This Lark of Stolen Time by Richard Cumyn

In This Lark of Stolen Time, Richard Cumyn writes a novel which, as Michelle Butler Hallett notes on the back cover, is more like a series of interconnected novellas. This form works powerfully to capture the fact that the lives of families living in small towns are deeply entwined but distinct. The towns, themselves, are an entanglement of relations, as This Lark of Stolen Time deftly displays.

This entanglement of relations is evident in the fact that everybody seems to know everyone else. The different generations do not only know the characters their own age but know their entire family and often have a specific perception of the character based on the family’s reputation in the community. Several members of the Hislop family, for instance, are featured throughout and each have bad reputations within the community, regardless of how the individuals themselves behave.

Certain aspects of the novel are somewhat disorienting. As the novel moves through several generations of several families, exactly who everyone is can get lost. I found myself flipping back several pages at times, searching for an explanation. At least once, it was only revealed further into the novel exactly who someone was but was not made clear upon first mention. This may have been a conscious choice, but caused me confusion.

A powerful technique that Cumyn uses consistently is the personification of nature. This is introduced very early on – on the very first page of the book, “Nature brooded over her next move” (13). Two pages later, Cumyn writes that “Spring would finally poke its cowardly snout” (15). This continues throughout, making nature a character in itself. The characterization of nature in this book is powerful and highly effective.

Overall, this was the first work by Richard Cumyn that I have read. After reading it, I feel compelled to dive further into this author’s bibliography, exploring the various worlds that he creates.

Richard Cumyn is the author of nine books of literary fiction. A past fiction editor of The Antigonish Review, he has been published widely in Canadian literary journals. He has been shortlisted for the ReLit Award, longlisted for Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award and won a Linda Joy Media Arts Award. He lives in Edmonton.

Publisher: Great Plains Press (April 23, 2024)
Paperback 8″ x 6″ | 336 pages
ISBN: 9781773371177

 -- Website

Luke Francis Beirne is the author of two novels, Blacklion and Foxhunt, and has contributed to outlets such as CounterpunchNB Media Co-op, and CrimeReads. Luke has a BA in English Language & Literature from St. Thomas University and an MA in Cultural Studies & Critical Theory from McMaster University. Though born in Ireland, he moved to Manitoba as a child and now lives in Saint John, New Brunswick.


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