The Horseman's Graves


The Horseman's Graves

Author: Jacqueline Baker

Published: 2007

Genre: Fiction

About The Horseman's Graves: German immigrants struggle to survive in the dusty farmland of the Alberta-Saskatchewan border.

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Review of The Horseman's Graves

In the late 1800s, German immigrants came to Canada and formed small farming communites along the Saskatchewan-Alberta border.

They had always been haunted, those hills. The place where the dead walk. But by the time Leo Krauss arrived with his parents and gape-eyed siblings in 1909 (travelling from the stinking though venerable port of Odessa by polluted steamer to Montreal and then west by train and west by cart and west on mules and, finally, when the mules lay wasted in the dust, west on foot across a land searing under the heat of a prairie sun), the ghosts that had once walked the hills had vanished, or were, at least, imperceptible to those already burdened by the past of another country. Now, it was life the newcomers travelled toward, not death. A big clean dome of pure sky. Infinite, unfettered space. A new start. Death was behind them; here, a life could be resurrected.

...from page 1

In one such community, near the Sand Hills, the Schoff family and the Krauss family live on neighbouring farms. On one farm, there's Stolanus and Helen Schoff, hard-working and honest; their son, damaged in a wagon accident; and Lathias, the Metis hired hand, bound to the family, and especially the boy, by guilt. On the next farm lives Leo Krauss, lazy and vile, the town pariah; and, eventually, his step-daughter Elisabeth, a wild and unusual young woman. Lathias, the Schoff boy, and Elisabeth are drawn together because they don't fit in and their friendship (which isn't really a friendship) has profound effects on everyone in the community.

The story was heartbreaking and very good, the characters were interesting and complex, the sense of place was terrific, and the writing was absolutely beautiful. Baker has a tendency to write sentences that are a paragraph long but she makes them work. And her descriptions of the prairies really brought home the vastness (and the darkness at night) of the place. I loved this book. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Lynn Bornath on 19 April 2007 from an advance reading copy, courtesy of HarperCollins Canada.

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More Reviews

Kerry, Pickle Me This, 22 April 2007
“That with a genuine skill with language and story, Baker successfully realizes her vision without having to try to be clever.”
Ragdoll, My Tragic Right Hip, 15 March 2008
“And if there are moral judgments upon change, upon the actions of the characters, the narrative doesn't make them, [...] quietly letting the reader make up his or her own mind about the story.”
Teddy Rose, So Many Precious Books, So Little Time, 6 July 2008
“ must be willing to travel slowly, at least at the beginning.”
Nicola, Back to Books, 10 August 2008
“These characters will haunt me for a very long time.”


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Added 19 April 2007.
Updated 18 August 2013.