Sunday, October 18, 2015

No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod

The story of the MacDonald clan of Cape Breton

Alexander MacDonald, affluent orthodontist, remembers his rugged melancholy upbringing as part of the large proud redheaded MacDonald clan. The memories include experiencing the tragic death of his young parents, buying beer for his severely alcoholic brother on Skid Row, and visiting his also affluent twin sister in Calgary. These stories are interspersed with memories of MacDonalds past, habitants of both Scotland and Cape Breton. The end of the book recounts the story of Alexander and his older brothers working in a mine in western Canada.

This novel wasn’t my cup of tea, although the prose was careful and literary, and many of the individual anecdotes were memorable. The set up, however, was endless. Also the book lacked a standard plot, being more a grab-bag of great scenes, such as the death of his parents on the ice or the horsing around of his three older brothers in their remote cabin. These scenes were glued together with a lot of quasi mystical highly sentimental paragraphs about the indomitable Scottish soul. The dialogue was endless, extremely expository, as the narrator tried to figure out (I think) why he ended up rich and his brother ended up on Skid Row. As you would expect, there were lots of scenes of winter.

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