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A good house /

The Chambers family of Ontario struggles through love, death and change from 1949 to the present. Full description

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Format: Book
Language: English
Published: H. Holt, 2000
Edition: First American edition.
Online Access: Contributor biographical information
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A runaway #1 bestseller in Canada, this richly layered first novel tells the story of the intricacies and rituals that shape a family's life over three generations

A Good House begins in 1949 in Stonebrook, Ontario, home to the Chambers family. The postwar boom and hope for the future colors every facet of life: possibilities seem limitless for Bill, his wife, Sylvia, and their three children.

In the fifty years that follow, the possibilities narrow into lives, etched by character, fate, and circumstance. Sylvia's untimely death marks her family indelibly but in ways only time will reveal. Paul's perfect marriage yields an imperfect child. Daphne unabashedly follows an unconventional path, while Patrick discovers that his happiness requires a series of compromises. Bill confronts the onset of old age less gracefully than anticipated, and throughout, his second wife, Margaret, remains, surprisingly, the family anchor.
With her remarkable ability to probe the hidden, often disturbing landscapes of love and to illuminate the complexities of human experience, Bonnie Burnard brings to her deceptively simple narrative a clarity that is both moving and profound.

Review by Booklist Review

This wondrous story of a Canadian family progresses much like the creek it describes, moving calmly and steadily, occasionally slowed by a clause-laden sentence, sometimes diverted from its main course, keeping its pace in the face of the unexpected. Bill and Sylvia Chambers marry in 1936 and have three children--Patrick, Daphne, and Paul--before Bill goes off to war, returning without "the three most useful fingers of his right hand" to work at the local hardware store. In the six decades that follow, the family (along with close friend Murray McFarlane) experiences the joys and heartbreak--a deforming accident, more than one untimely death, a damaged child, children born out of wedlock, divorce--that life brings. What is remarkable is not what occurs but how it is told: first-novelist Burnard displays such grace and insight into the human heart that her book seems to embrace the reader. Winner of the 1999 Giller Prize in Canada, this is a novel to savor. --Michele Leber

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In 1952, 12-year-old Daphne Chambers falls from a trapeze and is left with a permanently asymmetrical face. In 1955, Daphne's mother, Sylvia, dies of cancer at age 40. From these two life-altering events, Canadian short story writer Burnard spins her engrossing debut novel, a traditional generational saga that unfolds with quiet grace and measure. Told from a variety of points of view, the book traces the upheavals and affirmations of the very ordinary Chambers family of Stonebrook, Ontario, from 1949 to 1997. The year after Sylvia's death, her husband, Bill, an injured WWII vet, remarries. His new wife, the unflappable Margaret, who used to work with him at the town hardware store, helps him raise his three children. Paul, the baby, becomes a hockey star and eventually a farmer, marrying young; oldest brother Patrick, a lawyer, is destined to be the keeper of family secrets; and middle child Daphne makes an eccentric choice for that time and place: she'll become the single mother of two daughters. As the years pass, the family, in nuclear and then extended form, gathers around the kitchen table to celebrate and to mourn. There are no saints, no Jobs, no Hamlets in Burnard's tale, just flawed people making the best possible choices given the passions and options of the moment, choices that sometimes require disingenuousness, stonewalling and outright lies. Changes in the initially remote town of Stonebrook are a significant strand in the narrative weave. Flashes of sly humor and an ability to avoid sentimentality are some of Burnard's skills, and the narrative's calm flow (once one gets past an initial excess of detail) builds to a deeply moving story of the truths of family life. 50,000 first printing; major ad/promo; author tour. (Sept.) FYI: A bestseller in Canada, this novel won the 1999 Giller Prize. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

This 1999 Giller Prize winner and Canadian best seller takes as its canvas 48 years in the lives of an Ontario family, beginning with hardware-store owner Bill Chambers and his wife, Sylvia, who soon dies. The book seeks not to dazzle but simply to present the highs and lows, the experiences ordinary and extraordinary, of a "normal" family. Yet the characters are so fully realized that one feels one has lived with them and knows them, as usually happens in Trollope's novels or in those of another Canadian, Carol Shields (although Burnard takes in several lives, while Shields generally focuses on one). Even the understated titleDit isn't really a book about a houseDhas something to say about its solidity and graceful prose. One can even forgive Burnard occasional gaffe, like having one of her characters own a Mustang in 1963. This could easily become an Oprah book. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/00.]DRobert E. Brown, Onondaga Cty. P.L., Syracuse, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Bonnie Burnard was born in Southwestern Ontario. She has been writer-in-residence at the University of Western Ontario, taught at both Sage Hill and the Humber School of Writing, and was a jury panel member for the Giller Prize.

She has read from her work throughout Canada and in the U.S., Europe, Australia and South Africa. Burnard's stories have been included in many anthologies, among them: Stories by Canadian Women, published in 1999; Mothers and Daughters, published in 1997; The Arnold Anthology of Post-Colonial Literature, published in 1996; Spin on 2, published in 1995; The Oxford Book of Canadian Short Stories, published in 1995; and Best Canadian Stories, published in 1992 and 1989.

She won the Giller Prize, for A Good House in 1999, the Marian Engel Award for body of work in 1995 and the Periodical Publishers Award, for Casino in 1994. She was shortlisted for the Giller Prize, and won the Saskatchewan Book of the Year, both for Casino in 1994 and alson won the Commonwealth Best Book Award, for Women of Influence in 1989.

(Bowker Author Biography)

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