Heaven preserve us from politicians turned into political commentators and eventually turned into novelists. Of course, this is billed as a novel and not as an historical piece. Bill Rowe was, for a time, a cabinet minister at the Provincial House of Assembly, then became a leader of the opposition and eventually went into novel writing.
While Rowe does not pretend this is historically accurate, he does drop enough names, both contemporary and of the far past, so as to make it seem as if he’s almost trying to re-write history.
In this outlandish piece, he proposes that Winston Churchill has recollection of a past life where his American mother, through an illicit affair, became his Beothuk ancestor. As well, he proposes that this William Cull, who he invites to write this story, is the descendant of the infamous William Cull, who was in fact the architect of the Beothuk’s annhiliation. But in this piece he tries to make the original William Cull as a bit of a hero who in fact helped save a portion of the original Beothuk population, which is total nonsense.
Sir Winston Churchill and his secretary, Sir Anthony, were in fact war heroes who stood up against the Nazi genocide campaign against Jews is indisputable fact. Rowe’s novel wherein Churchill has memories of a former life as a Beothuk man who lives through difficult times and ends up being killed by white hunters is certainly original but also entirely outlandish.
The book is well written, but the fact that there is very little demarcation between the Churchill’s true legacy and Rowe’s fictional version proved confusing. Indeed the transition between the real Churchill and Rowe’s fictional one, which was meant to be effortless and seamless, instead fails horribly without this clear transition. This made it very difficult to follow the story. What did Churchill actually say and was it adapted out of context to suit the narrative – and if so how much – became more presing than the story Rowe was actually trying to tell.
The story would have been much better served with a clear delineation between the adapted historical parts and the entirely speculative fictional ones. It would have made the novel less confusing, cumbersome and outlandish.
A little bit clarity of surrounding who is speaking exactly when and in what context would have gone a long way.
Quite frankly, I did not really enjoy this book, nor the premise on which it was based despite my initial high hopes. For these reasons, I am giving it a lower than normal rating, though I have tried to be generous because clearly the quality is there in terms of design, editing and grammar, and if nothing else the concept is admittedly an original one.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars.