As readers of this blog (and colleagues in the reading world) know, Robertson Davies is one of my favorite writers. My enjoyment of Davies’ books has sparked my interest in Canadian fiction, and I have been fortunate to find a number of other writers from the North who have captured my attention. A while back, a good friend who is a librarian in Kitchener, Ontario introduced me to a new Canadian novelist (thanks, Sharron!).
Peter Behrens is a lyrical and elegant stylist, whose novel The Law of Dreams takes the reader on a journey from famine-torn Ireland to the new world, specifically, Montreal. Behrens tells the story of Fergus O’Brien, whose family farms on shares on an Irish estate. When the famine comes, Fergus’s father refuses to leave the farm, and hunger ends their lives, excepting Fergus. He takes first to the road, and then joins with a band of rebels who live off what they can steal from the landlords. Here, he finds a home and new family of sorts, but violence forces him again to flee. The rest of the story tells of Fergus’s travels across Ireland to England and finally to Canada. As in any tale of epic journeys, Fergus gets assistance from unlikely characters, finds and loses love and money, and learns some truths about himself. All along the way his skill with horses stands him in good stead. Behrens tells a powerful and powerfully sad story of the Irish Diaspora.
Readers who enjoy Ivan Doig’s stories of coming of age in the Big Sky country or the historical fiction of Lee Smith will find a similar feel to Behren’s novel.
Check the WRL catalog for The Law of Dreams