Gelignite Jack


127 pages
ISBN 1-55065-080-7
DDC C813'.54






Reviewed by Sarah Robertson

Sarah Robertson is an associate editor of the Canadian Book Review


This ingeniously structured book comprises three thematically linked
stories that are concerned with youth, mid-life, and old age,
respectively. “A Sweet Comedy” features Lindsay, a struggling young
actress whose visionary experiences facilitate a journey of
self-discovery. In “Apostrophe,” the setting shifts from Toronto to
Baffin Island, where Harold, a senior analyst for a mining project, is
searching for something beyond professional stability. In “East
Fortieth,” a woman passes along to her granddaughter the accumulated
wisdom of her 94 years. Central to the first and third stories (and
alluded to in the second) is the figure of Geoff Douglas, a choral
conductor who at the end of World War II was killed while disarming a
bomb, “his brilliance ... blown to free molecules.”

The indifference of nature to human achievement and the transformative
powers of love are among the many themes expressed in these resonant and
subtle stories. Taken as a whole, the book is both an expression and a
celebration of storytelling and of the endurance of the oral tradition.
The fundamental significance of its characters lies not in their
personal histories, but in the cultural realities and universal truths
they reveal through the stories they tell. Readers who embrace Gelignite
Jack on its own terms will be amply rewarded.


Davies, Paul., “Gelignite Jack,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 25, 2024,