Coppermine, by Keith Ross Leckie (2010)

Genre: Historical Fiction
Interest level: Adult

CoppermineThe Canadian north is the setting for this novel based loosely on actual events. Canada is still fighting the Great War, but back at home, Jack Creed is in the Northwest Mounted Police force, happy to be posted yet again on a lonely assignment, as it helps him forget the horrors that killed every member of his troop in Europe, leaving himself as the only survivor. Creed is sent on a mission to determine the fate of two Catholic priests who’d not been heard from for more than year. The two men had headed to the mouth of the Coppermine River, hoping to make first contact with the remote Eskimos of the land and convert them to Christianity. From Fort Edmonton, Creed’s superintendent orders him to take a young aboriginal to act as translator on this journey of some 1500 kms. on a mission to find out the fate of two Catholic priests, who haven’t been seen for more than a year. The land is so remote, so distant, they are expected to be gone at least a year, travelling by canoe.
This is a mystery, a travelogue, a romance and a historical tale. It’s a fascinating story, and Leckie tells it well, drawing the reader in with lyrical descriptions of a strange, icy world where meat is eaten raw, food is cached in the permafrost, and the snow is literally blinding. He is languid in his approach to characterization, allowing their voices to reveal themselves naturally, unveiling secrets that surprise the reader along the way. His plots are well developed, the awesome setting realistically portrayed, the tensions delightful. Ultimately, though, Leckie falls a bit short. Part One is the stronger story; Part Two feels rushed and unmeshed with the first, with an ending so neat it irritates as it stretches believability. It may be based in reality, but a firmer hand by the author is needed when it strays from the historical fact. Still definitely worth reading – the pages fly as you become immersed in this tragic, astonishing story.
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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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