The Life of Hope
Nora D.S. Robins is co-ordinator of Internal Collections at the
University of Calgary Libraries.
A former musician and current bookstore employee, Quarrington is the author of The Service and Home Game. The latter, hailed as one of the ten best books of 1983, brought its author into the public eye. Quarrington has scored again with his third novel.
Welcome to Hope (Population, 1001): three bars, a butcher’s shop, a liquor store, and “Edgar’s Bait, Tackle and Taxidermy.” This small, fictional town, several hours east of Toronto, is the setting for Quarrington’s latest and funniest novel.
The central figure and narrator is Paul, a heavy-drinking Toronto novelist. He arrives in Hope on the eve of his thirtieth birthday, seeking escape from a failing marriage and a place to work on his second novel. He quickly discovers that the inhabitants of Hope are a most unusual bunch: Mona, the libertine barkeep; the ventriloquist Big Bernie and his talking stomach, Little Bernie; Jonathan Whitecrow, an Indian with an Oxford accent; and Ol’ Mossback, a purportedly 200-year-old talking fish. Hope becomes the centre of Paul’s life and he abandons his novel to write a fictional version of the town’s history.
Quarrington is an excellent writer with a well-developed sense of humour. He handles the history of the town in a series of flashbacks, and he alternates his narrative between Paul’s life and times in the 1980s and the antics of Joseph Benton Hope, the randy leader of a utopian sect, and his followers, in the 1800s.
This novel is racy, ironic, warm, witty and a lot of fun to read. It will please Quarrington’s fans and gain many new ones.