Presented as a manuscript discovered by the author in the attic of her country house in the North of England, this meticulously crafted, self-reflexive historical novel tells the story of Mark Greenhow, whose Quaker family once owned the house. In 1811, Mark's younger sister, Rachel, while doing missionary work in Canada, met and married Adam Mackenzie, a Scot associated with the fur trade in North America. Because the marriage was outside the order, Rachael was disowned; subsequently, she lost her baby and mysteriously disappeared into the wilds of what is today northern Michigan. Determined to discover his sister's fate, Mark departs for Canada, where he spends nearly two years sorely testing his Quaker faith through episodes that reveal to him the wider world beyond his placid English countryside. In the meantime, the War of 1812 rages and Mark tries to avoid the kinds of "vain" entanglements that would contradict his beliefs. The inclusion of Mark's own footnotes, lengthy discourses and commentary on his adventures and their aftermath lessens the story's suspense. The novel's interest lies in Mark's struggle to reconcile his faith with the verities and practicalities of the "real world" and in Elphinstone's mastery of early 19th-century argot. (Aug.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
"Its fidelity to the mores and tribal rites of American Indians is matched only by its knowledgeable threading of the history of early trading in British Canada."