I randomly picked ‘Canada’ by Richard Ford off the shelf in a shop not long after it was first published last year and turned to the first page. I was immediately struck by the first two sentences: “First, I’ll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later.” As opening lines go, I found those to be pretty memorable and also very intriguing.
‘Canada’ is very much driven by its characters and the main strength of the novel lies in Dell Parson’s convincing voice as he recounts what happened in Great Falls, Montana in 1960 when he and his twin sister Berner were fifteen years old. Effectively abandoned after his parents are arrested, Dell ends up in Saskatchewan and soon discovers that creating a new life for himself certainly isn’t going to be easy.
The saying ‘Never judge a book by it’s cover’ is already well-known but with regard to ‘Canada’, I would also add ‘Never judge a book by its opening lines’. The story is much more about the resulting aftermath rather than the crimes themselves and after the impact of the opening sentences, I found ‘Canada’ as a whole to be quite slow. At first, I found this a bit frustrating as I didn’t feel like I was making much progress with the story at all for the first 200 pages. However, I also think the more sedate pace blended in well with the epic atmosphere of the book.
Overall, I really liked Ford’s writing which was weirdly sparse yet dense at the same time although I feel it did lack a bit of momentum in certain places. As ‘Canada’ is the first novel by Richard Ford that I’ve read, I don’t really know if it is representative of his work in general or not. I have a copy of ‘The Sportswriter’ which is the first book in the Frank Bascombe trilogy and is widely regarded to be one of his best novels so I plan to read that in the future. If you have read either ‘Canada’ or any of Ford’s other novels, please let me know your thoughts.