BEAR by Marian Engel


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Much has been made of this book--it's sponsored by all the right people in Canada where it's set--Margaret Laurence, Robertson Davies, and Margaret Atwood. Much can be made of it on several plateaus of time and existence and reality, from mythic to very modern, primal to civilized. Within its 150 pages, it encloses strong feminist protest against the domestication of of woman, interior evidence of the personal increment rather than impoverishment of solitude, and--in case you startle easily--a passionate relationship between a woman and an animal which is wholly believable and unobjectionable. Lou is a hibernator by nature, commuting between her apartment and the Institute where she does research. She has no personal contacts except for on-the-desk carnal congress with its Director once a week. Now he sends her to a lonely island further north where the Institute has inherited an estate. She is to research its books and belongings which include a bear, on a chain--a rather ugly bear with small eyes and a randy scent. But he has virtues along with legendary associations--the bear was believed to have ""the strength of ten men, and the sense of twelve."" Lou takes him off his chain and then enters into an at first friendly, later erotic (bear licks her all over even if he doesn't respond until the close) community with this tender, wise, gentle, undemanding, lumbering animal who proves to be so lovable. At the end of the summer they will go their separate ways. Lou locks the door on her whole past and leaves on ""a brilliant night, all star-shine, and overhead the Great Bear and his thirty-seven thousand virgins kept her company."" A special book which persuades and reaches the reader in many ways--a timeless book written with a cool, classic touch.

Pub Date: Aug. 11th, 1976
ISBN: 0879236671
Publisher: Atheneum