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Guy Vanderhaeghe

Author of The Last Crossing

13+ Works 2,173 Members 64 Reviews 3 Favorited

About the Author

Guy Vanderhaeghe was born in Esterhazy, Saskatchewan, Canada on April 5, 1951. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and a Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Saskatchewan and a Bachelor of Education degree from the University of Regina. His works include Man show more Descending, which won the Governor General's Award for English fiction and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize in Great Britain; My Present Age; The Englishman's Boy, which won the Governor General's Award for English fiction, the Saskatchewan Book Award Fiction prize, and the Saskatchewan Book of the Year Award; Homesick, which was a co-winner of the City of Toronto Book Award; and Daddy Lenin and Other Stories, which won the Governor General's Award for English fiction. His first play, I Had a Job I Liked. Once., won the Canadian Authors Association prize for the best drama published in 1993. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: Mathieu Bourgois


Works by Guy Vanderhaeghe

The Last Crossing (2003) 787 copies
The Englishman's Boy (1996) 730 copies
A Good Man (2011) 180 copies
Man descending (1982) 148 copies
Homesick (1989) 96 copies
My Present Age (1984) 78 copies
Things As They Are (1992) 46 copies
August into Winter: A Novel (2021) 37 copies
Dancock's Dance (1996) 9 copies

Associated Works

From Ink Lake: Canadian Stories (1990) — Contributor — 124 copies
The Oxford Book of Canadian Short Stories in English (1986) — Contributor — 112 copies
The New Oxford Book of Canadian Short Stories (1986) — Contributor — 72 copies
The Best American Short Stories 1983 (1983) — Contributor — 70 copies
Ghost Writing: Haunted Tales by Contemporary Writers (2000) — Contributor — 32 copies


Common Knowledge



This is a book that seemed to take me an inordinate amount of time to finish. The book is set in the autumn until November 11 of 1939, hence the title. It is mostly set in and around the Manitoba countryside. It centres around two brothers who were war heroes in WWI, and a young schoolteacher who is drawn into the drama of the Dill brothers and their nemesis, who is another young man from their County. Ernie Sickert lives up to his name in this book. He is one sick individual! Even though Ernie has a high IQ, and is well educated, there is something very wrong with him and his main goal in life is to make the Dill men's lives as miserable as possible. In such a small County, it is fairly easy for Ernie to terrorize them. At first I found myself comparing this novel to one of my favourite books of all time which is Lonesome Dove. But to me, even though the characters reminded me of Larry McMurtry's characters at first, the story just didn't measure up. This unfortunately interfered with my enjoyment of this novel. After awhile I couldn't tolerate the unspeakable Ernie Sickert, and even Dill's older brother Jack, a religious fanatic and a dreamer was wearing on me too. I found Vidalia Taggert insufferable annoying as well. Something positive must be said for Vanderheaghe's characterization skills in order for me to take such a dislike to all three of these characters. His prose is very well constructed and descriptive and his writing skills are exceptional. He describes the state of the world and the dawning of WWII so very clearly. I did manage to finish this very lengthy book, but all the way through it I wanted to quit reading. Too many words, too many very graphic and depraved descriptions of the atrocities committed by Ernie, and just too much of everything. I know lots loved this book, and speak highly of it. Unfortunately it just did not really do it for me, but the writing skills merit 3 stars in my opinion.… (more)
Romonko | 1 other review | Nov 8, 2023 |
It's the 1920s, and an eccentric Hollywood megalomaniac (Damon Chance) is determined to create an epic "great American film" about the American wild west. To this end, he hires Harry Vincent, a down-on-his-luck scenarist (the guy who writes the cards for silent movies), to interview Shorty McAdoo, a genuine wild west relic, to extract an "authentic" recounting of how Americans tamed the west.

The first thing that hits you is the quality of Vanderhaege's writing. It's lyric and original and swollen with authentic period detail - he doesn't just describe the Canadian/US frontier in detail: he challenges his readers to smell it, taste it, touch it, feel it, employing language that's stunning in its lack of anachronism.

The next thing you notice is Chance's objective isn't as straightforward as it first appears. Your first clue (assuming we overlook the fact that the guy's name is, literally, "Chance") is that this eccentric studio boss venerates D.W. Griffith's "Birth of a Nation" - a horrific example of self-aggrandizing mythmaking if there ever was one. Over the course of the novel, you come to realize that Chance isn't looking for authenticity - he's looking to galvanize American ruthlessness by propagating the message that America is besieged ("Besieged" being the literal name of the movie he is making) by enemies, especially Europe's revolutionaries and the Jews, who deserve to be destroyed. "The enemy is never human," he tells our scenarist, creating a confounding ethical dilemma for poor Vincent who is coming to realize, through his interactions with McAdoo and a comely Jewish colleague (Rachel) that in the real world - unlike black & white "shorties" he writes for - good and evil are, at best, ambiguous concepts.

This is a provocative novel of ideas cleverly embedded in a ripping yarn that embraces both the birth of Hollywood and the birth of our frontier, conveyed in vivid, affecting prose. Feel free to enjoy this for the terrific action/characters/ambiance, but for those who enjoy digging deeper, this novel offers ample opportunity to "invite argument, invite reconsideration, invite thought" - as Chance notes in one of his epic philosophical streams-of-consciousness. Is America's spiritual identity/native art form "motion," as Chance suggests? Should the goal of history-telling be to preserve the past (as Vincent supposes) or to secure the future (as Chance advocates)? Is empathy for the proletariat a strength (as Vincent believes) or a weakness (as Chance argues)? Is using movies to facilitate cultural assimilation appropriate - or dangerous propagandizing? So much great fodder here for book group discussion!
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Dorritt | 17 other reviews | Aug 30, 2023 |
njkost | 11 other reviews | Jun 15, 2023 |
The Last Crossing is by Saskatchewan author Guy Vanderhaeghe, who has twice won Canada’s Governor General’s Literary Award. It is 1871 and a strange and varied group gather together in Fort Benton, Montana. They are forming a search party and plan to head north into the British Territory, someday to be known as Canada.

Two English gentlemen, brothers Charles and Addington, are searching for Simon, the twin brother of Charles, who came to the west to be a missionary to the Blackfoot Indians, but hasn’t been heard from in months. They are joined by Caleb Ayto, a journalist, whom Addington is hoping will write a book about his adventures, a revenge-seeking woman, Lucy Stoveall, who wants to head north in order to find the murderers of her sister, Civil War veteran Custis Straw who is following Lucy, his friend, tavern keeping Aloysius Dooley and their guide, half-breed Jerry Potts. This group of misfits are all seeking something different. Along the way they experience unforgettable adventure in a land that has only known the touch of natives, fur trappers and whiskey traders.

The Last Crossing was beautifully imagined and written. The characters are realistically and fully presented as the author delves into each one’s backstory. With such diverse and colorful characters the author paints a vivid historical picture. The book’s scope was expansive and this story of the cultural clash and personal transformation of these travellers was a satisfying and absorbing read.
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DeltaQueen50 | 21 other reviews | Oct 16, 2022 |



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