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Ostenso, Martha.

Toronto. McClelland and Stewart, 1989. 309pp, paper, $6.95, ISBN 0-7710-9994-0. (New Canadian Library series). CIP

Reviewed by Nadiya Blaine

Volume 17 Number 3
1989 May

When Wild Geese was first published in 1925, it marked "the transformation in Canadian writing away from loose abstract romances towards serious realist writing." The sexuality seems more symbolic and subtle than we are used to reading in modem novels, but for readers of 1925, Ostenso had gone as lar aa she dared in her erotic descriptions.

Caleb Gare, the patriarch of the family farm, expresses his sexual frustrations in his cruelty to his family. Amelia, his wife, subjects herself to Caleb's cruelly and is ready to sacrifice the happiness of her children in order to keep the secret of an illegitimate child she had with her one true love, who was killed in an accident. The powerful sexuality of Judith, the wild and fiery daughter, forms a large focus of the novel. The calmness and refinement of Lind, the teacher, form a sharp contrast to Judith's passion.

All these characters contribute to a novel that is often bleak, reflects the hopelessness of life tied to the land, and depicts the loneliness of a family isolated by one man's hate and suspicions.

Ostenso, herself brought up on a farm in Winnipeg, has captured the atmosphere of the back-breaking work, the Isolation, the monotony and the loneliness of life on the prairies. She and her husband Douglas Durkin collaborated on many later novels, but Wild Geese was Ostenso's alone. She died in Minnesota in 1963.

Nadiya Blaine, Bertie, Elementary School, Ridgeway, Ont.
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