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The Winter Vault


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Fugitive Pieces won the Orange Prize and the Guardian Fiction Award in 1997 For fans of John Berger, Michael Ondaatje and The Siege by Helen Dunmore Fugitive Pieces was reissued as part of 21 Great Bloomsbury Reads for the 21st Century

About the Author

Anne Michaels is the author of three collections of poetry: The Weight of Oranges, which won the Commonwealth Prize for the Americas; Miner's Pond, which won the Canadian Authors Association Award and was shortlisted for the Governor General's Award and the Trillium Award; and Skin Divers. Her first novel, Fugitive Pieces, was published by Bloomsbury in 1997 to worldwide critical acclaim. It won the Orange Prize and the Guardian First Book Award among others, and was shortlisted for the Giller Prize and the Canadian Booksellers Association Author of the Year Award. It was also made into a major motion picture. Anne Michaels has also composed music for the theatre. Born in 1958, Anne Michaels lives in Toronto.


Profound loss, desolation and rebuilding are the literal and metaphoric themes of Michaels's exquisite second novel (after Fugitive Pieces). Avery Escher is a Canadian engineer recently moved to a houseboat on the Nile with his new wife, Jean, in 1964. Avery's part of a team of engineers trying to salvage Abu Simbel, which is about to be flooded by the new Aswan dam. His wife, Jean, meanwhile, carries with her childhood memories of flooded villages and the heavy absence of her mother, who died when she was young. Now, the sight of the entire Nubian nation being evacuated from their native land before it's flooded affects both Avery and Jean intensely. Jean's pregnancy seems a possible redemption, but their daughter is stillborn, and Jean falls into despair, shunning the former intimacy of her marriage. When the couple returns to Canada, they set up separate lives and another man enters the picture. Michaels is especially impressive at making a rundown of construction materials or the contents of a market as evocative as the shared moments between two young lovers. A tender love story set against an intriguing bit of history is handled with uncommon skill. (May) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

'Has the same quality of crystalline exactness that reviewers of Fugitive Pieces fell over themselves to call "poetic", a miracle of layering or patterning ... A remarkable book' New Statesman 'A meditation on loss, memory and the nature of attachment ... poetic vision and narrative momentum combine to produce writing of dangerously beautiful intensity, magnificent' Sunday Telegraph 'Exquisite ... There are many phrases to be underlined, remembered and savoured' Financial Times 'At the heart of Anne Michaels's graceful, melancholy new novel is not so much a story as an argument ... It is a case made with the humane intelligence and lush language one might expect from the author of Fugitive Pieces' Guardian

Canadian poet/novelist's second work of fiction (after Fugitive Pieces) will likely be one of the more beautiful and startlingly written works you'll read this year-and one of the more infuriating. It's a meditation on loss, as exemplified by the flooding that obliterated towns and cemeteries, flora and fauna when the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Aswan Dam were created. Jean met Avery while trying to rescue plants that will be drowned by the St. Lawrence floodwaters; Avery was one of the seaway's engineers. Soon they are married and living on a houseboat on the Nile as Avery works to save Abu Simbel. What can't be saved is a millennia-old culture whose devastation is chronicled in eye-opening detail. It's heartbreaking but also frustrating. Michaels keeps a distance, weaving through time in a drily lyrical tone that creates an appropriate sense of dislocation but can leave the reader stranded; in the end, this story is not animated by story. A challenge but definitely worth pondering. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 12/08.]-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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