--"No great mischief if they fall") tells the sprawling story of one Scottish clan, the MacDonalds, who come to Cape Breton from Scotland in the 18th century and struggle valiantly to maintain their pride and identity up through the end of the millennium. The narrative is in the hands of a rather staid Ontario orthodontist, Alexander MacDonald, who comes to Toronto to aid his alcoholic older brother, Calum, who is down on his luck in a shabby rooming house and in need of company and a supply of liquor. The two will eventually drive to their beloved Cape Breton where the family patriarch is buried at the edge of a cliff, and along the way the family saga is relived, retold, recast. Alexander, it turns out, was orphaned at age three, along with his twin sister, when both parents fell through the ice when returning to the lighthouse where Alex's father was the keeper. His three much older brothers were already on their own, fishing off the Breton coast, tangling with French-Canadians in mineral mines, drinking hard in bunkhouses, while the twins are raised in relative comfort by doting grandparents. Calum, who seems to carry the legacy of the original Calum MacDonald (who lost his wife on the voyage from Scotland in 1779, leaving him with six children, to which he would add six more), is the dark light, like a bottle of whiskey, through which MacLeod's account is refracted. What emanates is a loving retrieval of a people's native strategy of survival through history and across a changing landscape. Though at times the narrative is confusing, it is cannily so: there are three Alexander MacDonalds to keep track of; there are familial ties that seem filial, then avuncular and then estranged. But the overall effect is authenticity, and the lack of irony is as bracing as the cold spray of the North Atlantic. (May) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
From the moment Alexander MacDonald sets out along Highway 3 in southwestern Ontario to visit his alcoholic brother living in a cheap Toronto lodging house, this sturdily textured debut novel never hesitates or meanders. There are plenty of diverse characters, changing scenes, and gripping incidents to keep it rolling. Four generations of MacDonalds move through the pages of this bookDfrom the first to arrive in Cape Breton from Scotland in 1779 to narrator Alexander, an orthodontist, and his siblings. MacLeod, who has been heralded in his native Canada as a master of the short story, exhibits a remarkable ability to create and handle an intricate plot that goes back and forth between past and present. Though sentimentality plays a considerable part in the unfolding of the drama, MacLeod's clever writing disciplines and subdues it. The book deserves to be a big popular success.DA.J. Anderson, GSLIS, Simmons Coll., Boston Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
You will find scenes from this majestic novel burned into your mind
forever -- Alice Munro
One of the great undiscovered writers of our time -- Michael Ondaatje
The novel is close to being a masterpiece. The characters, the light and the weather, the story itself - its beautiful tone and shape, its harsh and melancholy music - stay with you for days afterwards. The novel is simply breathtaking in its emotional range -- Colm Toibin * Irish Times *
Exceptional... The book is pervaded by the humour and colour; intensely vivid, and very, very moving * Independent *
Alistair MacLeod is a wonderfully talented writer -- Margaret Atwood