This Cleaving and This Burning by J.A. Wainwright

This Cleaving and This Burning by J.A. Wainwright is a novel I will never forget.

While overwhelmed with final essays and preparing for my final exam, I could always rely on Wainwright to instantly teleport me away from my worries and into the lives of Hal and Miller, two boys so perfectly developed and well written that I experienced their lives alongside them rather than just reading about them. I felt every emotion our two main characters felt; I grew up with them as they discovered the world around them and themselves, trying to understand their own feelings. Their constant underlying search for the next thing to write, their stumbling across moments too right not to write about, their confusing emotions as they discovered themselves and rewrote who they were. The person on the outside vs the complex and emotionally vulnerable creature on the inside. I saw myself in Hal and Miller as they explored everything the world had to offer them, living out their self-discovery, hidden identities, and intense feelings.

“I saw myself in Hal and Miller as they explored everything the world had to offer them, living out their self-discovery, hidden identities, and intense feelings.”

The imagery in this novel, too, is never lacking. Sections of this novel were more vivid than that of a movie, transporting you into the middle of everything happening, allowing you to easily imagine everything you need while simultaneously so fully enveloping you emotionally into each scene, each moment, each interaction and thought Hal and Miller have.

This beautiful novel isn’t just a story. It’s not just another book to enjoy when you want just anything to read. It is a piece of writing that successfully does justice to the authors’ whose lives it is inspired by. As a reader of both Earnest Hemingway and Hart Crane, I was nervous of being disappointed by this novel. Instead I found a haven depicting Miller and Hal so genuinely and so flawlessly I could understand where the influences were from without feeling as though I was reading a glorified fan fiction piece. With or without previous experience reading Hemingway or Crane, the different writing styles of Hal and Miller are wonderfully established, true to their personalities and ways of description. Those who love the authors, I believe, will be extra invested in this novel in the beginning, but by the end, anyone who was fortunate enough to pick up this book will be so fully and entirely engaged they will be sad it is over.

Putting this book down for the last time, having finishing the final few pages I had been saving for myself as a reward for finishing the semester, I was left feeling empty and lost, as though part of me had come to an end. This is the type of novel you cannot wait to finish while simultaneously wishing it will never end. One I instantly flipped back through and reread my favourite parts of.

J.A. Wainwright wrote a novel worth everyone’s free-time to read. This Cleaving and This Burning will be my go-to for historical fiction recommendations for ages to come.

About the author: J.A. Wainwright lives in Halifax where he is McCulloch Emeritus Professor in English at Dalhousie University. Since 1970 he has published five books of poetry, five novels, and two critical biographies.

  • Publisher : Guernica Editions; 1st edition (Oct. 1 2020)
  • Language: : English
  • Paperback : 350 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1771835664
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1771835664

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Michala Keeler is a fifth-year student attending St Thomas University, majoring in English, Philosophy, and Psychology. Completing her final year of studies online, she enjoys reading paper books in her downtime. She respectfully acknowledges that she is residing on unsurrendered and unceded traditional Wolastoqey land.