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The Stone Carvers

I’ve been dying for an excuse to talk about the book I’m reading right now, but I know before starting that my words can’t do this novel any justice. Today’s gentle prodding by my favourite archivist, however, is motivation to try…

The idea of the 161 Meme is to take the book from your bedside table, open it to page 161, and share the 6th sentence on that page.

I like this!

It reminds me of my grandmother, when she needed inspiration or had a problem to solve — closing her eyes, she opened her Bible at random and dropped a finger onto the page. The verse that was thus chosen became her guidance.

As usual, if you’d like to play along, please do leave a link in the comments and share what you’re reading right now!

Page 161, sixth sentence — okay?

Here’s mine:

The Stone Carvers - book cover The Stone Carvers
Jane Urquhart

2001
trade paperback published 2002
Emblem Editions (McClelland & Stewart)
Canada

In its most simple terms, The Stone Carvers is the story of immigrants and artisans and of Canada before the Great War and in its aftermath.

More intimately, it’s the story of seamstress-turned-stone-carver Klara Becker, her brother Tilman whose soul is tormented by wanderlust, and the small German-settled village in Ontario where they were born to a family with creative talent — the women exercising their skills in fabric, the men creating angels in wood. Tilman disappears; Klara falls against her will in love with a beautiful silent Irish labourer-boy; and the world is plunged into war.

On page 161, the 6th sentence is this:

And then she remembered, crossed the room, and stood for some time staring at the engraved shape of the pattern she had drawn — all that was left of him now — and she recalled what her grandfather had told her about the likeness of medieval knights in full armour being drawn with a chisel on their marble burial slabs.

Jane Urquhart’s darkly beautiful novel speaks of memory and loss, obsession and art, and the human hand upon Nature — creating and destroying, together.

Above all, I’m enthralled by the way that Nature weaves itself into the essence of these characters, who in turn shape the landscape to fit their needs and dreams; and everything that man and Nature created together is blasted apart — then strangely reborn — in that small distant part of Canada in the midst of France, 100 hectares of battlefield ground and a massive white monument at Vimy Ridge.

It’s a compelling story, one of those you can sink into and read compulsively, reading slowly so the story won’t end yet driven to turn the page. But if you’re looking for a Hollywood-style adventure story or breathless bodice-ripper, move on.

The Stone Carvers rises from a tradition of allegory, legend, fable…

The individual characters are less important, in a conventional modern-literary sense, than the roles they inhabit and the images with which they create and are created.

In this world, silence speaks. Physical spaces rather than words define the people who carve out a place in the wilderness, stay and work there, or escape to journey on. Love comes with chains and good intentions. Images are memory. Touch can be dangerous, unpredictable, like a spark to a fuse.

But ghosts and angels walk together, in this many-layered landscape, and magic is made by human hands. There is hope for redemption.

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6 comments… add one

  • domestika 2008/05/28, 9:58 am

    @Michelle, so glad that you stopped by to comment: Yes, ‘contrived’ is exactly the right word for the characters. As I said above, “The individual characters are less important, in a conventional modern-literary sense, than the roles they inhabit and the images with which they create and are created.” Allegory is not for everyone, is it? :)

  • Michelle 2008/05/28, 2:25 am

    honestly, i’ve read The Stone Carvers and was completely dissapointed. i found that the characters and imagery was contrived, and that both main characters were paired with their ‘newly found love’ in the end…and it felt fake. i found much of the novel uninteresting, as well as many of the symbols and motifs weak. without connection to the characters, i wasn’t able to enjoy the book. i’m sorry if you were captivated after reading it, but i didn’t think it compared to some of the literature that’s available.

  • Mitch 2007/11/23, 5:27 pm

    Seekers of the Dyslexic Bodice-Rippers, Untie!

    My word, I’m almost embarrassed to share sentence 6 of my current book.
    Why did it have to be page 161? Page 160, which I almost shared by mistake, has a much more titillating sixth sentence.

    The novel, by Daniel Silva, is titled, “The Unlikely Spy”. It revolves around, um, espionage. It is a very well-written World War II drama. You would never guess that, from the sixth sentence:

    “They parted briefly and Catherine spotted a drowsy blonde waiting impatiently for the meeting to conclude.”

    Pity. by page 164, there’s some serious bodice-ripping going on. Perhaps serious students of foreshadowing can discern this from the state of the unnamed lady.
    Be forewarned, This is not some peek-a-boo sex thriller with a thin war-time plot.
    It is a fantastic spy-vs. spy thriller with juicy love scenes sprinkled tastefully throughout.

    If you like John le Carré more than Robert Ludlum, if you prefer gin and bitters to martinis, if you like your spies smart and your villains smarter, read this book!

    Cheers,

    Mitch

  • domestika 2007/11/23, 5:39 pm

    @Sally, I rather enjoyed your selections… made a note-to-self to pick up a copy of The Geek Gap, in fact…

    @Mary Emma, can’t wait to see what you’re reading — your blog always seems to feature such tempting-covered books!

    @Mitch, the drowsy blonde nothwithstanding, that sounds like a ripping good read! Thinking back over the past few months, I seem to have a bit of a wartime theme going myself — just a coincidence, not a plan — but the First World War rather than the Second, as it happens. John le Carré rocks; so Daniel Silva intrigues!

  • Mary Emma Allen 2007/11/21, 1:10 am

    What a fun idea! Now you’ll have me looking through my books. And I enjoyed your response to this meme. You also have me intrigued by The Stone Carvers.

  • Ooooo. Very nice, Goddess! I just knew you’d be reading something fascinating.

    My only complaint is that you make my books look utterly dull in comparison.

    Note to self: Pick up some riveting fiction the next time I’m at the library.

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