by Polly Horvath
Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2001
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Apr 3rd 2002
Primrose Squarp denies that she is
an orphan, even though her parents were lost at sea during a terrible
storm. She is sure that they are still
alive. But in the mean time, she moves
in with her Uncle Jack. Navy closures
mean that their town of Coal Harbour, British Columbia is falling on hard
times. The remaining industries are
fishing and whaling, and whaling is not a flourishing way of life. Primroses Uncle Jack is a developer, and
wants to revive the town by bringing in tourism. He makes the career of developer seem exciting and
benevolent. But he does not have a
great deal of time to spend with Primrose, and her does not much enjoy spending
time alone in the house. So she likes
to spend time at the local restaurant The Girl on the Red Swing, where every
dish is served on a waffle.
Throughout this book are recipes
for meals that Primrose eats during the book, and they are simple enough for
readers to follow the instructions and cook the same meals for themselves the
easiest is for caramel apples, and the instructions for boiled potatoes are
surprisingly complicated. Primrose is
an endearingly eccentric narrator of her own story she eats her boiled
potatoes with mustard and uses words like discombobulated in explaining the
problems she experiences in the small town.
Of course, being Canadian, Primrose has a slightly different point of
view from non-Canadians (with a number of references to hockey), but the story
should still appeal to an international readership. The strengths of the book are its use of language and the
colorful characters that populate the town.
Its a good story, never becoming dull or repetitive, and Primrose has
great strength of character. Despite
the theme of orphanhood and despite the many difficulties Primrose experiences,
she is relentlessly perky, apparently never seriously entertaining the idea
that her parents have in fact died.
audiobook is read by Kathleen McInerney, who does a great job. She makes the text lively and fun, and
certainly makes you want to hear what happens next. The main problem with the audiobook will be that those who want
to make the recipes sprinkled through the book will have to copy them down
carefully, but judicious use of the rewind and play buttons should make this a
web page, including a RealAudio excerpt
© 2002 Christian Perring. First Serial Rights.
Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College,
Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review.
His main research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry.
He is especially interested in exploring how philosophers can
play a greater role in public life, and he is keen to help foster
communication between philosophers, mental health professionals,
and the general public.