The Last Woman by John Bemrose
I’ve finished John Bemrose’s The Last Woman and now I have another book to complain about not being on the Giller longlist. This was my first time reading Bemrose, and now I’m dying to read The Island Walkers.
The Last Woman is set in the eighties, in Northern Ontario cottage country, bordering on a native reservation. Ann and Richard are couple who, married more than a decade, have settled into a comfortable domesticity with their young son. Ann is a painter who wrestles with her work while Richard, a lawyer, plots to launch a career in politics. Their copacetic existence starts to unravel with the reappearance of Billy, the former band leader who has been absent since he and Richard lost an arduous legal battle to claim the land of Billy’s ancestors ten years earlier. But long before that, Billy was Ann’s first love, and his re-entry into their lives opens wounds that had never healed, but festered with the passage of time. I won’t give any more away.
With brilliant characterization, searing depiction of landscape, and multi-layered themes of colonization--of an individual, of a group, of the earth--The Last Woman is a rich, textured, enormously satisfying read.