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Thomas, Audrey.

Don Mills (Ont.) Stoddart, c1984. 282pp, cloth, $19.95, ISBN 0-7737-2028-6. CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Pamela Black

Volume 13 Number 3
1985 May

Audrey Thomas is a skilful and prolific western Canadian novelist whose most recent publication, Intertidal Life, represents the painful dissection of the break-up of a marriage. The story weaves in and out of the first-person journal entries of Alice Hoyle, an abandoned wife, and a third-person narrative. The entire book, however, is infused with the spirit of Alice; her anguish, her searching, her reconstruction of the past engulf the reader as much as they do her. There is no question that this is a tale told from her perspective and, as anyone who has lost at love knows, attempts to see the other side are short-lived and half-hearted.

Excerpts from the diaries of Captain Cook, popular songs, snatches of King Lear, and self-reflective word games all contribute to the nest that Alice builds for her sorrow. These leave little impression on the reader, however, compared to the vicious treading and re-treading of our heroine as she relives and re-examines her agony time and time again.

This book is such a blatant treatment of a broken heart that we feel as though we are eavesdropping on the very private act of a woman's self-destruction through anger, grief, and hatred. Alice says that she forgives but does not forget. The whole book testifies that she does not forget, but it is not particularly clear that she forgives either. Although time does bring its usual balm and, with it, strength, one wonders why this character persists in living in, revolving in, and dwelling on such painful places in her heart.

Ultimately, Intertidal Life does not rise above a personal and particular document of pain. It is true that the little creatures in tidal pools, which Thomas has chosen as a metaphor for the whole book, do have "an enormous capacity for survival." Humans, however, can and do ask for more, and there is nothing in this book that will help them find it.

Pamela Black, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, B.C.
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