In the early 1800s, Rachel Greenhow, a young Quaker, goes missing in the Canadian wilderness. Unable to accept the disappearance, her brother Mark leaves his farm in England, determined to bring his sister home. What follows is a gripping account of Mark's odyssey and his travels with the voyageurs - the men who canoe Canada's fur-trade route. As adventure and discovery propel the plot forward, Elphinstone takes the reader back in time and intertwines the story with enduring themes of love, war and family ties.
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Margaret Elphinstone is the author of eight novels, including The Incomer (1987), A Sparrow's Flight (1989), Islanders (1994), The Sea Road (2000), Hy Brasil (2002), Voyageurs (2003) and Light (2006). She has also had published short stories, poetry and two books on organic gardening. Her next book, And Some There Be, will be published by Canongate in 2009. She lives in Glasgow and teaches at the University of StrathclydeFrom Publishers Weekly:
Presented as a manuscript discovered by the author in the attic of her country house in the North of England, this meticulously crafted, self-reflexive historical novel tells the story of Mark Greenhow, whose Quaker family once owned the house. In 1811, Mark's younger sister, Rachel, while doing missionary work in Canada, met and married Adam Mackenzie, a Scot associated with the fur trade in North America. Because the marriage was outside the order, Rachael was disowned; subsequently, she lost her baby and mysteriously disappeared into the wilds of what is today northern Michigan. Determined to discover his sister's fate, Mark departs for Canada, where he spends nearly two years sorely testing his Quaker faith through episodes that reveal to him the wider world beyond his placid English countryside. In the meantime, the War of 1812 rages and Mark tries to avoid the kinds of "vain" entanglements that would contradict his beliefs. The inclusion of Mark's own footnotes, lengthy discourses and commentary on his adventures and their aftermath lessens the story's suspense. The novel's interest lies in Mark's struggle to reconcile his faith with the verities and practicalities of the "real world" and in Elphinstone's mastery of early 19th-century argot.
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