A debut novel tells the story of a young immigrant in Canada pulled into World War I.
Manitoba, 1914. Twenty-year-old Sidney Turner, a recent immigrant, harvests hay and dreams of the life he will build for himself in this new land. His journey from his native England had included labor aboard a ship filled with outcasts and fugitives. After a stop in Montreal, he headed west to Manitoba with a French-Canadian courtesan named Mystique in tow (though after discovering she was pregnant by another man, she decided not to marry Sidney and return to Montreal). Sidney stays in Manitoba because of a vision he has of an old Sioux warrior, though he does not understand it. When war breaks out in Europe, Sidney is just beginning to finally make his place in the world, starting a business with a former crewmate. One of Sidney’s Canadian-born friends joins up, only to be quickly killed in the fighting. When a major with the Lord Strathcona Horse regiment of the Canadian army comes by recruiting, Sidney must decide if the call to serve his old country—and his new one—is worth risking the life he has built for himself, which includes his new love, Emma, the granddaughter of a Sioux warrior who once had a dream of a young white rider on a horse. In this first installment of a trilogy, Turner (who based Sidney on his own grandfather) writes with a precise, evocative prose: “In the swirling dust, the face of a Sioux warrior became distinct and the power of his quiet authority mesmerized Sidney. He knew the face from some faint memory.” The plot takes a while to come together, particularly after a long prologue following Emma’s grandfather, but Sidney’s travels are intriguing enough to keep readers mostly invested. They may be disappointed, however, by how heavily the author relies on destiny as the determining influence on the lives of his characters. Further books in the series will presumably be about the descendants of Sidney in later periods of Canadian history.
An absorbing, if fatalistic, first volume of an epic historical fiction trilogy.