The Beaver Picture and Other Stories


165 pages
ISBN 0-88882-148-4
DDC C813'.54





Reviewed by Chris Knight

Chris Knight is a copy editor at Canadian Press.


Mason’s short fiction addresses aging, death, anger, and love with a
keen sense of emotional cause and effect that stops short of moralizing.
Readers are given a vivid picture of actions and reactions, but left to
make sense of the results on their own. Character development
occasionally suffers because so much emphasis is placed on moving the
plot forward. Characteristics are introduced as necessary, but
characters are generally slow to emerge, and in the space of a short
story that emergence sometimes fails to fully happen.

Nevertheless, there is much to recommend these stories. some of the
best deal with the trials of immigration, and here Mason is at his most
creative. “The Indian Women,” “The Beaver Picture,” and others
are written from the perspectives of various Britons who came to a wild
and unknown Canada early in the century. The clear descriptions of the
lives of people acclimatizing themselves to what was then an untamed
land dovetail nicely with descriptions of the young nation.

Underlying many of the contemporary stories is the interplay of past
and present. Old people struggle to understand the present (or
stubbornly refuse to do so), and the tidal forces between children and
parents are explored. In “Discovering My Father,” Mason writes,
“Almost everything I know about my father, I learned by accident.”
The moving “Sun and Rain” illustrates one age trying to discover
another that no longer exists. An almost forgotten gravestone becomes
the symbol of the complex emotions surrounding love that are passed
through the generations. When the narrator hears the century-old story
of the stone, he thinks, “Given a small understanding of human nature,
it wouldn’t be hard to re-create events like those.” It would,
however, be hard to re-create events like these tales, though they busy
themselves with things that never cease to be familiar.


Mason, Roger Burford., “The Beaver Picture and Other Stories,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 20, 2024,