The Swing Era


154 pages
ISBN 0-394-22731-X
DDC C813'.54




Reviewed by Sarah Robertson

Sarah Robertson is associate editor of the Canadian Book Review Annual.


Frederika Cable is leading a drug-free but narcotized existence in a
Nepali religious retreat when news arrives of her mother’s death,
forcing a return to her Georgian Bay hometown. The Swing Era refers to
Isabel Cable’s manic depression—the “swoops from pinnacle to
abyss”—a condition seemingly passed down from mother to daughter,
and expressed by the latter through harrowing acts of self-mutilation.
Her mother’s death leaves the heroine with a choice between submitting
to the horrors of perceived genetic inevitability or taking
responsibility for her own suffering and happiness.

This successor to the critically acclaimed Almost Japanese wraps its
disquieting themes in gemlike prose. Tempering the intensity are welcome
doses of dry-as-dust humor. The cool precision that rescues this
graceful novel from bathos discourages total empathy with its sharply
realized characters.


Sheard, Sarah., “The Swing Era,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 17, 2024,