Review: A Beauty by Connie Gault
The best Canadian novel I’ve read this year is A Beauty, by Connie Gault. Set in Saskatchewan in the 30s and the 60s, the novel is artfully constructed as a headlong flight from one small town to another by the lost and beautiful Elena, an outward journey when she is 18, and then a return journey, in reverse, thirty years later. It’s also the story of Ruth, a little girl Elena meets in the last of the towns, on the day of an exquisitely described and magical alkali storm. That Gault is a Saskatchewan writer through and through is evident in her quirky yet highly individualized characters, like Merv and Pansy, like Albert and Peggy, like Jerry Wong, like Ruthie; and in the beauty of her descriptions of the landscape, as well as in the reticence that gives the plot its quiet dignity: Elena, after a few nights with the man who has stolen her away, is “a bit sore here and there, while Bill appeared to have grown taller, stronger, and even happier.” The misunderstandings and accidents on which the plot hinges aren’t pushed on the reader, rather left to mystify. A Beauty is a beauty of a novel.