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The Winter Vault (2009)

by Anne Michaels

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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6744034,679 (3.4)86
In 1964, a newly married Canadian couple settle into a houseboat on the Nile just below Abu Simbel. Avery is one of the engineers responsible for the dismantling and reconstruction of the temple, a "machine-worshipper" who is nonetheless sensitive to their destructive power. Jean is a botanist by vocation, passionately interested in everything that grows. They met on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, witnessing the construction of the Seaway as it swallowed towns, homes, and lives. Now, at the edge of another world about to be inundated, they create their own world, exchanging "the innocent memories we don't know we hold until given the gift of the eagerness of another." But when tragedy strikes, they return to separate lives in Toronto: Avery to school to study architecture; and Jean into the orbit of Lucjan, a Polish emigre artist whose haunting tales of occupied Warsaw pull her further from Avery but offer her the chance to assume her most essential life. Stunning in its explorations of both the physical and emotional worlds of its characters, intensely moving and lyrical, The Winter Vault is a radiant work of fiction.… (more)
  1. 00
    Rybí krev by Jiří Hájíček (_eskarina)
    _eskarina: Similar in key topics discussed and also in author's style of writing.
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» See also 86 mentions

English (39)  Spanish (1)  All languages (40)
Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
For years I had been waiting for Anne Michaels to write this book. I loved her first novel, Fugitive Pieces, and wanted to read more of her work. Or, more precisely, wanted her to write more “Fugitive Pieces”. In a twisted way, I got exactly what I wanted... and I feel disappointed about it!

All the elements of her first work are present in The Winter Vault: the poetic and intricate writing; the historical and geological research; characters that dwell in a philosophical cosmos beyond that of the majority; the question of how individuals survive unimaginable loss. Yet, while Fugitive Pieces seemed at the time- I want to now re-read it to confirm it – lyrical and dense on the same doses, there was a profound beauty in the character’s search for meaning and emotional survival after the horrors that they suffered and witnessed.

In The Winter Vault, though, I failed to connect to the character in the same way. Their pain and philosophical intensity seems exaggerate. I don’t want to diminish the pain of their loss, but I felt manipulate by the author. And her writing, which still carries a most poetic voice, seemed too studied. Then, I felt tired of the profound and pensive messages in every page. I do love that a book tells me truths outside the direct realm of the plot, but when those are delivered every thirty lines of so, I cannot avoid feeling weary of it.

I am considering now to read some of Anne Michaels poetry. Poetry was her first medium, and I have a feeling that she excels at it, as the intensity of her writing would be more suited to poems than to fiction.
( )
  RosanaDR | Apr 15, 2021 |
This is one of my favourite books. I am a fan of Michaels poetry and that is one of the reasons I first read this book. I recently revisited it in audio book and it is wonderful. I love the imagery and the exploration of human memory, experience and meaning. This is not a linear plot novel so don't look here for that. Time and space interweave through the book. She juxtaposes the engineered flooding of the St Lawrence and of the valley in Egypt. And weaves her characters stories - bitter, sweet, broken, unfinished, satisfying, heartbreaking... It reminds me in places of the way looking at a painting of a familiar landscape can allow you see the familiar in a new way. ( )
  junkbottom | Apr 15, 2020 |
This is the story of Jean, a botanist and her husband Avery, an engineer who works on three major engineering projects including the Aswan Dam, the St Lawrence Seaway, and the rebuilding of Warsaw after the war. To build the Aswan Dam in Egypt great temples had to be dismantled and moved, adding complexity to displacing whole villages of people and their homes. By coincidence, I live near a community that was also moved to allow for a dam and flooding. And although the benefit from the dam has been great over the years, it was harrowing for everyone, including the residents of the cemetery.

Winters is a poet first and foremost so naturally her writing is poetic and lyrical, not leaving much for the actual story or characters, so even with beautiful writing, this book was hard work. She is often compared to Michael Ondaatje but I don't see that at all - this reader hangs on every word of Ondaatje's. Adding to the difficulty was that my audiobook had a poor narrator although I believe it would have been a difficult job for anyone to narrate this book.

The title is from the name of the storage vault for the dead in cold climates while waiting for a thaw to allow interment. ( )
  VivienneR | Sep 12, 2019 |
It was better than OK.



The crazy thing was that I was reading it for no better reason than that I picked it up from my bedside table before heading out on a trip. Then I found myself sitting in a presentation in a hotel ballroom where a tidy well dressed speaker told of how a village and its inhabitants would be displaced by a mining operation and how the technology he was demonstrating would predict the costs of relocation and burden of disease before and after for the population. Why weird? Because the night before I'd read in
[b:The Winter Vault|4682252|The Winter Vault|Anne Michaels|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1320533088s/4682252.jpg|4732807] about the displacement of people caused by the St. Lawrence Seaway between Montreal and Lake Ontario (1959) and by the Aswan Dam project ten years later in Egypt (1970).

Serendipitous things happen to me when reading (see my review of Hypnotizing Maria) but this coincidental reading of [b:The Winter Vault|4682252|The Winter Vault|Anne Michaels|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1320533088s/4682252.jpg|4732807] was so downright timely freaky that frankly the coincidence was bigger than the story for me.

Why not rate it higher? The imagery is evocative and the language is quote-worthy but the structure was disjoint and one of my favorite characters, Marina, and her relationship with the protagonists was left behind too quickly for my taste and that unbalanced the whole thing for me.

( )
  nkmunn | Nov 17, 2018 |
Another beautiful book by the award winning author of Fugitive Pieces. Although there is not much plot, or even story, the characters are so haunting, and the setting are so vivid. Michaels is a poet, and her powers of description are incredible. It took me a long time to read this novel because I kept stopping to reread passages, then read then out loud to my poor DH! ( )
  Rdra1962 | Aug 1, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
In Canada, much of our most venerated fiction has the feel of high-minded scrapbooks. Don’t get me wrong: themes don’t come more classic than memory and loss, and readers seem to treasure books that overflow with backward-looking mournfulness. But too much woe is, well, too much.
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Anne Michaelsprimary authorall editionscalculated
Cruz, EvaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dienstlerová, PetraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Falkner, GerhardÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gelder, Molly vansecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kolínská, KláraAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Matocza, Norasecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sivill, Kaijamari(KÄÄnt.)secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
White, KarenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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for R and E
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Perhaps we painted on our own skin, with ochre and charcoal, long before we painted on stone.
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How can place enter our skin this way, down into the very verb of us? (page 115)
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In 1964, a newly married Canadian couple settle into a houseboat on the Nile just below Abu Simbel. Avery is one of the engineers responsible for the dismantling and reconstruction of the temple, a "machine-worshipper" who is nonetheless sensitive to their destructive power. Jean is a botanist by vocation, passionately interested in everything that grows. They met on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, witnessing the construction of the Seaway as it swallowed towns, homes, and lives. Now, at the edge of another world about to be inundated, they create their own world, exchanging "the innocent memories we don't know we hold until given the gift of the eagerness of another." But when tragedy strikes, they return to separate lives in Toronto: Avery to school to study architecture; and Jean into the orbit of Lucjan, a Polish emigre artist whose haunting tales of occupied Warsaw pull her further from Avery but offer her the chance to assume her most essential life. Stunning in its explorations of both the physical and emotional worlds of its characters, intensely moving and lyrical, The Winter Vault is a radiant work of fiction.

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