Arts + Culture » Literary

Harbour View

Binnie Brennan (Quattro)



At a Halifax nursing home overlooking the water, the lives of residents and staff come in constant contact, physical and emotional. In such a setting, the present should do more than trigger excursions into the past. Whether staff or resident, these characters are stuck in the past, particularly the mythologized aspects of this province's history: Cape Breton fiddling, Africville's gospel music and spirituals are two big ones. Brennan, a violist with Symphony Nova Scotia, clearly wants to celebrate how music helps cultures and communities endure, but her celebratory tone overwhelms the story. (Is celebration why Harbour View made the John and Margaret Savage First Book Award shortlist?) Brennan gestures to racism's transmission across generations, but doesn't follow the path once pointed out. A few steps in that direction are needed. This is not a matter of less is more. It's as though the politesse in her writing is matched with a decorum that dictates where an author can and cannot go.

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