Kevin Patterson has written a stunning first novel. Consumption is based mostly around the life of an Inuit named Victoria, who we follow briefly through her childhood as she battles tuberculosis and has to be taken to a sanatorium in the south. A sanatorium where she is misplaced for some six years. When it is time to return to her family, she feels unsettled. Robertson enters the scene. Though he is not Inuit, people on the tundra grow to respect him and the way he takes care of his wife and their children as they are born. Victoria never quite feels complete though.
There are so many colourful characters, such as Victoria's father Emo, who is a wonderfully complex character, with his distant personality. Another example is Penny, a teacher who moves into the area, and is filled with such a lively spirit and love for life. She spends much of her time adjusting to life on the tundra by learning the traditional ways to live. Hunting and travelling the tundra with her team of dogs. The doctor and priest are among my favourites too, as they each battle their inner demons.
In this tale we are introduced to a beautiful culture, and a view of what can happen when too much outside influence is introduced to such a community. The results are often heartbreaking as things change for the worse. At the peak of this experience, there is a tragedy and as the community try to discover what really happened, Victoria's family seems to fall further into confusion and chaos. Will things ever seem right again?
This book is a fantastic read. The description of the backdrop to this novel is so vivid that you can almost feel the crisp cold air against your skin as you picture the tundra. The characters are wonderfully written and developed. The relationships are often complex and it's rare that I have come across a novel which seems so down to earth and yet surreal all at once. I blame that on my own perception and being raised in the UK. When I think of igloos, dog teams, and hunting/slaughtering animals, I often think of it in really old historical terms. I realised I had to stop doing that when an 80's reference was made. It was a little jolt to the system - in a good way.
This is also one of those books that I just couldn't put down. Too often I found myself putting it down so I could deal with a chore, only to pick it back up two seconds later because I just had to know what was coming next. It really is a compelling read. For me personally, what made this book was the detail. Not just for the characters and surroundings, but the social consequences of events which take place within the pages.
I can't wait to see what Kevin Patterson comes up with next, he is definitely an author to watch. It is the first I have heard of this author, though some of you may be familiar with his short story collections, or non-fiction works.
A great read. I can't rave enough about it.