Canada Reads 2013 Book Review: Away

Author: Jane Urquhart

Publisher:  McClelland & Stewart

Imprint: Emblem Editions

Date Published: May 1st, 1997

Format: Paperback

Source: CBC Books


A stunning, evocative novel set in Ireland and Canada, Away traces a family’s complex and layered past. The narrative unfolds with shimmering clarity, and takes us from the harsh northern Irish coast in the 1840s to the quarantine stations at Grosse Isle and the barely hospitable land of the Canadian Shield; from the flourishing town of Port Hope to the flooded streets of Montreal; from Ottawa at the time of Confederation to a large-windowed house at the edge of a Great Lake during the present day. Graceful and moving, Away unites the personal and the political as it explores the most private, often darkest corners of our emotions where the things that root us to ourselves endure. Powerful, intricate, lyrical, Away is an unforgettable novel.

Number of Days It Took to Read: 19




Charlotte Gray

charlotte gray

The Writing Score: 3.5 out of 5

Recommendation: Casual Perusal

Memorable or Forgettable: Forgettable

Rating: 3 out of 5



The writing was good and there were moments when it really popped from the page especially when it was regarding Mary being “away”. A major plus for the book was its incorporation of the folklore/superstition. It was great to have something like this in literary fiction that still maintained its realism and it was, for me, the most interesting part. I was happy that it was set in a time where Canada was at its early days in becoming a country which allowed for a Canadian like myself to really learn something about the place that I grew up in (even more so as someone from Ontario). I loved that readers got to see how the Irish were treated and that discrimination/oppression wasn’t just limited to a particular race or religion.


This book had a lot of “dead zones” which were places in the book that became excruciating to continue reading. I don’t why this is. Why couldn’t it keep up the amazing narrative that was at the beginning of the book? I didn’t care about any of the characters except for that one scene with Liam and his infant sister (you know what I’m talking about if you’ve read it). I wasn’t immersed in the story at all after 1/3 through the book and then kept reading only because I wanted to be well informed when writing this post.

What do you think? Is this book Canada Reads worthy?

A. A. Omer

The opinions expressed here are mine and readers are welcome to disagree. In fact, I encourage it! I never believed in putting particular books or authors on some sort of universal pedestal but you’re free to put it on your individualized pedestal because I most certainly will.

One thought on “Canada Reads 2013 Book Review: Away

  1. ooh I love that this book incorporates folklore! Too bad that it wasn’t for you though 😦
    I just heard it was eliminated from the Canada Reads debate though so apparently you weren`t the only one that felt that way!

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