The Substance of Forgetting


127 pages
ISBN 0-88995-092-X
DDC C813'.54




Reviewed by Kelly L. Green

Kelly L. Green is a freelance writer living in Ajax, Ontario.


To preface her short novel, Gunnars has chosen quotations from the
doyenne of deconstructive literary criticism—Julia Kristeva—and from
poet W.B. Yeats. These are telling choices, as Kristeva invites readers
to examine text in the light of the “arbitrary” nature of meaning,
and Yeats celebrates life in the rural, solitary setting of “The Lake
Isle of Innisfree.” Gunnars has taken the spirit of both quotations
quite literally as she celebrates the experience of a woman writer,
living in the paradisiacal surroundings of the B.C. interior.
Alternating with passages descriptive of a writer’s solitary life are
chapters that slowly unfurl the narrator’s brief relationship with a
francophone from Quebec—a relationship that influences her perceptions
and experience of everything else in life.

Unfortunately, the narrative is so minimalist in tone and content that
it is difficult for the reader to grasp any meaning whatsoever from the
novel, arbitrary or otherwise. More than once, the writer cites the
inability of words to express the deeper aspects of human life; one
occasionally wonders at her choice of vocation.

Nevertheless, Gunnars has a way with descriptive prose. Many of the
passages set in and around the narrator’s Kelowna property are
luminous in their beauty. Her trees heavy and bent with apricots, the
crackling of flames in a lakeside fire, the valley with “so many
delights” do create a wonderland in the mind of the reader that
personal experience of this terrain bears out. But ultimately, these
charming passages simply cannot sustain a novel, no matter how much the
author has consciously limited her scope.


Gunnars, Kristjana., “The Substance of Forgetting,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 17, 2024,