This narrative in verse builds on known facts to imagine the life of John Rudolphus Booth, who arrived in roughhouse Bytown in the early 1850s with a wife, a child, and carpenter’s tools bought on credit. In the growing new capital of Canada, he built a storied empire on the river power and forests of the Ottawa Valley. The poems speak in varied voices – of Booth himself, family members, business associates, employees, visiting royalty and tavern wags – collectively evoking the man, the place, and the times with drama, insight, and vivid sensory detail.
Van Loon’s musical ear drew me into the narrative fast...
Building on River is full of lyrical moments and metaphor.
Jean Van Loon has reinterpreted, rendered if you like, biography, extensive research, heresay and conjecture, all of it into a timeless tapestry. This brocade plays out, almost seamlessly, in the mind's eye, as though the reader were watching a movie. Van Loon is cinematic.
"While each of van Loon’s poems rests light on the page, collectively they carry great weight, conjuring the march of John Rudolphus Booth from restless, Lower Canada farm boy to international lumber tycoon. A carefully researched, richly imagined, finely written, and masterfully constructed collection that not only tells the story of Booth himself, but that of a river, an industry, an era, and the emergence of Ottawa as our young country’s new capital. An impressive and ultimately moving literary feat. Bravo!"