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The Winter Vault by Anne Michaels

The Winter Vault (2009)

by Anne Michaels

Other authors: Karen White (Narrator)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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5533828,101 (3.41)84
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)
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    Rybí krev by Jiří Hájíček (_eskarina)
    _eskarina: Similar in key topics discussed and also in author's style of writing.

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Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
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 |
I must admit I didn't always get what was going on in this book, but when it had me it had me deep. The story is easy to summarize but the book is hard for me to describe. It's a lot about the characters' interior lives, especially what happens when two people resonate deeply. I felt like it literally pulled emotions out of me. ( )
  Eye_Gee | May 8, 2017 |
I have very mixed feelings about this book and it was not so easy to read at times. On the one hand, the simple basis of this story is the resettlement of people - be it the Numbians in the construction of the dam lake, the people of St. Lawrence Seaway or the people who helped Warsaw build WWII. A topic that is worth thinking about. On the other hand, the story is based on the feelings of these people. These feelings are portrayed so detailed, that I often hurt when I read and I only had the desire that this would be easier to tell. [[Anne Michaels]] ' writing style seems to be inexhaustible. She can give an importance from an inconspicuous thing, with her opinion described in the last detail, which sometimes banned me as a reader to the brink of the impossible. Often I thought less is more. On the other hand, it was precisely this detail infidelity, which kept me reading, in the hope of learning more about the situations. ( )
  Ameise1 | Jan 29, 2017 |
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
White, KarenNarratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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
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Perhaps we painted on our own skin, with ochre and charcoal, long before we painted on stone.
How can place enter our skin this way, down into the very verb of us? (page 115)
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