Friday, September 21, 2007

Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

Crow Lake is one of those books that stick in my mind long after I’d finished reading it. I borrowed it from the library and wish I’d bought it, as it’s a book I’d like to re-read in the future. I read it quickly and didn’t make many notes, which means that I was too engrossed in my reading to jot down points of interest. In fact I just wanted to read on and on and was sorry when I finished it.

It tells the story of a family of four children living at Crow Lake in the north of Canada in an isolated house miles away from any town, with just a few other families in the vicinity. The narrator is Kate Morrison and the story unfolds as she looks back on her life, triggered by an invitation to her nephew’s 18th birthday party. When she was seven her parents were killed in a car crash, leaving her, her baby sister and two teenage brothers, orphaned. The trauma of their parents’ death affects the children in different ways and as Kate looks back on the events that followed she begins to see that not everything was as it seemed to her at the time.

Things that struck me as I read this book were thoughts about the nature of memories; the difficulties of understanding other people and feeling empathy; the relationship between character and destiny; and the concepts of free will and choice as opposed to being carried along by fate.

Kate has bottled up her memories thinking she has put the past behind her. But it’s not that easy, because years later when she received the invitation and saw her brother Matt’s handwriting she realised it was all still there, simmering away at the back of her mind:

“… I got the same old ache, centred more or less mid-chest, a heavy, dull pain, like mourning. In all those years it hadn’t lessened a bit.”

From that point on, she goes back over the chain of events that had led to the tragedy linking her family with the Pye family who lived about a mile from the Morrisons and were their nearest neighbours and to Kate’s alienation from her family and Crow Lake.

The book focuses on Kate’s relationship with her brother Matt, in particular, but there are also wonderful descriptions of her baby sister Bo, with her independent defiant attitude and her oldest brother Luke, who sacrifices his career to look after his sisters. In addition the complex relationship Kate has with Dan Crane and his parents reflects the difficulties she has in coming to terms with herself and her family. Combine these memorable characters with the beautiful descriptions of Crow Lake and its ponds and the result is a memorable and lyrical novel.

9 comments:

jenclair said...

I loved Crow Lake--beautiful and thought-provoking book.

BooksPlease said...

Jenclair, I'm glad you enjoyed it too. I'd like to read more of Mary Lawson's books - The Other Side of the Bridge is on my tbr list.

GeraniumCat said...

I thought it was a beautiful and moving book and, like you, have her next book on my TBR list.

StuckInABook said...

Looks great - in fact, am writing the title down right now... Not too depressive?

BooksPlease said...

Hi Simon, good to hear from you. Crow Lake is not too depressing, or least I didn't think so. It makes you think about relationships rather than being a downer.

Kay said...

I loved this book too. We read it in my library book group and I was so pleased that everyone liked it. I keep meaning to read her other book. One day.

You wrote a lovely review!

Tara said...

Beautifully written review - I thought I had bought this but realized I have not. It will go on my must read list. Thank you for the recommendation.

StuckInABook said...

Found a copy of this book this morning, and it only set me back 40p! Might well read it on the train home tomorrow, so shall report back soon on my blog...

gautami tripathy said...

I have linked your review to my review!