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|To The Edge of the Sea|
REsource links June 2013 (Vol 18, #5)
Alex lives to explore life beyond PEI and his fishing heritage, while Reggie's greatest desire is to leave the seaside and his father's fishing boat for the red fields of PEI and farm life. Mercy is a visitor to PEI whose family is fol¬lowing Sir John A MacDonald on the political trail to bring about confederation. Mercy ex¬plores her coming of age sexuality as a young woman of the 1860s who is admired by and who admires Sir John A MacDonald.
His is a cerebral novel which requires much thought and inquiry and is not intended as a recreational read, but rather as a literary study. The problem with this novel is that the reader often struggles to understand and be¬come involved in the quests of its characters. It is easy to lose sight of the messages in the novel because it requires so much analysis. Definitely not light reading nor suited to a young adult audience. The historical context is rather overwhelming if the reader does not have a grasp on the time period.
Recommended only for senior literature study or adult reading. — Sharon Armstrong
Thematic Links: Prince Edward Island — History; Confederation — Canada
Saskatoon StarPhoenix - September 2011
McDonald follows the lives of two brothers. Reggie and Alex, and Mercy Coles, all young adults, from mid-June 1864 to early November of the same year, as John A. MacDonald, George Brown and others from Upper and Lower Canada come first to Charlottetown to try to entice the colony into confederation.
Maybe that’s why of all the powerful men flowing lavishly around her, between meetings, and at receptions and balls, Mercy finds herself increasingly attracted to the widowed and much older John A., affectionately called by his sisters “the ugliest man in Canada.”
Meanwhile, another kind of political wrangling is taking place under these people’s feet. In terms of family politics, brothers Reggie and Alex, sons of a fisherman, are fiercely at odds with their father’s plans.
On the other hand, Reggie, the eldest son, loathes life on the sea, is made physically ill by it, and wants to be a farmer. He defies his lather, already bereft of a son, and joins his farmer uncles as they gather to march in defiance of their landlords who bleed off their profits. Here are politics at a local and even violent level.
She may be falling in love, but it’s the rain falling on Mercy’s bare head one night as she marches with the people that thrills her. Reggie loves the feel of the red Prince Edward Island earth and Alex loves the feel of air, how he can train himself to move through it, even lean against it. Whatever their politics — national, local or family — these are elemental people and McDonald has found what they’re made of and what they need to hold to. — Bill Robertson