Roses Are Difficult Here


325 pages
ISBN 0-7710-6077-7
DDC C813'.54




Reviewed by Carolyn D. Redl

Carolyn D. Redl is a sessional lecturer of English at the University of


Maybe it’s because the world is in chaos: internationally, the
breakdown of the Soviet Union; and nationally, the tension of
constitutional talks and the recession. Maybe it’s because 1990s’
Canada is for the most part urban. Whatever the reason, it’s difficult
to get excited about this book with its motivating problem of
determining who poisoned the Chiverses’ dog.

The book is certainly well written and, at times, even comical. The
idea of a sociologist coming to a small, insignificant foothills town to
do six months’ research into its habits and befriending the town’s
newspaper editor has a certain idyllic intrigue to it. But how many
women sociologists would tolerate the patronage Melquist endures? Most
of Melquist’s research is filtered through the all-knowing,
egotistical editor and publisher, Matthew B. Stanley (a pun on Dr.
Stanley, perhaps?). Indeed, would any self-respecting sociologist focus
her research on the men of the town and disregard women’s points of
view? This book is enraging because of its underlying sexist bias.

Not only women but all readers are the butt of Mitchell’s
condescension. Granted, his forte is depicting the social idiosyncrasies
of Prairie people. He has demonstrated this well in Who Has Seen the
Wind, and in his other novels set on the Prairies. But, let us hope that
Prairie people have risen above the pettiness Roses explores. The town
of Shelby, Alberta, depicted here is dead and gone. The irony and
criticism of society projected through Roses is outdated and no longer
serves a valid function.


Mitchell, W.O., “Roses Are Difficult Here,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 15, 2024,