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Description - Consolation by Michael Redhill

As he slips beneath the waves of Toronto's harbour, Professor David Hollis follows in death the man he pursued in the last months of his life, English apothecary J. G. Hallam. One hundred and fifty years earlier, Hallam had been sent by his father to open a shop in the New World, but when that business failed, he became a reluctant partner in a photography firm. In 1856, the company was offered the opportunity to work for the municipal government, and the bleak and ungainly young city took shape before Hallam's lens. But after presenting the photographs in England, Hallam's ship sank in a violent storm on Lake Ontario and the strongbox holding the photographs was lost. The shoreline of the harbour has shifted dramatically over a century and a half, and David Hollis, driven in his pursuit of this important historical record, speculates that the sunken ship containing the photographs is in the landfill where the city's new Union Arena is to be built. With almost no one on his side but his daughter's fiance, John Lewis, Hallam presents his findings, which are met with howls of derision from his colleagues. Three months later, he's dead, and Lewis joins the grieving widow, Marianne, in a furtive, unsettling quest to vindicate her husband. Installed in a hotel overlooking the excavation site where the arena is to stand, they await the moment when a piece of the past reappears that might alleviate the anguish of these civic and private vanishings. Exquisitely crafted and masterfully told, Michael Redhill's haunting new book moves seamlessly between Toronto's past and present, depicting the way time alters the contours of even the things we hold most certain. "Consolation" evokes the mysteries of love and memory, and what suffering the absence of a beloved truly means.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780434011797
ISBN-10: 0434011797
Format: Hardback
(190mm x 138mm x 39mm)
Pages: 480
Imprint: William Heinemann Ltd
Publisher: Cornerstone
Publish Date: 5-Apr-2007
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Other Editions - Consolation by Michael Redhill

Book Reviews - Consolation by Michael Redhill

US Kirkus Review » The death of a prominent but scandalized scholar prompts a search for a photographic record of early Toronto in Redhill's second novel (Martin Sloane, 2002), in which narrative leaps between the 19th and 20th centuries.When David Hollis, wracked by Lou Gehrig's disease, committed suicide in the summer of 1997, he left behind a broken reputation. Shortly before dying, the "forensic geologist" authored a monograph claiming that a ship buried in the heart of downtown Toronto contained photographs of the entire city in the 1850s, but his refusal to show the diary he cited as evidence sparked accusations that he made up the whole thing. Hoping to rescue his honor, his grieving widow, Marianne, takes up residence in a hotel room overlooking the parcel of land where the photos are allegedly buried-and where a sports stadium is about to be built. High-strung and contentious, she regularly does battle with John, her daughter's fiance, the sole person who knows about her vigil. The book alternates between Marianne's story and that of Jem Hallam, a pharmacist who moves to Toronto from England in 1855; after Hallam's attempt to run an apothecary nearly bankrupts him (it turns out he purchased the shop from a man who accidentally caused three people to overdose), he becomes one of the city's earliest and most prolific photographers. The Hallam sections feature the novel's best-drawn characters, including Samuel Ennis, the entrepreneurial but ailing man who introduces Jem to the photo trade, and Claudia Rowe, a down-on-her-luck widow who becomes his assistant. Redhill's descriptions of early Toronto are warmly romantic while still capturing a hard-bitten frontier-times attitude. The modern-day portions of the book are weaker by comparison-Marianne and John are relatively undernourished characters who often behave in ways that drive the plot but feel unnatural, which makes the concluding revelations feel underwhelming. Not a failure-it's a worthy successor to Richard Powers's similarly time-shifting novel, Gain-but its seams occasionally show. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Michael Redhill

Poet, playwright and novelist Michael Redhill is the author of the acclaimed novel Martin Sloane - winner of a Commonwealth Writers' Prize - and the short-story collection Fidelity. He is also publisher and co-editor - with Michael Ondaatje - of the literary magazine Brick. His poetry collections include Asphodel and Light-Crossing. He lives and works in Toronto.

Books By Michael Redhill

Martin Sloane by Michael Redhill
Paperback, May 2003