Book Review: The Fishers of
by Rachael Preston
Reviewed By Rita Bailey
Most novels don’t grab me because of the setting, but in Rachel Preston’s The Fishers of Paradise it’s the landscape that pulls us in.
Set in Depression-era
this book takes us back to a time when a shantytown lines the shores of Cootes
Paradise. It’s a place where a man with money in his pocket can find a cockfight
on a Saturday night—and where a body or two might float to the surface when the
ice melts in the spring. Hamilton
The novel opens with a house being towed across the marsh. We see the scene from the viewpoint of teenaged Egypt Fisher, a young woman with a lot on her mind. She keeps an eye on her younger brother, Aidan, who tends to play too near the water’s edge, all the while aware that the lovesick Joey Payne is behind her, waiting for her to turn around and greet him with a smile.
is in no mood for flirting. Thanks to the City Beautiful Movement, her own home
and those of her neighbours are all at risk. Though the cabin she lives in with
her mother and her brother is no palace, it’s the only home she’s ever known. Egypt
discovers she has wealthy grandparents it seems like someone has thrown her a
lifesaver, but it soon becomes evident that her family relationships are as
tangled as the grasses that line the marsh itself. Then there is Matt Oakes,
the handsome stranger who drifts into the community and manages to pull them
all apart. Egypt
These intertwined relationships drive the story forward.
to make hard decisions about where her loyalty lies and what exactly
constitutes the truth. Egypt
history will love the setting: inside the shacks that cling to the shores of
Cootes Paradise, behind the stalls at the Hamilton Market and down gritty lane-ways
off Hamilton Barton Street.
We stretch our legs with Egypt
and Aidan as they skate along the canal under the . We even sneak a peek inside the
snooty homes of the wealthy that surround MacNab Presbyterian Church, homes
with wrought iron gates, their secrets hidden behind damask drapes and thick
wooden doors. High Level Bridge
But it’s the characters that bring this landscape to life; characters whose motivations and needs are as multi-layered and murky as the swamp that gives the book its name.
Thanks to Bookmark
The Fishers of Paradise has earned a
Bookmark on the , near the floating
bridge. This organization is creating a cross-Canada literary trail by placing
plaques with excerpts from stories and poems in the exact location of their
settings. To view this Bookmark, park at Desjardin
Castle, walk to the and head down the stairs. Or
start at High Level Bridge and hike along the
trail towards Princess Point. Bayfront
As you walk along the marsh, squint your eyes. Imagine ramshackle homes clinging to the shores. Picture a boy in a rowboat catching fish, or a man emerging from the woods, a limp muskrat over his shoulder. If it’s winter and the water has frozen, conjure up a teenaged girl and her brother, legs pushing full out as they skate past the ice-fishing huts all the way to