No Great Mischief

No Great Mischief

Book - 1999
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Alexander MacDonald guides us through his family's mythic past as he recollects the heroic stories of his people: loggers, miners, drinkers, adventurers; men forever in exile, forever linked to their clan. There is the legendary patriarch who left the Scottish Highlands in 1779 and resettled in "the land of trees," where his descendents became a separate Nova Scotia clan. There is the team of brothers and cousins, expert miners in demand around the world for their dangerous skills. And there is Alexander and his twin sister, who have left Cape Breton and prospered, yet are haunted by the past. Elegiac, hypnotic, by turns joyful and sad,No Great Mischiefis a spellbinding story of family, loyalty, exile, and of the blood ties that bind us, generations later, to the land from which our ancestors came.
Publisher: Toronto : McClelland & Stewart, c1999
ISBN: 9780771055676
Branch Call Number: FIC MacLe 3558ad 1
Characteristics: 283 p


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Dec 08, 2018

A mesmerizing novel, which has won many prizes, about an Irish family in Cape Breton. I skipped some places that were too sad or graphic for me, but some passages I read over several times because they are so beautifully written. The novel explores deeply what it means to be family, and the rhythm of the book comes back over and over to family stories and the communal songs that bring the MacDonalds together. A big chunk of the novel is taken up by the time the brothers are miners in Ontario, and I hate reading about mining (too claustrophobic) but this section is just searing and I read most of it. The narrator, an orthodontist, is beautifully woven into the story, a quiet person who mostly allows the other characters, and in particular the two grandfathers, to do the narrating for him.

This beautifully crafted novel follows the lives of a Cape Breton family. The book centers on an orthodontist in his thirties as he tries to understand the path his life has taken compared to the rough and tumble lives of his older brothers. This relationship and the novel itself hinges on a tragedy which is slowly unfolded for the reader. Deceptively simple, it is a quick read with substance. (submitted by SF)

WVMLStaffPicks Dec 11, 2014

A beautiful novel by an under-appreciated Canadian writer, which traces a family of Cape Bretoners back to their Scottish roots and the Battle of Culloden, and forward to the present day. Good fortune and bad, humour and tragedy are all explored with a compassionate and authentic voice.

Jun 09, 2014

I've read it twice. A Nice Canadian novel. A little repetitive. Easy to read (not challenging). A little dated.

May 16, 2013

You meet Alexander as he visits his older, alcoholic brother, Calum. Whereby he gives you glimpses into his current life, as well as, tells his story from where it began hundreds of years earlier to help you understand his family or clan, and how they relate to each other. His story tells of heartache, loss, love, warmth, survival, and belonging to the Donald clan is more than just skin deep. Enjoyed.

Jul 04, 2011

A family history that recounts the ties between father and sons; and brothers. The great grandfather immigrates to Cape Breton with his twelve children (losing his wife on the voyage). They come and settle in to Cape Breton. This book provides a history of family, and tales of family ties, that span several generations. It is interesting the ties that keep the family together - no matter what. A well written, memorable book.

May 06, 2011

Wonderful book! I have been reading this year's Giller Prize short-listed books and felt frustrated. I picked this up by chance and this is exactly what I felt I was missing! I loved the storytelling, the relation of the immigrant experience, the love of family.

May 05, 2010

An enjoyable read that captures the immigrant experience in Canada.

Feb 27, 2010

Good read from the Maritimes

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