Out on the Plain
Sheila Martindale is poetry editor of Canadian Author and Bookman and
author of No Greater Love, her sixth collection of poetry.
This is presumably meant to be a novel, or at least a work of fiction. But if your definition of fiction includes a plot and some structure as well as believable characters, then give this one a miss. This is not to say that the book fails — only that it is unconventional, and that nebulous characters who float in and out of time and space dimensions are not terribly impressive.
This is a feminist work, and I suspect that few men would enjoy it. Finn does illustrate well how women have been programmed to be dependent on men’s approval and to be devastated without it. The women in her “story” gain strength from their developing bond with one another, and we see them as ultimately strong and independent. The two male characters, Mr. Smith-god and Mr. Jones, fare very poorly, as one might expect.
The main strength of this work is the poetic language; in fact, I think if the author had written a collection of poems instead of a novel it would have worked better. There are excellent descriptive passages, marvellous imagery, and occasional flashes of pure, brilliant truth. The major flaw is the author’s currently popular but irritating style of telling the reader all about the process of writing a book, instead of just getting on with it. She talks to us, and to her characters, who sometimes argue with her over how it should be done. And the pages are peppered with comments and asides, such as: “The substance of this story doesn’t seem to satisfy; I can’t make it storm and crackle... and if I don’t, it will become merely a part of the drifting, will be lost in the yawn.” I rest my case.