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4 of 5
2 ratings
list price: $22.00
also available: Paperback
category: Fiction
published: Aug 2004
imprint: Emblem Editions

The Island Walkers

by John Bemrose

reviews: 0
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small town & rural, family life, literary
4 of 5
2 ratings
list price: $22.00
also available: Paperback
category: Fiction
published: Aug 2004
imprint: Emblem Editions

John Bemrose’s highly acclaimed national bestseller tells the story of a family who slips from fortune’s favour in a southwestern Ontario mill town during the mid-1960s. Like his father before him, Alf Walker is a fixer in the local textile mill. When a labour dispute forces him to choose between loyalty to his friends and his own advancement, Alf’s actions inadvertently set in motion a series of events that will reverberate far into the future. Meanwhile, Alf’s wife, Margaret, must reconcile her middle-class upbringing with her blue-collar reality, as her marriage is undermined by forces she cannot name. And after their eldest son, Joe, falls headlong for a girl he first glimpses on a bridge, the boy finds his world overturned by the passion and uncertainty of young love. At once intimate and epic in scope, The Island Walkers follows the Walker family to the very bottom of their night, only to confirm, in the end, life’s regenerative power.

Contributor Notes

John Bemrose’s first novel, The Island Walkers, was a national bestseller and a finalist for The Giller Prize. Bemrose is also well known as an arts journalist whose articles and profiles have appeared regularly in Maclean’s, where he is a contributing editor. In the past, he has written for CBC Radio’s Ideas, for the National Film Board, for the Globe and Mail, and for numerous other publications. He has also written a play, Mother Moon, produced by the National Arts Centre, and has published two poetry collections. Bemrose grew up in Paris, Ontario, the place that inspired the setting for The Island Walkers.

Bemrose has lived in Toronto since 1970. He is at work on his second novel.

  • , Man Booker Prize
  • , Scotiabank Giller Prize
Editorial Review

“A beautiful, elegiac novel about place, family, and community. A profoundly moving book.”
–Guy Vanderhaeghe

“As Margaret Laurence staked out a world, Manawaka, in her novels and David Adams Richards has mined the Miramichi, Bemrose has created the vivid community of Attawan to tell an archetypal tale.”
–Halifax Chronicle-Herald

“An astonishing debut, a big and breathtaking family novel that is both understated and passionate.”

“[An] extraordinary debut novel.… Encompassing, bountiful, beautiful.…”
Globe and Mail

“A great reading experience, and Bemrose has now become a fiction writer to watch.”
–W.P. Kinsella, Books in Canada

“A clear-eyed eulogy for a town and way of life that is gone forever.”
–Sandra Martin, Globe and Mail

“We don’t have many novels that cross generations like this and give us both the interior of lives, a sense of social history, and an incredibly strong sense of place. The story is ambitious, and yet simply, beautifully told. The whole thing flows along like a river – a real page-turner with Dantean echoes and lyrical insights that are often breathtaking.”
–Marni Jackson

“A powerful debut novel.”
Library Journal

The Island Walkers is thick with natural beauty and social insight.… A profoundly sensitive portrayal of a family’s efforts to find its way through the tangled threads of desire and nobility, guilt and love.”
Christian Science Monitor

“As fine as any novel you will read this year.”
New York Sun

“Richly textured and multilayered.… Masterful.… A beautifully realized and emotionally resonant novel that stays with you long after you turn the last page.”
–Kitchener-Waterloo Record

“[An] accomplished first novel.…”
Publishers Weekly

“Rhythmical prose, a strong sense of physical place and a restrained, moving atmosphere of mourning for the past.”
National Post
“A finely wrought first novel.…”
Kirkus Reviews
“A compelling human story.… [This] beautifully crafted debut novel should earn Bemrose a place in the Canlit pantheon.…”
Edmonton Journal
“The book’s sense of place, its sense of the acceleration of time between generations, its sudden, surprising insights, give the sprawling story its impressive weight.… A riveting read.…”
London Free Press
“Bemrose has a talent for capturing the sad lyricism of ordinary lives.… Bemrose’s poetic touch finds beauty in obscure corners and grandeur in small victories.”
Baltimore Sun

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