A Portrait of the Artist: Ernest Buckler's «The Mountain and the Valley»


83 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55022-180-9
DDC C813'.54





Reviewed by Edith Fowke

Edith Fowke is professor emerita of folklore at York University, the
1986 winner of the Vicky Metcalf award for her body of work for
children, and the author of Canadian Folklore: Perspectives on Canadian
Culture and Legends Told in Canada.


This latest volume in ECW’s Canadian Fiction Studies series provides a
section-by-section analysis of Ernest Buckler’s The Mountain and the
Valley. Barbara Pell identifies in the novel three main themes
characteristic of much modern literature: “The fragmentation of
society and the destruction of family and childhood innocence through
the passage of time and death, and the resultant alienation of the
individual ... and the artist’s attempt to transcend loss and
isolation through art.” From her analysis, she concludes that the
novel “is a complex and ironic kьnstlerroman that inverts the
traditional genre by portraying the moral and artistic retardation,
rather than maturation, of its protagonist.”

Pell’s analysis is detailed and thorough, but I found it too abstract
and her writing too complex and repetitive. She uses an enormous number
of quotations—from other evaluations, from biographies, and from the
book itself—an approach that tends to clutter up the pages and make
reading and understanding difficult. In addition, the book would have
been better served by the inclusion of a brief summary. Unless one is
very familiar with the novel, it is difficult to follow Pell’s
analysis without having a copy handy and constantly referring to the

This book will be useful to graduate students who are studying The
Mountain and the Valley, but it should be used in conjunction with other
critical analyses.


Pell, Barbara Helen., “A Portrait of the Artist: Ernest Buckler's «The Mountain and the Valley»,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 22, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/1618.