The Blackbird’s Song, finalist for the 1988 Books in Canada First Novel Award, is the story of conflict between two cultures. Three young Canadian missionaries working in the remote mountains of Honan, China, become tragic victims of the Boxer Rebellion, in a suspenseful tale that explores the fine line between courage and weakness, hope and despair, faith and delusion.
It is June 1900. The Boxer slogan, “Exterminate the Foreigner” haunts Emily, William and Martha as they flee for their lives, victims already of their own private obsessions, their faith shaken when they need it most, with only one another to count on for survival.
Holdstock’s skillful and intriguing use of flashbacks and shifting focus, and her extraordinary evocation of character and atmosphere, provide the reader with an inspired insight into the interplay between meaning and power, love and duty.
“Pauline Holdstock’s first novel is a brilliant debut which examines questions of faith, meaning and power; her investigation of these issues is profound and beautifully paced, so that despite the intensity of the subject, the momentum of the narrative never falters, the evocation of place and time having an almost cinematic immediacy.”
The Times Literary Supplement
“The Blackbird’s Song presents real violence in its barest form. …. The bleakness of the author’s prose and the compressed power of her observation make this an extraordinary first novel on the interplay of anger, love, and duty.”
“It is a brilliant rendering of the collapse and regeneration of faith, of physical horrors of drought and political helplessness, and of a country in xenophobic upheaval. As a historical novel it belongs in the company of works by Oldenbourg, Graves, Caute, and Wiebe…”
Mark Levine The University of Toronto Quarterly
“What stays with the reader is the evocative beauty of Holdstock’s prose, her skill at detailing gesture, mood, and perception, her gift for creating characters whose relationships are dramatic rather than static.”
Janice Kulyk Keefer Books in Canada
Trade Paperback, 250 pages
Publisher: Cormorant Books